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Placement experience with L'Oréal shapes career path for Design alumna

Jade Gurney

I knew I wanted a career in design, and Brunel offered one of the most varied, multidisciplinary, and recognised courses in the country. It set me up for an accelerated career path and, unbeknown to me at the time, gave me a strong foundation in business as well as design.

Jade, Alumni, Undergraduate

Senior Visual Merchandising Manager, L’Oréal

- 2015

From UK

Tell us about your educational and/or career journey since you graduated from Brunel?

I started with an internship as a Visual Merchandiser at L’Oréal in my placement year. It was an exciting role working on launch design and implementation for YSL and Armani beauty and I was lucky enough to have stumbled into my dream career! Before graduating I secured a co-ordinator role at bareMinerals, again working on launches, and then I returned to L’Oréal to work on mass market cosmetics, designing both launches and permanent displays.

After 3 years I moved to The Hut Group as Global VM Manager on their full international beauty portfolio. I then returned to L’Oréal to work on their fragrance brands, first managing couture brands such as Valentino, then moving on to Senior VM Manager, leading the UK team across all fragrance brands. I am also a member of the L’Oréal UK&I sustainability committee, leading sustainable design and development for all luxury brands.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

There is no typical day, which I love! Sometimes I might be on installations, working overnight to ensure our brands launch looking their best, or travelling to a supplier to review production lines and approve prototypes. I could be in meeting all day, presenting to retailers or senior management on sustainability initiatives. Or I could be turning off the emails to focus on CAD design, sketching concepts for our next launch, or analysing sales figures to work out return on investment for past concepts. I love the new challenges and unexpected nature of my role.

What’s been the highlight of your career journey so far?

Day to day, it’s seeing my designs come to life. There aren’t many beauty retailers in the UK that haven’t featured something I’ve worked on. I’ve been able to work on incredibly creative projects - for example, for Christmas 2020 I designed and installed a 12ft branded train in Selfridges Trafford, and in 2019 I won a design award for a fantasy retail pop-up for Viktor&Rolf. But the best part of my role is my ability to work on sustainability for L’Oréal, and being enabled and encouraged to work on sustainable initiatives for luxury brands as a member of their UK sustainability committee.

How would you say your Brunel experience has helped you to get where you are today?

The fact that the design courses are so varied gave me a huge advantage later in my career. It meant I could focus on the design elements I enjoyed, whilst becoming known professionally for my ability to “do it all”, whether that meant stepping in to render concepts, building parts of a display to get a store open on time, or project managing rather than just designing. It set me up for an accelerated career path and unbeknown to me at the time, gave me a strong foundation in business as well as design.

Why did you choose to study at Brunel and why would you recommend Brunel to others?

I knew I wanted a career in design, and Brunel offered one of the most varied, multidisciplinary, and recognised courses in the country. That, and its location close to London, meant I could study near an incredible international design capital, a stone’s throw from exhibitions, expo’s and design studios.

What is your best memory of studying here?

I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was the late nights in the library or in the computer rooms in Tower A. I’m pretty sure at the time I just wanted to be done with my projects and go to bed, but looking back, those were the silliest, funniest and most memorable times at university.

If you could give one piece of advice to current Brunel students, what would that be?

If you can, take the placement year. In a competitive job market, that year can really boost your graduate prospects. My placement year shaved at least two years off my “graduate career path” and increased my employability; I even started my first role whilst finishing up my final year exams.

What would be your top tip or key advice for new graduates as they begin their career journey after leaving Brunel?

Love your chosen path! You will spend a huge proportion of your time working, so make sure you are enjoying every second. Too many people go through life resenting the early starts or the overtime, working for the pay check each month - that’s no way to live! Whether you create your own business, work for someone else’s, or have to make a few career changes on the way, enjoying your work is a huge part of enjoying life!