Emily Müller-Lennox Gains International Experience at Puma
***This article originally published in 2013. Emily is now Senior Product Line Manager at Puma.***
Emily Müller-Lennox MBA ’11 caught the international travel bug at an early age. As a teenager, she took her first job with the sole intention of saving money for a trip to Europe with her high school. As an undergraduate student at Boston College, she spent an entire semester in Cameroon, Africa studying the culture and development of that region. Since then, she’s continued traveling to “wherever the ticket was cheap.” Throughout her world travels, Emily always had the idea in the back of her head that it would be exciting to work overseas. Today, she’s made that dream a reality in her current position as Manager of Global Merchandising Operations, Footwear at Puma’s headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany.
In her role at Puma, she works very closely with Wholesale Merchandising to make sure that the right products are in the right markets at the right times and at the right volumes. Her responsibilities include process optimization, KPI analysis, IT system implementation and ensuring that milestones are properly met by all parties as well as overseeing junior members of the team.
Raised in Ventura County, Calif. as the second of five kids, Emily has traveled to nearly 25 countries on five continents and recently returned from a trip to Brazil, which she describes as “the exact opposite of Germany. It was a perfect break from the organization and grey skies.” Emily took a time out with Business Matters to share the pluses and minuses of living and working abroad and how having an MBA has boosted her professional growth and given her an advantage in the international business arena.
How did the job opportunity with Puma come about?
I ended up at Puma through a very lucky series of events. I had close friends working at the Adidas headquarters in Germany (which is across the street from Puma's headquarters), who told me there were a lot of job opportunities for international applicants in both companies. Though I had some opportunities in LA, I decided to focus 100% on landing this job abroad. After what felt like an eternity firing off resumes to every possible contact and opening listed at Puma, I sent a blind application to an internship posting that was in German (thank you Google Translate). I ended up with an offer for the internship and even though I had no idea what wholesale merchandising was, I was ready to try! Midway through the internship, one of the full time team members became pregnant and had to find a maternity leave replacement. She chose me as her replacement and I switched to full time employment just four months after beginning my internship. Since then, I've been able to stay through short term contract extensions and now, after a bit of a fight, a lifetime contract (a German phenomenon)!
What do you like most about your job?
I really enjoy the challenge of balancing the interests of the diverse internal stakeholders that I represent. I have the advantage of learning about the process of bringing our product to market from many different perspectives (product, marketing, sales, merchandising, development, etc.)
Why did you decide to get your MBA and why did you choose LMU?
After graduating from Boston College, I was planning to join Teach For America but had a change of heart. Instead, I took off for more global explorations, which in turn made it quite difficult to find work when I was ready to re-enter the job market. To compound that fact, the economy had begun to turn down, and on paper I looked like a very risky hire for the jobs that I wanted. Getting my MBA was a way to shore up my skills, build my network and show that I was serious about getting to work. I chose to attend LMU since I knew a few alums who were doing well, and I wanted to stay on the West Coast.
How valuable has an MBA been to your professional growth?
An MBA gave me the opportunity to "restart" my professional path. More than the degree itself, the people that I met during my time at LMU were integral in inspiring me to challenge myself and really pursue what I wanted.
What is it like living and working in Germany? Do you miss the U.S.?
There are both positives and negatives to working far from home. I really love the adventure of living in a new country and learning how to do normal day-to-day things in a different culture. The real downside is that I miss out on family gatherings, I have to balance time zones, and I only see my best friends a few times a year. Despite all of that, I don't know if I'll ever be able to give up my 28 vacation days a year!
How does having international experience give you an advantage?
I can't say exactly how I would be if I didn't have the experiences that I do, but I would say that those experiences allow me to understand my co-workers around the world better. I've been able to pick up positive aspects from the "German" work ethic and mix them together with my more flexible/creative "American" traits, which gives me a unique personal brand. I've also learned to be very flexible in many circumstances.
What are your long-term career goals?
Eventually, I'd really like to have my own business back in Southern California once I'm done with the corporate track.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I've started doing CrossFit during the work week. On weekends, I try to go to cities I haven't visited yet, or spend time outdoors enjoying the good weather (when it happens)!
What advice would you give students and young professionals who are interested in working abroad?
It’s more possible than you think. Create an international resume for yourself through exchange programs, travel, language courses, or anything else you can do to show that you have international exposure and can work in a multi-cultural environment. Look for international companies that have English (or another language you can speak) as one of its official languages of business and start firing out applications. Then, don't give up until you make it!