The Quantum Networks team is a small (but mighty) one, so whenever a new member joins, there is a lot of anticipation and excitement that surrounds the welcome. Admittedly, when we heard that a global manager at Brooks Brothers was joining us, it might have been a little more anticipation and excitement than usual. We sat down with Ksenia (pronounced Kuh-sen-ee-ah) to talk about her impressively expansive experience within the worlds of fashion retail and business management, how her cultural and personal background helped her score the career of her dreams, and what drew her to Quantum Networks.
Anna: Hi Ksenia! It’s great to have you on our team, and thank you for doing this interview. First, would you be able to tell me a little bit about your professional background?
Ksenia: Absolutely. I actually began dancing professional ballet at the age of eight with New York City Ballet. The ballet world is surprisingly small and everyone knows each other; from there, I was recommended to the owner of the largest international scholarship competition for classical and contemporary dance (YAGP), where I worked in all aspects of the business throughout high school. When my manager there left to form his own non-profit arts and music festival, he brought me on to help him build it from the ground up. I decided to specialize in fashion merchandising during my undergrad management degree, and I completed internships in different categories – visual merchandising (YSL), design (Polo Ralph Lauren), and marketing (Lacoste) – to figure out my strengths, weaknesses, and what I enjoyed the most, which turned out to be merchandise management. I’m one of those people that don’t do well unless I’m doing too much. During my last class at FIT, I began interning at Brooks Brothers. After a month, they ended up creating a position for me since none were available there and I had to respond to other companies’ offers. Having that kind of belief in me from a company was incredible. In my last two years at BB, they supported me through a full-time Master’s program in global fashion management, which consisted of two-week seminars in France, Spain, China, and Japan. I was able to get the international business experience that I was missing in order to make the right changes back at work.
A: Traveling really does help to connect with international clients. It took you some time to get into brand management specifically, but would you say that you’ve always had a general interest in business?
K: Yes! Back in Russia, my father managed one of the first computer software and hardware companies. He was the true definition of an entrepreneur. Everyone always says I am 100% a copy of my father. I love managing, I love organizing. I love seeing something from start to finish. You see it in all aspects of my life; I’m the one that gets my family and friends together. Always managing!
A: It’s always so good to have at least one person like that in a group, even if you’re just making plans with friends. You need that one leader!
K: Yes, to do all the groundwork!
A: Right! So, you said that you function better if there’s a lot going on at once. How would you say that you’ve juggled so much at once, or do you have any personal strategies to organize or manage projects effectively?
K: So, I’m a big believer in lists. It feels like such an accomplishment to check them off. I had my exit interview with my previous director and I asked him, what could I do better at my next company? What annoys you the most? His immediate, sarcastic response was, “you’re the worst list-taker I’ve ever seen.” He was completely kidding, of course, since I’m known for filling out notebooks constantly. Taking a lot of notes helps me manage my ever-growing list of priorities. It takes time and experience to understand and figure out those priorities, but eventually, you become a pro at it.
A: What advice would you give to people, young or old – it doesn’t really apply to one group – that are looking to elevate their careers and are hoping to score the type of experience that you’ve had, or just career-starting advice in general?
K: This is going to sound very cliché, but I have two major points. The first is definitely networking. But not networking in the “can I have your business card?” sense, but more like getting a cup of coffee with them. Make some sort of personal connection. Ask them anything that will spark some sort of reminder of you in their head. The second is to really be open to opportunities. I think that some people have this mentality that they must go down one path. If they do anything else, it will negate all of their past experience, and they can’t grow their career. Your career doesn’t stop if you move in a different direction, it only builds from there. You never know how it’s going to work out!
A: Exactly. Careers are not one-size fits all! Do you feel like your Russian heritage has influenced your career thus far in any way, and if so, how?
K: Oh goodness. Yes. Maybe way too much. Being raised Russian, there’s a very big emphasis on respect, hard work, and structure. That helped me a lot when I began working in a corporate culture. I can also tell you a funny story: Russian superstitions have helped me with networking. My first week at Brooks Brothers, I was in the elevator with the owner of our company, Mr. Del Vecchio, and I accidentally stepped on his foot. The superstition is that if you step on someone’s foot, they have to step on your foot in return; otherwise, you will fight. As embarrassed as I was, I had to explain this to him. But he loved it, and I made this connection with him. As crazy as it was, he will probably never forget that.
A: Hey, whatever works, right? Even if it’s stepping on the company owner. So, what attracted you to Quantum Networks?
K: A lot of things! Quantum had reached out to me, and because I had not heard of the company prior, I started doing a lot of research. I realized how successful this company is, and with so few people on its team. I thought, “They must be doing something right.” And what they’re doing is exactly where I believe the retail industry needs to go. I’ve become a little frustrated with the industry lately because traditional retailers are simply not listening to the new consumer. Quantum Networks is a company that is listening to that consumer. This is a company that is able to not only listen but also forecasts what consumers will want in the future. How can such a small company do so incredibly well? Throughout my interviews, I realized it’s because very smart people work here. They’re so incredibly talented, and I was wondering, “What makes them believe in me?” But I realized it’s all about bringing people together from different backgrounds with different experiences. An issue that constantly arises in companies is that everyone is like-minded and has the same experience. That’s why I say to be more open to different opportunities. When you bring in people from outside industries and different kinds of backgrounds, they might have a different perspective, or maybe contribute something that you had never thought of before. Working together and listening to each other is the only thing that will drive you forward, and I think Quantum really does that. As little time as I’ve spent here, I’ve already seen that tremendously, and that’s amazing.
A: I love the fact that we have so many different people from different countries here. I love listening to a British accent here, an Australian accent there.. I agree. To have a completely one minded collective group, you don’t get anything new out of that.
K: Absolutely. You’ll just keep doing what you’ve been doing, and what’s the point of that? There’s no innovation, no progress.
A: And yes, it’s so boring to have everyone agree all the time, I constantly hear people debating here. It’s great.
K: It’s magic to my ears.
A: Do you have any personal or specific professional goals that you hope to gain while you’re at Quantum?
K: My biggest one is definitely learning: learning another industry, how a company with a small team operates, and a different way of looking at your business. But I think the biggest success I will have is learning from the people here. I believe they’ll even be the ones to teach me how to lighten up and not take life so seriously!