Helen McCluskey – President and CEO, Warnaco
Tues July 17, 2012

Key Messages and Notes from Breakfast with Helen McCluskey:

• Get experience in the backend of retail. Don’t be too concerned with the glamor. Build valuable skills and they will take you far.

• She “fell in love with manufacturing” and knew that she must “work for somebody that makes something.” Fall in love with what you do.

• Find a mentor. Have them take you under their wing. She found incredible female role models, in an industry where males dominate the C-suite.

• “I always worked for companies with established culture. Now I got to create a culture. It has been by far the most rewarding experience.” What kind of company culture do you want?

• An incredibly global company; CK has great global brand recognition – important to tailor lines to reflect the nuances of a particular country. “In France, customers don’t like logos, but in Italy, they cannot be big enough!” But your product should feel the same and stay true to the brand.

• The world is changing rapidly – you have to keep up. Internet, social media – 24/7 access to the brand – is important.

• At the time she became CEO, there were only 37 female CEOs in the Fortune 1000. “I have never encountered a glass ceiling,” but being a CEO means big sacrifices. Make sure you know what your priorities are.

• Have a good understanding of fundamental math – it will help you with the numbers side of retail. The most important thing is cultivating a logical thought process.

• “I always focused on doing the best possible job in my current role. I never thought about getting ahead.” Look ahead, but make sure to stay in the present.

• My father, who was a steel worker, and my mother, who was a waitress her entire life, instilled in me an unbreakable work ethic.”

• Don’t be afraid to try something new. Big companies allow exposure to lots of different disciplines, and have more training and development opportunities.

• “Making a bra is like building a bridge; it’s an engineering feat, but must look and feel beautiful. It’s like building the Golden Gate Bridge.”

• “Network, use LinkedIn. Networking is really, really important.” Identify a few companies you really want to work for. Talk to the people on the selling floor – you can get a lot of information from them.

Notes compliments of Maggie Jiang


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