Grad is Assistant Manager of La Mer Global Product Development
Janelle Biehl graduated from FIDM in 2016 with her degree in Beauty Industry Merchandising & Marketing. After an internship and four years at Smashbox Cosmetics, she landed a position at another Estée Lauder company, in New York, as the Assistant Manager of La Mer Global Product Development. Janelle came to FIDM with a prior Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. We caught up with her to learn more about her career journey.
Tell us a little about yourself: I’m a product developer who has worked on both the East and West Coast for Smashbox and La Mer! I had started my career out of college as a chemist, but chose a slightly different path after wanting to go after something a little more creative and business oriented.
Tell us about your position at Estée Lauder: I am an Assistant Manager of Product Development & Innovation for La Mer at the Estée Lauder Companies. I work with a larger product development team on our global launches across skincare and makeup categories. We are involved from the research phase – looking at trends around the world – to any product concepts and ideation, to the actual process of developing formulas with our ideal active ingredients with chemists, finally through all product testing, and the product storytelling. (For those who don’t understand product development, much like my family, I like to explain it in regards to baking. You have a concept and vision which you use as inspiration to create flavors and designs for a final cake that can be sold.) It’s very rewarding to actually see the results of your hard work on social media and in stores!
How did you find out about the position and what was the interview process like? I had started my career in Los Angeles at Smashbox Cosmetics (under the Estée Lauder umbrella) -- I really owe my whole career to them as I began there as just an intern. Since it is owned by a parent company I was able to search for jobs within our corporation to see opportunities on the East Coast when I felt I was ready to come back to where I had grown up. I applied just as anyone would to a job posting, but luckily had excellent internal references to help me secure an interview. As it was a position across the country, my first interviews were on the phone basically scoping out if I was ready to make a move and what my experience really looked like. I have been honest in any interview I’ve ever done about where my mind was at and where I am trying to go, so when I expressed how I was grateful for the experience but ready for new challenges and to be closer to family I think the transparency was really appreciated. I was able to then do an in-person interview in NYC where I was able to meet all members of the team and see the full scope of a new team. Luckily personalities clicked and the team wanted to bring me on shortly after that!
Why did you choose FIDM? I grew up outside of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania so New York was always just about two hours away growing up. I had been looking at similar options on the East Coast, but at the time I knew I was making a fairly large career and life change and I really thought to myself, “If I’m going to go for this, I’m really going to go for this.” I had also dreamed of going to Los Angeles at some point in life so the stars really all aligned in the moment to apply to FIDM.
How do you feel FIDM prepared you for what you are doing now? I can definitely say I did not know what I would be getting into before my time at FIDM. I knew I was passionate about the beauty industry but hadn’t thought much past that. I connected with so many teachers with direct industry experience, as well as students from so many different backgrounds and educations that my mind was really opened up to so many options and paths that could be taken. An educator at FIDM was the one who was able to get me into my role at Smashbox, which is the most literal way to say FIDM prepared me, but also the overview of marketing, finance, business, packaging, and history gave me an understanding that was really helpful in order to go forward and grow in the industry. I think the most important thing FIDM did for me was create connections. As someone who started with zero relevant experience I had spoken to directors at companies and entrepreneurs who were able to give advice, and even years later now so many connections have been made through the FIDM family and for that I’m forever grateful.
When did you develop an interest in the beauty industry and when did you know you wanted to pursue a career in it? I had been obsessed with beauty YouTube videos back in beauty YouTube prime (before 2015) and just like everyone else, I was obsessed with the thousands of product launches that were coming through, so the interest was always there. I chose to pursue it when I had graduated from college and had an 'early 20s life crisis.' I was in the process of applying and going to graduate school to pursue a PhD in Chemistry, but felt that something was off. After taking some time to think of what incorporated what I knew, along with more creativity and business, I stumbled into the beauty industry programs at FIDM and other schools. I really just took a chance and thought let’s go for it!
Looking back, which classes at FIDM were most valuable to you? I really enjoyed the beauty industry history course because understanding the past is really helpful when looking toward the future. Also, I enjoyed the marketing specific courses as they taught me so much about a function I did not know much about, but it’s very helpful in understanding teams I work with daily in my day-to-day work.
Any career advice for current FIDM Students and recent Grads who are trying to find their way in the midst of this pandemic? Some immediate advice is that most companies are on a hiring freeze until 2021 so don’t get discouraged if you are not seeing a lot of opportunities right now! I would say reach out to people at companies who are in roles you are interested in on LinkedIn or through email to pick their brains and get on their radar. You can ask questions on things you’re not sure about and collect helpful info, while also getting exposure so when all of the hiring freezes are up that maybe you’ll be top of mind! With a little extra free time at home now, a lot of people are also more willing to sit down and write you back or give you a call!
What is your biggest goal right now? That is an excellent question. I am always thinking about what is next. I’ve thought about possibly going for an MBA, maybe in Europe if we can ever go back there, and so many friends in the industry discuss starting brands so who knows what exactly the long term future plan will be. For now, just focusing on making amazing products to launch in the next few years and trying to incorporate more sustainability and environmentally conscious decisions into the development process.
Anything else you’d like to share? I’ve definitely taken a very indirect path to get to where I am, so just remember that you can change your mind and change your path at any time. If you are driven and motivated to make it happen it will definitely happen. After deciding to up and move across the country, and then doing it all again for a job in NYC, both times I was told I was bold and it is something I always try to remember and encourage other people following a similar path. Just go for it!