Interview | Milly Meadowcroft, E-Commerce Manager at Zimmermann
A career in fashion is no small feat, the inner workings of this industry are notoriously demanding, competitive and fast-paced, and yet it’s an industry that so many twenty-somethings aspire to be a part of – like the beautiful fashion maven I recently interviewed. Milly Meadowcroft is the e-commerce Operations Manager for Zimmermann and she is currently living the dream in New York City at the young age of 24.
In our interview we talked about the pressures of her role, how she worked her way up in such a prolific Australian fashion business, and the work ethic, and etiquette, that have made her invaluable to the company.
What is your current job title?
US/EU e-commerce Operations Manager for Zimmermann based in the New York head office.
Where did you attend university and what did you study?
Massey University, Wellington NZ. I did a Bachelor of Design majoring in Fashion and Business Marketing.
Did you always aspire to have a career in fashion?
I thought about it a lot when I was younger – I’ve been making and drawing clothes since I can remember but I was never very good at it because I don’t have the patience. At university, my fashion collections always had an idea or a system surrounding a thought process or design decision – so I guess this planted a seed about the operational side of the fashion industry which is what I do at Zimmermann today. This only makes sense to me now, looking back.
You worked for Zimmermann in Sydney before landing your current job in NYC, what was your role in Sydney and did you have to apply for the New York position or were you approached?
Yes, I worked in Sydney for Zimmermann for two and a half years, first as a customer service/dispatch casual and then worked my way through four different roles, learning a lot about the behind-the-scenes mechanisms of the business. My final role at Zimmermann in Sydney was the Online Fulfilment Manager. As an Online Fulfilment Manager you are responsible for incoming and outgoing online orders/stock and providing the upmost Zimmermann customer service at all times. This includes what the package looks like, how quickly it is dispatched, where is it dispatched from, the communication the customer receives etc. You manage and grow your team to achieve this and any other projects associated.
I applied for the US/EU e-commerce position because I was ready for a new challenge. I’ve thought I was ready a few times before – this is not the first time I’ve applied for a new position at Zimmermann or put my hand up for different roles, but I was lucky enough to have managers who were honest and told me I wasn’t quite ready and kept pushing me. When I found out I got the role I surprisingly wasn’t nervous, rather incredibly grateful for the opportunity, I’ve been to New York before and this time I felt ready. I was actually more concerned with practical things like where I was going to live! I saw it as, “a little to loose – a lot to gain”. Now that I’m here in New York it feels right – everything happens for a reason.
What does an average day look like for you in your current role?
It’s very different day-to-day. One day I will hardly speak to anyone and be head down in reporting and numbers. The next day I will be talking at a million miles an hour – training, attending meetings and interviewing. From a ‘numbers and figures’ angle I also do a monthly report. I need to look at what was sold, what was returned, where, how many etc – then analyzing the data to see how we can capitalize on trends or fix any issues the customers might be having (and may not even know about). Knowing programs like Excel is very helpful here. I have learnt the hard way that “feeling” like we should do something does not always mean we should. Look at the numbers and create sustainable strategies. Right now, I am focused on building our team in US/EU Online.
Working for Nicky Zimmermann is such an honour and the Zimmermann team clearly love you, how do you ensure you “show up” at work each day and make yourself valuable?
Thank you! I hope that is what they think! Nicky is an incredible role model and has built a phenomenal design team who continue to create sensational collections which truly shape the ethos/spirit of Zimmermann. In terms of ‘showing up’… there is no time for stress in this environment – it will not make anything faster or better. I try my VERY best to control my stress and be positive. There is a solution for every problem. If you can’t figure something out, asses what resources you have, make a plan and call on help where necessary.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced while working at Zimmermann? Have you ever thought, “I can’t do this…”?
I think “I can’t do this…” all the time! But I try to keep this internal because there is always a way – this is about clothing not lives –simply de-stress and reroute. Recently I have found the time differences tricky because I have to communicate over email a lot. In the last few days I have started picking up the phone – having a five-minute conversation with someone is so much easier than a five-day email thread. Then you can follow up at the end of the call with a quick, clear email that summarizes what was said.
What are some of the best parts of your job?
Dealing with all parts of the business – design, retail, buying, finance, logistics – everyone plays their part in a business and I love learning and understanding what others do. I also work with some incredibly inspiring people – notably women, who achieve so much in their day to day – I don’t know how they do it!
I also love building a team. Building a team is about so much more than the 9-5. You need to understand what someone is about and what brings them to your doorstep. What can you do to make their future ambitions a reality? If you look after your staff like this, I believe they will stick around and work harder for the business. You can learn something from everyone too – ask for opinions, set time to talk.
What advice would you give advice an aspiring fashion babe wanting to break into the industry?
I don’t know if I agree with giving advice because every role in the fashion industry is so different. If I was to give myself some advice at the start of my time at Zimmermann I would say “prepare”, look at the numbers (learn how to use Excel!) and have 110% confidence in your decision-making skills. But would that be the same advice you would give someone who was the Head of Design or in the Finance department? Probably not. I guess my message here is to be yourself and go with your gut – there is no recipe for success and a million ways to get to it.
For the working girls and boys, I believe education and learning is very important (particularly following a traditional education). Education gives you options to pick and choose what suits you best; I personally cannot read for longer than five-minutes without getting distracted, however I can easily listen to a two-hour podcast while walking home. Be aware of what interests you and you will inadvertently use this to choose a career path or personal decision. On the other end, while you are in full time education, like schooling or university, try to get into the work force in some capacity, like working in retail, particularly for anyone trying to get into fashion.