Larry Zakarin, Marissa Schachner, Danielle Siegfried, and Jaclyn Silverberg hosted an informative and inspirational breakfast for the Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) scholars on July 12, 2018, during which they discussed the corporate culture of Steve Madden, their respective paths into fashion, and what to seek when searching for jobs in the industry.
Jaclyn spoke first about how she began her career at Steve Madden as a college intern doing fashion-oriented work she never expected to be doing as a business major. She explained how she worked alongside product development and design teams and slowly but surely fell in love with the industry. Upon graduation, she secured a full time position at Steve Madden and progressed in her career there for several years. Eventually, she landed her current role as VP of Sales for Jocelyn, a high-end outerwear brand which has been partnering with Steve Madden for six months now.
Danielle, on the other hand, began her journey as an intern for Michael Kors in Technical Design, which she thought she would be working in for the entirety of her career. However, post-graduation, she interviewed and was hired for a position at Steve Madden as an outerwear designer. Now, she holds an important and encompassing position managing the Walmart division of Steve Madden and has nearly quadrupled that segment of the business since she began. “I love growing the business,” she mentioned. “We’re at about 165 SKU’s (Stock Keeping Units) and that number continues to grow.” One tip that Danielle gave was to be open minded in terms of your career path and to keep your eyes open to the diverse opportunities which may arise as you search for that first job.
Marissa, too, never imagined she would be working in Shoes & Handbags after graduating with a degree in Apparel Design. She admitted that she was initially nervous that she did not have enough specific experience in Accessories but explained that getting that first job is sometimes easier, even if you don’t have the full range of skills the position demands. “People are trying to mold you when you are just starting out,” she explained. “Sometimes, it is even better that you have limited knowledge because the company can shape your design process and mentor you along the way.” She articulated that she found a perfect fit at Steve Madden and loves many aspects of her job, from the people who she works alongside, to the freedom that the company gives her to be creative and to bring fresh new ideas to the table.
Lastly, Larry Zakarin spoke about his personal journey. He explained to the scholars that he knew he would be working in fashion from the age of 16, when he was hired by his dad to work for his apparel company. After gaining some industry experience, he co-founded his own accessories company in 2001, which he named Zone 88. After 8 years of being a privately owned company, Zone 88 was bought by Steve Madden and Larry organically became the President of Madden Zone. He has been with the company for over nine years now and sees himself staying for the foreseeable future. Larry also touched on many reasons why he is happy at Steve Madden, such as the friendly and collaborative culture and creative freedom. He explained that company culture should be an important factor in your job search and that it can truly influence your day-to-day happiness.
One scholar asked Larry about interview tips, to which he humorously replied, “Don’t ask about vacation right off the bat.” Then, he elaborated, “A good thing to do at the end is to always ask your interviewer questions. Ask them about their career path and how they got to where they are. This shows that you have genuine long-term interests with the company and that you plan to grow your career there rather than just dip your feet in the water.” Larry also mentioned that a good idea would be to roleplay with a friend or co-worker before actually going in for a job interview. His feeling is that you can never be too prepared.
The scholars were grateful that all the bosses spoke candidly about their experiences and gave them insight into what “a day in the life” is truly like. They left with meaningful tips and takeaways that they can apply to their future job and internship searches, as well as some trendy Steve Madden swag that was just icing on the cake.
Best Tips from the Bosses:
Always be researching the industry and competitively shopping
If you aren’t happy, speak to your boss to see if something can change before you make the decision to leave.
Pick a company that has a positive and encouraging company culture.
Find a work-life balance
Skills are transferable even if they aren’t directly applicable, so learn as many as possible