Rockstar Women of Old Navy Share Advice on Careers + Beyond

Old Navy

Every day is International Women’s Day at Old Navy. We spoke with some of our rockstar female leaders to hear their career advice, their challenges, and why being a woman at Old Navy rocks.

Interview with Suzette Morris the Director, Strategy & Product Operations, U.S. 

How long have you been with Old Navy? 3 years

What do you love most about working for ON? The Energy!

What sets Old Navy apart from other companies (or retailers?) you’ve worked for?  It’s an intersection for people with so many different skills and talents. It doesn’t take a single type of person. The magic is in bringing diverse people together.

What is the one item you think everyone should have in their wardrobe?  Leopard print heels. They amp up any all black outfit.

What is one of the most important learnings you’ve experienced in your career?  Don’t assume that good work will be rewarded. Advocate for yourself, your work and your accomplishments.

What is an accomplishment you’re proud of?  All my accomplishments are a reflection of my mother. Her courage to come to America from Jamaica and make a better life for herself and for me is amazing. I hope that all my accomplishments have made her proud.

Who inspires you? And why? I met a young woman this week in an interview who was so energetic and enthusiastic about taking on new challenges. The endless possibilities in front of her and the promise of so much more to come was inspiring.

What do you feel has made you successful as a leader?  My ability to connect with people and build relationships based on mutual respect.

Interview with Kimiko Murota the Senior Manager of Strategic Projects for Store Operations, U.S. 

How long have you been with Old Navy? 16 Years (2002 was a good vintage)

What do you love most about working for ON? Talk about heat experiences! The leaders I’ve worked with at Old Navy have believed in me, saw potential in me, and pushed me into new challenges.  

What sets Old Navy apart from other companies (or retailers?) you’ve worked for? People Development: we nurture personal growth and careers happen along the way.                        

When all else fails _______ is my go to outfit/style. Casual conservative meets why-so-serious? (Like a 10 year-old trying to be a grown-up sometimes.)

How do you motivate yourself / stay motivated? I was adopted by Old Navy as a part-time Crew Member (what we used to call our Brand Associates), so I know those jobs. I know those people. In my role now, every day I push myself to make her job easier. Every project I work on, I try to make things as simple as possible for a Brand Associate and that helps me focus on what’s important. I geek out every day knowing that I get to work with talented cross functional business partners on solutions that make her job easier so she can have fun at work and be successful.

What is one of the most important learnings you’ve experienced in your career? Questions move things forward more than the right answer.

Who inspires you? And why? My mom because she identified the super powers in me and my 3 siblings and encouraged us to explore our talents and interests. She raised us with curiosity and loves a challenge – her first instinct when she experiences something great is: “How can I can make that, and better!” It’s a big part of who I am and to this day she lives her life with the same curiosity.

How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization? Location, location, location! A change of environment can make all the difference in problem solving and I believe in moving conversations from Mission Bay to our stores, whether we’re walking through the salesfloor or Back of House, talking to Brand Associates, or watching customer interactions. It can transcend us from meeting to collaborating.

Interview with Michelle Zeichner the Senior Ops Manager, Mexico

How long have you been with Old Navy? 1.8 years

What do you love most about working for ON? What Old Navy stands for and The Old Navy culture.

What sets Old Navy apart from other companies (or retailers?) you’ve worked for?The inclusion and fun.

What is your favorite Old Navy product?Rockstar Jeans

How do you motivate yourself / stay motivated? Difficult situations in my life motivate me. I believe in being present and enjoy every second of life.

What is one of the most important learnings you’ve experienced in your career? Defects can become virtues if you learn to manage them. Also, in every weakness there is an opportunity of growth.

Have you had any mentors? If so, how have they influenced your life? In life, I’ve had many mentors including my parents. But talking about my work life, the mentor that most influenced me taught me (among other important things) that sometimes bad handwriting can mean that the brain thinks faster than the hand can write (intelligence).

Who inspires you? And why? My Mom – she is an example of assertiveness, patience, positivity, and courage. 

Interview with Yuridia Estrada Esquivel the Market Planning Manager, Mexico

How long have you been with Old Navy? It will be 6 Years on April 1st.

What do you love most about working for ON? I love the people and the way that everyone makes you feel welcome. 

What sets Old Navy apart from other companies (or retailers?) you’ve worked for?Everyone is super motivated about moving the brand into a positive growth direction.

What is the one item you think everyone should have in their wardrobe? Jeans! I am a total Jeans girl, and will wear denim most of the year. I especially love our Rockstar jean!

What is an accomplishment you’re proud of? My college education. 15 years ago I did not know if going to college would even be possible, and today I am thankful for the opportunity and for the scholarship I was given. Hard work and dedication has helped me along the way.

Have you had any mentors? If so, how have they influenced your life? Whenever important decisions have crossed my path it’s always been great to have someone to share ideas or thoughts, especially people who have walked the path. I’m grateful for each and every person who has provided me with a few minutes of their day to give advice and support.

As a leader, how do you become a better leader? Constant feedback. It’s important to stay humble and open to listening.

What do you do to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader? Be open to all sorts of opportunities and don’t be afraid to take risk. Roll your sleeves up. Dig in.

Interview with Amanda Fulginiti the Field Talent Acquisition Manager for Old Navy, Canada

How long have you been with Old Navy? 2 years

What do you love most about working for ON? Our family values. Our teams are an extension of our families. Our customer is part of the family. I love that we just stand for an inclusive community.

What sets Old Navy apart from other companies (or retailers?) you’ve worked for?We are not afraid of failure. We learn from our mistakes. We dust the dirt off, get up and take new steps to do better and make the work more fun in the future. We are risk takers, and being able to survive in this current landscape means being open to taking chances, making mistakes and getting messy!

Do you have any style icons? If so, who + why? Diane von Furstenberg. She herself just exudes the type of influential and confident leader I aspire to be. But beyond that, I find that her clothing, especially her iconic wrap dress, reminds me that an outfit can affect how you move + engage with the world.

Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success? Failing to get over the idea of failure was the failure in the beginning of my professional career – does that make sense? For many it is their biggest fear, but what does the word in and of itself even mean? By definition it just means “lack of success”, but isn’t that so subjective? I believe we all spend way too much time defining who we are and our career success based on other people’s expectations or society’s. I spent the first half of my career too preoccupied with getting things “right” in appearance. For the longest time, I was gunning to be a curator of a reputable museum because I was passionate about history and loved art. I found myself taking a different route. When things didn’t work out, it took me years to just move on and realize I hadn’t actually failed – I just needed something more to feel truly alive.

I now have this conversation with myself (and others) in different ways whenever I can. “How do you get in the way of you?” For me, it wasn’t so much that I failed, but I failed to realize that there is no destination, and as cliché is it sounds, life is a journey. I believe it is about finding places and people that fuel not just your passions, but who you are as an individual. Long story short, I learned that becoming self-aware about how you can ultimately be your greatest road black in allowing yourself to be successful and no one else. It’s your life so own it. The good, bad and ugly :)

Who inspires you? And why? My mother. She is seriously a #girlboss. She and my grandparents came to Canada from Italy with nothing. She worked her way up at work with just a high school education. She is wickedly brilliant. Growing up, I watched her as she put on her makeup and carefully put together her outfits. She has always inspired me to take care of myself and do things with style! She takes pride in everything she does and I know family has always been her driving force. Like DVF, I never knew the woman I wanted to become, but the woman I want to be is definitely inspired by the best loving example I ever had growing up.

What do you feel has made you successful as a leader? My curiosity. I am the perpetual student. I love to learn and I am truly curious about people and their lives, projects and perspectives. Never being afraid to approach someone and ask questions has always opened doors for me, but more importantly, has always allowed me to really build genuine relationships which is the thing that will always lead you to new and exciting places.

Interview with Vicky Van Bell theOmni Commercial Strategy Manager, Canada

How long have you been with Old Navy? March 21st will be 2 years at Old Navy, but I also worked in Gap Stores from 1999-2005.

What do you love most about working for ON? Definitely the people. All of the amazing talent we have here constantly piques my curiosity and pushes me to better myself. I also love our company culture and how we foster career development.  

What sets Old Navy apart from other companies (or retailers?) you’ve worked for? At Old Navy, failures aren’t fatal and we don’t dwell on mistakes. Instead, we see opportunities within our shortcomings. We learn and we improve how we operate.

What is your favorite Old Navy product? Flip Flops! They’re a staple in my everyday life, and what I slip on first thing each morning to walk my dog.

How do you motivate yourself / stay motivated? Gratitude is a driving force in my life. Among the countless things I have to be thankful for, I consider myself incredibly lucky to have a job that I love, that challenges me daily, plus I’m working for a company I love. (Side note: I met my husband when we were both working in Gap stores in college, so I’ve always had a sentimental attachment to Gap Inc.)   

If you had to start your career over from scratch, knowing what you do now, what would you do differently? I would waste less time being afraid of the unknown. Time is our most valuable resource, and it goes by too quickly to squander it. There’s also a quote by Mark Mason that I love: “Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway.”

What do you feel has made you successful as a leader? Being positive and solution-oriented. I also try my best to lead by example, and make sure I walk the talk, too.

What do you do to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader? One of my favorite books taught me “nothing is for certain until it already happened – and even then, it’s still debatable.” My takeaway from this is to embrace uncertainty, imperfections, and limitations. I believe this is essential for any meaningful growth to happen.

Interview with Jean Yuan the District Manager, China

How long have you been with Old Navy? 4 years and 3 months!

What do you love most about working for ON? Introducing ON to the China Market. Letting more and more Chinese shoppers know and love our brand, then leading our ON China team to grow together.

What sets Old Navy apart from other companies (or retailers?) you’ve worked for? We’re not just selling clothes. For me, ON is not only a job, it’s more like a big family. My colleagues are more like my family, customers are like friends who come to visit me.

What is your favorite Old Navy product? Rockstar Jeans

How do you motivate yourself / stay motivated? Always keep a growth mindset to improve yourself and learn from your leaders and peers.

What is one of the most important learnings you’ve experienced in your career? Do the right thing, not the easy thing, which will always help you grow and improve.

Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success? When I was a GM, in order to ensure my store always performed well, I liked to do many things myself. Then I realized that’s totally wrong! Learning how to delegate could help me better manage my time. Also, it could help my team grow faster. Developing our team and trusting our team is also my job.

What is an accomplishment you’re proud of? It’s my great honor to be Fisher Finalist in 2016, which does not only honor me, but also gives me a mission to bring Don Fisher’s spirit to China.

As a leader, how do you become a better leader? As a new mom, I ask myself, “What kind of person do you want your child to be?” Let yourself lead by example first. I think the idea of educating children and leading the team is the same. Leaders lead, motivate and empower, lead by example and look for ways they can help and encourage those around them.

Interview with Monika Bonspiel the Director of Field Visual, China

How long have you been with Old Navy? 3 years (24 with Gap Inc.)

What do you love most about working for ON? The commitment to people. It really is a family. We’re held accountable, but also supported when we need it.

What sets Old Navy apart from other companies (or retailers?) you’ve worked for? Its complexity. There are many layers that require different approaches that allow one to use many different skills. But we’re always about fun, and our focus is really all about the customer.

What is your favorite Old Navy product? The sandals I bought about 12 years ago. They are still in amazing shape, still relevant and insanely comfortable.

If you had to start your career over from scratch, knowing what you do now, what would you do differently? Being courageous from the start. Not being scared to share my POV because of fear that it would be wrong or judged.

What is an accomplishment you’re proud of? Moving to Shanghai, sight unseen. New country, new brand and a whole lot of learning. It’s been amazing both personally and professionally. It has strengthened my patience, my resourcefulness and my communication. It really is true that most communication is nonverbal.

Who inspires you? And why? Those who aren’t afraid to be different and to show it and stand for it. It can be as simple as someone who looks at a situation from a different perspective.

How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization? Allowing and encouraging out-of-the-box thinking and giving it space and time. The end result may be the same, but the HOW is where the creativity can come in.

What do you feel has made you successful as a leader? Honesty. Being honest first with myself and then with the people that I work with in my words and actions.

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