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In our series “Jump-start Your Job Search,” BU Today brings you short interviews with BU alums who are leaders in their fields, such as banking, advertising, tech start-ups, journalism, or nonprofit organizations.

They talk about how they got to be where they are and what they’ve learned from their mistakes. They tell us what they look for when hiring and offer advice for those just embarking on a career.

This week, our featured alum is Jill Beraud (Questrom’82), CEO of Ippolita, the New York–based luxury jewelry company founded in 1999 with the idea that fine jewelry could be worn as an everyday accoutrement rather than just for special occasions. The company sells its wares at its flagship store on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue, as well as in high-end retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Bloomingdales, and Holt Renfrew and online.

Selling online taps Beraud’s expertise in reaching customers digitally; she was hired by Ippolita to develop its brand worldwide. Before joining the company in 2015, she was an executive vice president at Tiffany & Co., overseeing the luxury jewelry company’s global retail operations, real estate, and store design, as well as its e-commerce. During her tenure as CEO of global hair and skin products company Living Proof, revenue tripled in less than three years. Before that, she was an executive with PepsiCo and executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Victoria’s Secret.

  1. BU Today: When you were at BU, did you have an idea what you wanted to do for a career?

    Beraud: I have always had a lot of interests, and I considered many different fields—architecture, journalism, and more. I decided to focus on business, as it would give me all the foundational knowledge to go in many different directions. But I also wanted to be in a highly innovative field, so I decided to major in what is now IT. Then it was management information systems—this was back in the late ’70s, early ’80s, just when Apple was getting started. After a couple of years coding for Exxon’s treasury department when I graduated, I decided to change direction and broaden my scope and follow my passion around consumer marketing.

  2. What kind of competition awaits new graduates who want to enter high-end retailing as a career?

    Retail is a fantastic career right now for people who are passionate, motivated, and can think differently. There are many challenges.

  3. Is your field relatively stable employment-wise, or is it especially sensitive to recessions?

    Retail definitely flexes with the macro trends and has been very challenging lately. Of course, there are always brands that are winning—usually the ones that identify white space and differentiate on a key consumer need. The greatest growth in retail, as everyone knows, is in e-commerce and digital. It is constantly changing and provides a wonderful opportunity for new ideas.

  4. What qualities do you look for in the people you hire?

    I always look for people who have demonstrated a strong results orientation and are creative thinkers in problem solving, new ways of working, etc. I also like to hire and promote people who are proactive, are great team players, and have a positive attitude.

  5. What kinds of questions do you ask during job interviews?

    It depends upon the role and the level, but I always ask to hear examples of where and how they made the greatest impact. What are they passionate about? What was their most creative idea, even if it wasn’t implemented? And I like to hear about either their greatest obstacle or a difficult conflict and how they overcame or resolved it.

  6. What advice would you give to an employee on the first day of work, and again six months later? Do you think the same advice applies in both instances?

    Yes. It’s important to be clear on the company’s strategy and priorities, with greater specificity than they learned during the interviewing process. Think about how you can make the biggest impact. Learn the company culture and get to know your colleagues. Have a positive attitude. Get aligned with your boss on goals, expectations, and what success looks like. Check in to make sure you’re meeting expectations. Always take feedback as a gift.

  7. Can you name a mistake you made in your career, and what you learned from it that might be instructive for someone starting out in the retail industry?

    I have had plenty of speed bumps in my 30-year career, but I genuinely never think of them as mistakes as long as I learn something. Every choice I’ve made has gotten me to a better place. And I have no regrets. For example, several years after leaving Procter & Gamble as brand manager, I had the opportunity to start a brand-new advertising agency in New York City with a creative team. I was the president. I learned very quickly that I prefer to be on the client side, making the decisions about ideas and campaigns rather than pitching the ideas. It was a very valuable experience: as I returned to the client side, I became a better client, because I really understood the creative process at a whole new level.

  8. Who has had the greatest influence on your career, and how?

    I have been very fortunate to have worked for, and been influenced by, so many great people, all in different ways. The three people with the greatest influence were during my 13-year tenure at Victoria’s Secret/Limited Brands: Les Wexner, Ed Razek, and Grace Nichols. Les Wexner, founder and chairman of Limited Brands, is the most extraordinary person I’ve ever worked for. He is an incredible visionary and innovator, not just in business, but in community and cultural transformation. I was blessed with the opportunity to be on his small creative team, where we developed and incubated new retail concepts.

    I always like to think big, but Ed Razek, president of brand and creative services, inspired me to take it to an even higher level. Grace Nichols was the CEO of Victoria’s Secret Stores and really stretched me to reach my fullest potential. She also demonstrated the leadership qualities that are imperative in growing a multibillion-dollar retail brand.

Are you an alum who would like to be interviewed for BU Today’s “Jump-start Your Job Search” series? Email John O’Rourke at orourkej@bu.edu.

Read other stories in our “Jump-start Your Job Search” series here.


One Comment on Jump-start Your Job Search: Ippolita Chief Executive Officer

  • Catherine Roman on 03.23.2017 at 8:35 am

    Great interview with Jill Beraud. Thank You. Ippolita jewelry is really special and I’m impressed that we have an alumni leading the company!

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