Seriously, There’s No Such Thing As a Dumb Question: Banana Republic Leader, Ashley Kechter, Shares Crucial Career Advice

Banana Republic
Ashley Kechter oversees the Banana Republic teams responsible for sales forecasting and tracking inventory – basically the people who make sure product is where it should be. Important stuff! She talked with us about her career journey, her time away from Gap Inc., and why she’s positively adamant that there’s no such thing as a stupid question on the job.
 
You majored in international business at Cal Poly — how did you get here from there?
I worked briefly at Merrill Lynch and I thought I might go into financial services. Then I interviewed with Gap Inc. on campus and was invited to headquarters for another interview — and I was instantly so enamored with the leaders and the people and the culture that I knew this was where I wanted to be. I was hired as a distribution analyst and actually had no idea what the job entailed … but I thought, “if they want to hire me and teach me how to do that job, that would be great!”
 
Was that the job where you learned there’s no such thing as a dumb question?
Oh, man. I thought I was picking up that job so quickly. I was allocating product (children’s underwear, to be specific) and assumed the system would automatically know what stores not to include. When stores started calling to say “hey, we’re getting all this underwear that we aren’t supposed to have,” I freaked out and thought I would get fired. My manager was so kind and so forgiving about it. I learned a few things from that: not to assume anything, not to be afraid of asking questions that might seem basic, and to expect that I was going to make mistakes and learn from them.
 
And how did that embarrassing but useful lesson help you along your career path?
I’ve consciously sought different experiences to broaden my skill set — for example, I’ve had positions with Gap brand, Old Navy and Banana Republic; worked in Gap Inc. human resources for a time; and spent several years working for Restoration Hardware. Every time I’ve gone into something new, I’ve asked a million questions. How was I going to lead a merchandising team, for example, if I was new to that functional area but was reluctant to ask questions and learn about it?  
 
So you left Gap Inc. for a few years and then came back?
I went to RH to learn something new — furniture and hard goods is a totally different business than what we do here — but the culture brought me back to Gap Inc. Honestly, though, we’re a $16 billion global company where management is extremely supportive of employees who want to explore different jobs in our different brands, so you can broaden your skill set tremendously while staying right here. There aren’t many companies that have the size and scale of Gap Inc. and also have such a high level of integrity.
 
What’s your favorite thing about your current job?
Being embedded in every aspect of the product life cycle. We work in a tight cross-functional team, so I get to collaborate with merchants, production, product teams, designers. I love the fact that no day is the same as the one before it: Every day, we get numbers that show us how we performed yesterday. There’s lots of problem-solving and lots of moving parts. And it’s fun to work with collaborative, curious people.
 
If you’re one of those collaborative, curious, question-asking types, Banana Republic is the place for you. Click here to check out open jobs. And follow Gap Inc. on LinkedIn for news and more opportunities all over the company.
 

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