How One Weekend My Sophomore Year Started My Career—A Q&A With A Marketing Rising Star

Liam Berry
How One Weekend My Sophomore Year Started My Career—A Q&A With A Marketing Rising Star
Sponsored by, L'Oréal

Before Nico was a rising star in L’Oréal’s management development program (called “Pépinière” after the French word for a tree nursery), he was a college sophomore with a wide range of interests, a ton of ambition, and basically no idea how to get where he wanted to go.

That is, until one weekend during his sophomore year changed the direction of Nico’s career.

We spoke to Nico about his journey to the job he never knew he wanted at L’Oréal and how their Sophomore Seminar weekend program started his journey there.

How did you come to work at L’Oréal? How did you hear about the Sophomore Seminar?

So, really since I started college, I’ve been used to using both sides of my brain. As a freshman, I thought about becoming a designer, but I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into using just one side of my brain.

[Nico is referring to the idea that the “right side” of the brain is used for creativity, expression, and imagination, whereas the “left side” is used for more analysis, math, and logic.]

I went to NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. That’s where you make your own major. Mine focused on Fashion Business and Marketing. I also minored in Psychology. I took business and marketing classes but also mixed in a lot of interdisciplinary, theoretical courses.

My sophomore year, while I was interning at a media company as a marketing intern, I got an email from WayUp saying, ‘L’Oréal wanted me to apply.’  In full transparency, I thought it might’ve been fake. Why would they want me? I hadn’t really done anything yet. I was a sophomore!

But I applied, because, ‘Why not?’ At this point, I’m a sophomore and I’m trying to do anything and everything that will help me gain exposure into a potential career. So, I submitted my resume, cover letter, and a few short answers about why I’d be interested in the program.

Before I knew it, I was on this massive escalator in Hudson Yards heading toward this huge brass sign that said, ‘’L’Oréal.’ I was like, ‘Wow, there’s this huge company and they’re interested in me and value my input and opinion.’

What was the Sophomore Seminar program like?

nico l'oreal wayup sophomore seminar pepiniere program wayup apply
Out-in-the-world marketing events are part of what gives L’Oréal a competitive edge.

The first day was a deep dive into the company. We had leaders come in from all four divisions: Consumer, Active Cosmetics, Professional Products, and Luxury. They talked to us about what they’re doing today; what the market has historically looked like; and what the future might hold.

That was the first day, then we did something called a “Retail Safari.” That’s when you go into a store and see what the consumer is seeing when they go to buy your products. We visited a Duane Reade, a Sephora, and a Bloomingdale’s.

It was so interesting to hear leaders speak on each of these brands in such a business-savvy way, and then to go into the stores and see the actual fruit of their labor.

The next day, we did a business case and debrief. The business case involved Garnier hair care products. It was about 30 minutes of work, then we all gave 5-minute presentations. It was all very casual, but you still felt like your opinion mattered, so you wanted to do a good job. After that the day was over, and I was like, ‘Oh, that was a great experience, but I’m not really expecting a career to come out of it.’

And that’s not because they didn’t communicate it to us where it could lead, but because I was a sophomore and I didn’t see the potential in myself that they saw in me.

Fast forward and it’s halfway through junior year. The HR business partners I met emailed me to say they were coming to campus for an info session with former interns. It was a great opportunity to learn more, so I applied. Two Skype interviews later, I received an offer to join the internship program that summer.

I was just over the moon. Coming from a non-business background, this whole recruiting world wasn’t very familiar to me. I expected myself to be a graduating senior looking for a creative agency or marketing job, but I was a junior who had already secured a summer internship like four months in advance, so that was a whole new world to me.

Tell us about your internship experience.

I was placed in the Luxe division on Lancome doing Consumer Relations Management, Loyalty, and Omnimedia. It was a wide breadth of subjects, but all kind of digitally based.

The summer internship combines two things: your day-to-day stuff and your final project. And L’Oréal is definitely there for you when you need them, but they also encourage you to forge your own path. That can be intimidating at first, especially if you’re someone who hadn’t been in a corporate environment before like me.

What did you do to secure a full-time offer? What made you accept?

After I figured out how to ask the right questions and find the right people, I really started to flourish and enjoy my time at L’Oréal. It can be daunting being in a class of something like 60 summer interns. It makes you wonder how you can stand out. But I realized that I just had to focus on myself and my work and hope that the company would see and appreciate that. And it turned out they did, so I got a full-time offer, which I was thrilled about.

nico l'oreal wayup sophomore seminar pepiniere program wayup apply

I never saw myself working in a corporate environment. Something that I really came to value during my time at school was my sense of individuality. But I saw how committed L’Oréal is to developing you as a marketer and as an individual and I was trying to think of other companies that do that. Nowhere else really compared.

What has it been like since you started full-time?

If you receive an offer after your summer internship, you’re placed in the Marketing Associate Program—called Pépinière internally, which in English translates to something like ‘tree nursery.’ So, it’s really about this desire to develop and improve talent. I started three weeks ago, and it’ll have been a month of onboarding and training next week. My next step is to spend a month with my team. I’ll be with YSLBeauty.com. And then I’ll be placed in the field, doing a sales rotation. So, we go into stores where our products are sold and help merchandise them. We talk with not only consumers, but also our brand ambassadors in the store. It really helps us attain holistic knowledge about the buying cycle.

You know, we can make these decisions in the corporate office, but seeing the real-world ramifications of them is important. So, we spend four days a week on the sales rotation and then we spend one day in the office to keep tabs with our team and network with people outside our division. Throughout that time, we’re also developing a final project that combines what we learn in our sales rotation and what we’re doing at the office. It’s kind of like the interdisciplinary classes I took at school.

To come full circle, that’s one of my favorite aspects of working at L’Oréal: You get to use your left and right brain to develop this holistic picture. Because there’s no 2-D consumer, at the end of the day, everyone has a myriad of factors playing into their decisions. And I definitely feel like if you can develop interdisciplinary skills and apply them to the consumer journey, then you can create a happy consumer and a business that just works out better for everyone.

We’ll have our final presentation after that and then we slowly integrate into the company as Assistant Managers. And from there, the world is ours.

In your opinion, why should people who might not typically apply to L’Oréal consider working there?

They really look to new talent and new people within the company to disrupt in a meaningful way. They’re the number one beauty company in the world for a reason: They have processes and best practices that are running at full speed. But the only way these processes can stay relevant is to inject new perspectives and experiences into the mix. And, of course, the way to find these new perspectives is through new talent.

I didn’t want to be lost in a corporate environment—and I wasn’t. L’Oréal really gives you the opportunity to earn a seat at the table. Your input is just as valued and listened to as senior managers who have maybe been there for 10 years or more.

If you had asked me when I was a graduating senior from high school where I was going to be in four years, I could not have guessed it would be L’Oréal. Not because I was averse to it, but just because it wasn’t on my radar. To me, L’Oréal was L’Oréal Paris, which is just one brand. There’s this whole portfolio of brands that everybody knows, but people aren’t aware that it’s all part of this package that’s one brand—and that’s L’Oréal.  And I can see myself here for the long run.

Want to kickstart your career over the course of a weekend? Check out upcoming events and open opportunities from L’Oréal on WayUp!