American Daniel Harrison used his MBA at France’s top school HEC Paris, plus an exchange in Hong Kong, to boost his career in the luxury jewellery industry and make the switch to Asia.
Dan, 31, grew up in New Jersey and studied for an undergraduate degree in Economics and International Business at Pennsylvania State University. He worked at IBM and then for three years at luxury jewellery firm Tiffany, but wanted to step outside his comfort zone and advance his career internationally.
His MBA proved pivotal to securing his role in a global jewellery firm in the highest growth market in the world. He is now Director of Retail Operations at Pandora, which specializes in designing, manufacturing and marketing hand-finished modern jewellery made from genuine materials.
Pandora jewellery is sold in over 65 countries on six continents and Dan explained to us that it has grown by tapping into an under-served area of the market: accessible luxury. “Women are always looking for ways to express themselves through their jewellery but without having to pay luxury brand prices,” he says.
Dan knew that the best way to achieve his goals was to hit the ground running. After considering top schools in France and Spain he ultimately chose HEC Paris because of the student diversity and the focus on general management.
Dan has many fond recollections about his time at HEC Paris: “The best things about my experience were the interactions, connections and friendships made with people from all over the world”. He says that “this was a truly enriching aspect of the experience.”
He also thoroughly enjoyed his campus experience. HEC Paris runs the yearly MBA Tournament (MBAT) which hosts around 1500 students from all over Europe for the biggest business school sport tournament in the world.
Dan was in charge of the event and thrived as it tested his ability to think and react both strategically and operationally. ”It was a great way to test my leadership ability, project management and time management skills while learning to trust others in order to accomplish a project and give all the participants a memorable experience,” he says.
Dan has been able to thrive at Pandora using the skills he gained in his MBA, in no less a market than shopping-obsessed Hong Kong! The McKinsey Quarterly recently predicted that by 2015, Chinese consumers will account for more than 20 per cent of the global luxury market.
Dan’s role involves him overseeing all Pandora company-owned stores within Hong Kong. He first gained exposure to the Hong market during his exchange programme at Chinese University Hong Kong (CUHK).
In his role he is responsible for building the brand through marketing, expanding the store footprint in Hong Kong, driving sales and focusing on creating best practices which are utilized throughout Asia. It is a diverse role which provides unique challenges every day.
Dan’s HEC Paris MBA and CUHK exchange have helped him a lot, filling some of the gaps in his experience and allowing him to transition from an operational role pre-MBA to a general management role post-MBA.