I didn’t know what to expect when I met up with Robyn Saad, Maybelline NY’s Global Marketing Assistant, at her brand spanking new office in New York City’s Hudson Yards. But as a woman working for the number one beauty company in the world I was shocked to find her sitting at the cafeteria (overlooking a dreamy rooftop terrace might I add) completely bare-faced, albeit, looking completely profesh (hi it’s me, please teach me your ways). She attributes a lot of her success to luck but as a smart, hardworking University of Pennsylvania graduate, luck seemed too humbling a word to use.
As she walked me through her day to day tasks, I saw what an impact her role amid the multi billion dollar beauty brand made on consumers like myself. “You know the mascara you use? I know the person that thought of the idea and made it show up on the CVS shelf”, she says with fascination. Catch up with Robyn below about staying true to one's self, striving to be super woman, and learning from her role models.
What did you study at Penn?
I applied to Penn intending to be an architecture major and I thought I was going to love it like oh cool math, creativity, so up my alley. I took an intro to architecture class and it was so hard, you're in the studio all hours of the night. It was crazy, crazy difficult. And it was all rejection, it's always like you're presenting your hard work but being scrutinized and criticized all the time. It was too much for me freshman year I couldn't handle it. And then I also thought ‘what could I do with my architecture degree?’ I can become an architect but when I googled careers it said architecture has the highest unemployment rate in the country, so if I want to be an architect I really have to go somewhere else to really have a fair chance. As a Jew from the community I'm not moving to India to become a crazy cool architect.
Then I thought what else can I do that's creative and analytical or creative and math oriented? I thought marketing could be a cool field.. Everyone looks at marketing and thinks social media. Or oh you run the Instagram for L'oreal, that's cool. No that's not what I do. It's everything from conceptualizing a product idea all the way to seeing it through sold in stores. When I thought about what I could study at Penn that will end up leading me there, I ended up studying communications with a minor in consumer psychology, which is marketing in Wharton and psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Tell me about your internships!
I was really lucky. I wasn't one of those internship hunters. After freshman year I went to Camp David and was a counselor. Everyone's like oh you go to Penn that's cool what is that? That's what my life was. Then after my sophomore year I said well I have to do something so I could talk about it for junior year because junior year internships should lead to what you do when you graduate. So I applied to all these little firms, I got these small interviews here and there nothing crazy. My sister in law, my brother’s girlfriend at the time, works at an ad network doing human resources so I was able to intern there. It was cool learning about search engine optimization and other techniques, I didn’t love it but it was great because then I was able to talk about that when I applied to L’Oreal.
Junior year I said I really need to figure something out so I was applying to all the big firms and didn't hear back so I said if I can't get a job from the agency side, let me try the brand side. I asked myself: what brands would I want to work with? I said I like Essie nail polish, so I googled 'work for Essie' and the first link that popped up was L'Oreal. I was shocked to learn that L'Oreal owns Essie. I Found out that L'Oreal is this big company that owns a lot of different brands. I found the internship link, sent out my resume, wrote a cover letter, filled out their questionnaire and a few weeks later I got a call for a phone interview. After I did my phone interview I was asked to come to Taste of L'Oreal which is a weekend long program of networking and case studies in the City. And after that I got the offer to be a summer intern. I got a very, very good manager, on a really cool team--- the Global Maybelline Marketing team, and after my internship I was offered the full time position!
What exactly do you do?
Upper management says we need to launch a new mascara so I say okay what's doing well in the world. This is doing really well, this is the trend, this is where the market has a gap, our portfolio is missing x y z. So I decide we need a mascara that does this this and this. I go to my labs and I say what technology can we use that'll do this in a mascara to my lashes, go to development and say do you know any vendors that have this formula or cool packs that we can leverage. That's what my role is on the global team. I go to creative, I say I want my packaging to have this logo and this color, tweak that change this. That whole process takes forever, we’re thinking 2019 right now. We also suggest the concept of our digital campaigns and our advertising to align with our product concept, and the ad agency then makes it, sends it to us, and we say yes no maybe. Then we send it to the country specific side of the business- European countries, the US etc...and they will adapt the concept to their particular regions and say, CVS wants to put this display I'm going to take this line from my advertising to put it on it. We have this advertising, I'm going to space it out on my media calendar this way. We have this in our merchandising wall, I want to make a special education on the front so that they understand what the product does. They do more of the tactical in store stuff and we do more of the global conception of the product.
What does your day-in-the-life look like?
Alarm goes off at 5:53AM. I'm out of my house by 6:15, I go to the gym at Equinox. Shower there, get to work by 9. Check my emails, see what I have to do for the day, follow up on all the projects that are pending, running to the creative room getting the artwork for our packaging done, meeting with development to see if the new formula I want for my new project is working or not, meeting with my vice president on my ideas for our new collection, touching base with my manager if she needs any slides done for our presentation, constant running around, meetings meetings meetings. Then around 5:30ish the meetings calm down, and I can actually sit and do my work, work till around 7:30 on average and then I leave and do whatever I want after work.
What’s the biggest challenge?
In my role particularly, work life balance is the hardest thing for me because I come from a community that's very focused on family and I'm the kind of person that doesn't want to raise my family mainly with a nanny or be an MIA mother. Right now on my whole team, nobody has kids, almost no one's married, they do have significant others but it's under the assumption that they can be working later than their significant other sometimes. So for me the hardest thing is deciding for my future what I want to do. Besides for already considering taking on a different role within the company that might have better hours, I have to come to terms with giving up the work I love to do a different role that might not be as fulfilling in the career world to balance it out with having a family. And seeing what’s enough- my kids can’t wonder where’s mommy, but they should be super proud of what she does and want to grow up to be just like her. My goal is to be super woman but at the end of the day it's super woman to a point. You can't really have it all and you have to find the happy medium that works for you and your family.
Advice to someone wanting to be in your position?
You have to not be afraid to be honest. For me when I applied here and they're like 'why do you want to work at L'Oreal?' I don't wear makeup, only when I'm out. I'm not one of those people obsessed with it, I don't follow beauty blogs. I was wearing makeup in my interview but when they asked why beauty I told them I don't really know much about it and I want to learn about it. I didn't lie to them and say I'm obsessed with beauty because I'm not and I think that's what pushed me over the edge. So I think always remember to stay true to yourself. That's my advice, always staying true to yourself of who you are and what you believe in but also not being afraid to push that limit.
Favorite part about your job?
Waiting to see a project that you've worked on finally hit store shelves or when you open the box of first production before it hits the store shelves. That's like oh my god this is my baby and here it is in real life.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want to be super woman with a family. I want to be the kind of person who wakes up, makes Eggo waffles, puts my kids on the bus, works in my cool corporate career that I'm excited to go to, come home make dinner shower my kids and put them to bed and do homework with them somewhere in there. That's what I want to do in five years. I want to move up in the company for sure, too.
Who are your role models?
My parents for sure. In first grade a 95 was never good enough, always strive for better. Your best is of course good enough but they were always pushing me to do more. Not going to college wasn't an option, we were always pushing for that and now they're very proud of what I do, they're proud that I was able to achieve this and so am I. My mother was a super woman, she was a teacher but she got her Master's in early childhood education. She left Lebanon amidst a war by herself with nothing. She was the matriarch of the family when my grandfather passed away and my grandmother was struggling with all the kids and the war. That really affected where I wanted to get in life and the way I want to live my life in the future comes from her. She made Eggos for me every morning, put me on the bus, worked, was at every school play, but made sure her career was fulfilling at the same time.