‘How I landed a job at a luxury brand in Paris’

Tiffanie Davis ‘could hardly believe it’ when she landed a contract at luxury beauty brand Estée Lauder. The coveted role is one that many people can only dream of, but for graduates of French business school ESSEC’s MBA in Luxury Brand Management, aspiration is just one step before reality.

‘How I landed a job at a luxury brand in Paris’
Photo: Tiffanie Davis

It was while she was working at a boutique PR firm in New York City that Tiffanie began contemplating a career change. She spoke to her then-mentor and told her that she had long been keen to work with luxury brands. Her mentor advised her that if she really wanted to make it in the luxury industry, she should do ESSEC’s MBA programme in Luxury Brand Management

“She raved about the type of people who come out of the programme and the network it would give me,” Tiffanie tells The Local.

The advice turned out to be life-changing. The MBA, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary, was the first luxury-specific programme launched on the market. It covers multiple sectors in luxury including fashion and accessories, fragrance and cosmetics, jewellery, wines and spirits, and luxury retail. Students are based in Paris – widely known as the capital of luxury and home to myriad luxury brands – with the chance to travel to Hong Kong, New York, and Italy as part of the programme.

“Out of all the other schools I was looking at, I saw that ESSEC would be able to provide an immersive, international experience. During the programme, we visited three countries and met with executives in the luxury industry,” says Tiffanie. “Not only were we getting first-hand experience, but we also got an idea of who the luxury consumer is around the world. There weren’t a lot of MBA programmes that offered that.”

Photo: Tiffanie Davis

The programme – which includes modules on strategic management of luxury brands and design management, as well as traditional MBA subjects like financial accounting – is bolstered by the school’s strong ties with the luxury industry. Students are introduced to senior luxury professionals, both on- and off-site, throughout the course of the year. This includes regular talks by industry execs and a mentorship programme that pairs students with luxury professionals.

READ ALSO: Five reasons to study luxury brand management in Paris

“Every ‘Executive Speaker’ gave us the opportunity to gain knowledge and contacts,” says Tiffanie. “By the end of the year, we had a handful of people who we could reach out to for advice or even career opportunities. I was also paired with a mentor who worked at Estée Lauder which really helped to open those doors.”

Immersed in luxury

Living in Paris, students are immersed in the world of luxury and have the unique opportunity to visit nearby ateliers and factories. They can also choose to do a boutique internship during which they work on the shop floor to gain broader understanding of how the entire brand operates.

“We went to the Christian Louboutin factory, Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels…the list goes on,” says Tiffanie. “Everything was right at our fingertips. I’m not sure I would have had these opportunities if you’re not in the heart of a city that is really known for all things luxury. Even when you’re not in class, you can still learn from the city’s rich culture and heritage.”


She adds that these visits helped her to appreciate the time and skill that goes into manufacturing each item. It’s one of the many learnings she acquired during her MBA that she applies to her everyday work at Estée Lauder. 

But has the career transition lived up to her expectations? Without a doubt, she says.

“My role specifically is very fun. It’s all about managing creative and digital content projects which is something I’ve always wanted to do. When I was offered the role, I couldn’t believe it. I was prepared to have to pick up and move back to the States. My heart was really set on Paris and I was so excited when I got the position. Living and working in Paris has been absolutely amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

While Tiffanie hopes to stay in Paris, she knows that her MBA opens up a whole world of opportunities. Her classmates are working all over the world, from Korea to New York City, while all graduates are life-long members of ESSEC’s active global alumni network.

“We’re all spread out which is really cool because we have a network of people around the world who are working in the industry. Once you attend ESSEC, you’re always part of the ESSEC community; you never leave it, the door is always open.”

Does Tiffanie’s story have you considering a career change? ESSEC’s next luxury brand management program starts September 2020; more information on the course schedule, campus in Paris and a list of luxury brand contributors can be found here.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by ESSEC.


English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts

Denmark's government has agreed on a plan to significantly reduce the number of courses offered in English in the country's universities.

English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts
Life sciences faculty hold an open house at Copenhagen University. The university is now expected to reduce admissions as part of a plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt / Ritzau Scanpix

At the end of June, the plan aims to reduce the number of English-language higher education programmes while also expanding educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities.

The exact number of courses to be cut – and where they will be cut – depends on the future employment of graduates.

Cuts to English-language programmes

The reduction of English-language programmes at institutions of higher education is rooted in an effort to reduce rising costs of state educational grants (SU) in Denmark. Despite attempts to reduce SU expenses, the cost is expected to rise to 570 million kroner by 2025, far above the cap of 449 million kroner set in 2013. 

There are a number of cases in which non-Danish citizens are entitled to SU, from moving to Denmark with one’s parents, marrying a Danish citizen, residing in Denmark for more than 5 years, status as a worker in Denmark, and more.

The reduction is targeted at English-language programmes where few English-speaking students find employment in Denmark after graduation, according to Denmark’s Ministry of Education and Research. 

Among the targeted programmes are business academies and professional bachelor programmes, where 72 percent of students are English-speaking and only 21 percent find work in Denmark after completing their education. 

However, programmes where higher proportions of English students enter the Danish workforce, and those that have a unique significance on the regional labour market, will be exempt from the reduction. This amounts to 650 education institutions around the country. 

In 2016, students demonstrated against cuts in SU. Photo: Emil Hougaard / Ritzau Scanpix

The agreement also establishes a financial incentive for institutions that graduate English-speaking students who remain to work in Denmark.

According to a June 10 analysis from consulting firm Deloitte, EU students who receive higher education in Denmark contribute an average of nearly 650,000 kroner to Denmark’s public coffers over a lifetime. 

However, the report notes, a student’s positive or negative contribution depends on how long they stay in Denmark. Although students who leave Denmark shortly after graduating constitute a cost to the Danish state, the analysis found that the contribution of students who stay in Denmark to work offsets the cost of those who leave.

The analysis expressed concern that reducing opportunities for English-language higher education could “have a number of unintended negative consequences,” including deterring students who might stay in Denmark to work from moving in the first place. There’s also the risk that it will become more difficult to recruit foreign researchers to Danish universities, which could impact education quality, the analysis claims.

The UCN professional school in Thisted is expected to open one new training program as a result of the decentralisation plan. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Decentralisation of Danish education

The plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark not only expands educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities, but it also aims to reduce enrollment in higher education within major cities by 10 percent by 2030 (but not more than 20 percent).

For example, a law programme will be established in Esbjerg, a medical programme in Køge and a veterinary programme in Foulum.

Minister of Education and Research Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen said the goal was to offer students educational opportunities regardless of where they live within Denmark and strengthen the economy outside of major cities. 

However, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, Dansk Erhverv, expressed concern that the decentralisation plan doesn’t factor in labour demands within Denmark’s major cities.

Mads Eriksen, head of education and research policy at Dansk Erhverv, said it was “unwise” for programmes to reduce acceptance rates to in-demand fields in that particular city. 

“They are trying to solve a problem with labour in the countryside, but at the same time they are creating labour problems in the cities,” Eriksen said. “The English-language programme cuts are far more aligned with the demands of the labour market.”

Denmark has utilised unemployment-based admission for higher education since 2015. Programmes whose graduates experience unemployment consistently 2 percent higher than average are subject to a 30 percent admission cut.

Eriksen thinks it shouldn’t be a matter of reducing admissions across several universities by

“For example, we have five philosophy education programmes in Denmark, each of which have high unemployment rates among graduates,” Eriksen said, referencing a recent Dansk Erhverv analysis

He would prefer to see resources concentrated into making a couple of those programmes the best they can be and closing the rest, versus reducing admissions in all five programmes. “We have to be ready to close programmes that continue to have high unemployment, not just reduce them.”

In 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language program and converted two from English to Danish. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen / Ritzau Scanpix

Opposite impacts on provincial institutions

Gitte Sommer Harrits, vice chancellor at VIA University College, shared concern that although the decentralised education aspect of the plan aims to increase the number of students at provincial universities, the reduction of English-language programmes is likely to have the opposite effect.

A report from the organisation Akademikerne in early June found that international students have played a significant role filling educational institutions outside of Danish cities. Nine of the 10 educational institutions with the largest proportion of English-speaking students are outside the country’s largest cities. 

The University of Southern Denmark in Sønderborg has the highest proportion of international students; 40 percent of its 628 students are not affiliated with Denmark or other Nordic countries. 

While significantly larger with nearly 37,000 students, Copenhagen University has 5.2 percent international students.

Already in 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language programme and converted two others from English to Danish after the Danish government ordered universities to reduce the number of international students.

Harrits said she found the possible closure of English-language programmes drawing international students to provincial areas to be puzzling when paired with the intention to decentralise education.