On the job with a Management Trainee at L’Oreal

GradAustralia met with Harrison Ashton to learn about life as a Management Trainee at L’Oreal.
Erin Delaney
Team GradAustralia
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Harrison studied a Bachelor of Business at Edith Cowan University and graduated in 2015

What’s your job about?

L’Oreal is an international beauty icon that manages and produces some of the world’s most-loved cosmetics and beauty products.

What do you do day-to-day?

While in the first rotation of my graduate role, I manage the sales and marketing of 185 pharmacies across two states. This includes selling in stock, aligning with promotional activations, and I train pharmacy staff and pharmacists on products and sales best practice. And I get to play with awesome skincare products all day!

What's your background?

I grew up in Perth. I went to school until year 11, when I decided to pursue a TAFE qualification in fashion design. After completing this, I moved to Melbourne where I worked for a wholesale fabric company and a local wedding gown designer. I got to meet a lot of fantastic, inspiring and artistic people, but I just knew that being a fashion designer wasn’t going to be for me. After some consideration, I moved back to Perth where I took the opportunity to work for a bank. I learned very quickly about the legalities and functions of money in our society. It was here that I felt I was limited in my career path and I needed to retrain and find something else that I enjoyed. I never thought I was smart enough to go to university, but after spending time working at the bank I knew I was up for the challenge. I completed my bachelor’s degree in record time (and ended up on the Dean’s academic achievement list). There was a lack of marketing roles in the job market when I came to finish my degree, so I decided to start my own company in search for on-the-job learning and using my marketing knowledge in real business cases. The business I started was a success, and that led me to my job at L’Oreal.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

In my time so far at L’Oreal I have learned that diversity in skills, knowledge and abilities is key for a company that has such a large number of products that play across many international markets. I think people with different backgrounds could absolutely do my job — it takes personality and guts to make this role work, not just knowledge of marketing or business. I got in lots of practice by volunteering and being active with the professional clubs and groups my university had on offer. You have to put yourself out there if you want the opportunities to come across your door.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I get to talk to amazing people every day out on the road. When I walk into a pharmacy, I don’t know what is going to happen. It can be tiring remembering everyone’s names, especially on long road trips to regional areas, but you know you’re doing the right thing when you’re making your client’s job easier and hitting sales targets.

What are the limitations of your job?

The most amazing thing about L’Oreal is that the company is very focused on ‘people’ in the way things get done. It allows us to be very reactive to what happens in the market, get creative and always try and do things in a better way. The limitation of dealing with so many stakeholders or people to get something done is that sometimes things get lost in translation or take time. So it’s really important to think how your request or actions are going to impact others and always consider how you can describe something in a way others will understand, not just the way you see it in your own head.

Three pieces of advice you’d give to interested students?

Don’t be scared of making acquaintances with people who are different from you. I went to uni after being in the workforce, so I didn’t spend a lot of time with school leaving students. To my detriment, I didn’t spend time with my younger colleagues until towards the end of uni, and the same applied in reverse — younger students didn’t take advantage of my advice from learning things the hard way.

So, to sum up:

  • Make friends with students you can learn from, not just go to the pub with!
  • Read everything.
  • Spend more time on campus — being around academic minds is very valuable!