Before I met Alexis Sitt I prepared my questions differently knowing she has not one, but *two* full time jobs. As a 26 year old full time global merchant at Brooks Brothers for the last 5 years and a full time mom to a baby boy for the last two, it would be an understatement to say she has her hands full. When I sat down in her midtown office and asked her how she juggles the archetypal millennial quandary, 'work life balance', she didn’t shy away. Instead, she unveiled the dichotomy between wanting to be home, (“I get jealous sometimes of stay at home moms, I really do”), and working to contribute to her family. While her husband was in residency, she was gunning for VP. “ I sometimes feel that most people don’t understand I am the main provider for my family. I love my career and having a job but I also work because I have to and our family’s financial stability depends on it," she explained. Because her husband’s job is so demanding (he just recently became a doctor) she’s the first one on call if her son, Eddie, is sick and needs to be picked up from his daycare in Brooklyn. (It was only fitting mid-convo when Eddie’s daycare called impromptu about a runny nose.) We spoke about dual family incomes, maternity leave, and financing, in the full interview below!
On Her College Experience:
“Right out of MDY high school, I went to FIT. I started in Fashion merchandising and to be totally honest one of the reasons I chose FIT was because you're enrolled in an associate's program and then you go into your bachelors and I knew that in my head if I got married young and school got difficult I'd walk away with some kind of college degree because it was important to me. I ended up not having to do that which was good. (laughs).”
On Her Internships:
“Because it was so number centric at school [I majored in buying and planning] when I started doing internships I wanted to get an idea of other areas. So I did one buying internship at Century 21 just to make sure I liked buying and to tell myself I worked for somebody that told me I can do this as a job. And when I did really well at that internship it made me really excited that I picked a good path. Then I worked in Bloomingdale's in their fashion office. I like that I did it but I was still into buying. And then my final semester in college I interned here [Brooks Brothers], it wasn't so much buying and planning although buying is involved but it's merchandising which I hadn't had the chance to experience yet.”
Why did you go into merchandising?
“I was seeing the whole process of creating a garment from conception to completion. From choosing a swatch of fabric all the way through to garment, in the store. That was when I was like there's this whole other world out there. There's so much more than just showing up at the showroom and being shown the collection. I was making the collection. And that made me feel really special and really in charge and I was actually such a part of this huge thing where you go down to the store and you see that shirt, I made it. When I was interviewing for jobs when I graduated college I was interviewing for buying positions and merchandising positions and then Brooks Brothers offered me a position to stay.”
On Graduating College:
“I really did want to keep in my mind that I understood the community that I came from and I understood what my options were and I knew that if I met the right guy I wasn't going to pass it up for a job. You never know who you're going to marry or what your life is going to be like and I wasn't a hundred percent positive, I mean I'd like to say that I was, but truthfully I wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish college and that would have not been okay with me. I ended up meeting my husband my last year college and I graduated with my bachelors.”
What does being a global merchant entail?
“For the most part we deal a lot with fabric selection and then product development, and sending products out to factories to create into samples. We get those samples in, we edit them with my boss, and with the VP of merchandising, and then we come to a line. And then that line gets presented to our partners across the globe. And they make their purchases for their countries because they know better than us what works in, for example, Japan. And we make the selection for North America and then it goes into the planning and buying department.”
On Work Life Balance Married:
“When we first got married, (my husband's a doctor he just graduated residency), he was finishing up his fourth year of medical school. He was not so busy at the time because he was a senior which gave him a little more free time so it was a good year for us to get married. But then he started residency and it was a whole different ball game so when he graduated medical school I was still here working full time. He would work late, I would work late, we both had crazy hours. But we did our thing, he was very reasonable with dinners on the table at 8:30. That was fine with both of us and I think it's important to have those conversations. I always felt like this tiny twinge of guilt that I wasn't the housewife like gourmet dinner at 6 o'clock ready on the table and the apartment is immaculate all the time and all the laundry is folded by color. Stuff was thrown around all over the place, wacky mack for dinner.”
On Work Life Balance with a Child:
“When I had Eddie he had to go to daycare and he has got to get picked up and dropped off at a certain time. And he has doctor's appointments and he gets sick and has all these needs and those kind of things would start getting in the way because Hal's job is so demanding and I can't call him and say Eddie's not feeling well he needs to be picked up from daycare because he's like well I'm seeing patients. So it fell on me a lot more than it fell on him as much as he hates that and he wishes he could help out more in that area because he helps out so much at home.
*Buzz* *Picks up phone*
“Oh hi, how are you.....His nose has been running, okay. So yeah just give me a call and maybe I'll leave a little bit early today.”
“Exhibit A.” (Laughs)
“That, exactly that, is something that's a heavy weight on my shoulders like the responsibility. I'm his mom, it's totally on me. In the middle of a huge meeting I was getting up and leaving if he was sick. I was this very very hands on go getter ambitious person that was working these crazy hours and gunning to be VP and all of a sudden it was like a slow motion step back. I don't want to say it's impossible, here I am I'm doing it, I'm pregnant with my second baby, we're good.”
Thoughts about having a two family income?
“Open communication about finances is super super important. Because I know I dated people who would never say a word about their finances, I had no idea, do you make money do you not make money? Are you a bajillionare are you poor? Did your dad give you money? I knew nothing. And then there are guys who are open to being open. So I have friends who work full time and have very impressive jobs. But they're still not in charge of their finances, the paycheck they get is their spending money and their husband pays for the bills. In my situation personally and I would love to teach people about finances and budgeting because I think my husband and I do a very good job, we've read books and we've made budgets and we have apps that we use. And I know everything and he knows everything, it's transparency 100%. It's just open communication. I find that to be so important and very much not the norm.
Have you ever been mommy-shamed?
“I've had the opposite. I don't know how genuine but they're like oh my god you're so amazing you work. But I get also people who maybe don't mean to do it where it's a little bit of a sideways compliment where there's a tinge of ‘oh he goes to day care from 8 to 6:30, that's a very long day for a baby.’ And I'm like mmm yeah. So people just don't get it, it's not for everyone. I can understand what it's like to miss him so much the whole day, like I don't have pictures of him by my desk because if I did I'd go home every day. I know that these same moms I've had conversations where being with your kid 7 days a week is very very hard, it's a much harder job than I have. Trust me when I tell you.”
What does your day to day morning look like?
“I wake up at about 5:30ish but I've always been a morning person. I like to have my coffee and watch either the news or Tivo that's like Alexis's morning time. And then about 6 o'clock I start prepping Eddie's stuff for day care so all he needs at daycare is food. Eddie wakes up and I take care of him while getting ready for work. I used to take the bus to day care and I'd put him in a carrier. Now that I'm pregnant I can't really get him in the carrier so now I take the car. I drop him off and park the car at daycare, jump on the F train and get to work at 9ish.”
What advice can you give someone looking to break into your industry?
“Always take that first step never think it's too scary or too overwhelming just jump in and do it. The ball will just start rolling and you'll start to see how far you'll get, and you'll surprise yourself.”