Online Learning Grad Pivots in the New World of Retail

Online Learning Grad Pivots in the New World of Retail

Kathryn Koszewski graduated from FIDM in 2019 with her degree in Merchandising & Marketing. She fell in love with retail at an early age, and at 23 years old she packed up her car and moved from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles to attend FIDM. With only four classes left to finish her degree, a series of events required her to return to her home state. Working with FIDM, she figured out a plan to finish her degree online. We caught up with her to find out more about her story, her career, and how she is pivoting in this new world of retail.

Tell us a little about yourself: I grew up in a small town outside of Erie, PA called North East. We are surrounded by concord grapes and Lake Erie. At 16 I started working in retail and fell in love, but at the time was not aware I could pursue it as a career. I knew that traditional college was not for me, so I continued working in retail and traveled as much as I could. When I was 23, I learned about FIDM, applied and packed up my car to move in the fall of 2010. When I decided to move to Los Angeles it was frowned upon by my family as most of them have never lived outside of Erie. During my time at FIDM I worked as much as possible to pay my bills, working at GUESS on Rodeo Drive at 5:00 a.m. as the Visual Merchandising Assistant and any side jobs I could find. It was exceedingly difficult for me to stay on track at school. In 2013 with four classes left to finish, I took a break and focused solely on work. 

In 2014 I moved back to Pennsylvania, fell in love, helped my significant other open his own chiropractic office and took his business from making $65,000/year to over $200,000/year. I did this by implementing what I learned at FIDM. We branded his business and added marketing strategies. This is proof that your knowledge from FIDM can help in more than the fashion industry. 

By the spring of 2018, I decided I really wanted to finish what I started at FIDM. So I reached out and the staff was extremely helpful in helping me accomplish this. The resources at FIDM are endless and the staff are always so polite and eager to help you with whatever you need. I am glad that I accomplished my goal. 

After I graduated, I decided to return to LA to focus on my career. Once again FIDM resources helped me achieve this goal by matching me up with an amazing counselor and resources to help me find a job. I was hired at Tory Burch, and my journey continued there. 

Fun Fact: I have driven between LA and PA six times! 

Tell us about your role at Tory Burch: I was first hired at Tory Burch in Fall 2013 to help open the West Coast Flagship location on Rodeo Drive. I was a Sales Support Associate and helped the Visual Coordinator execute daily visual merchandising tasks. After he left on a medical leave, I performed most of these tasks solo and created a “Visual iPad” to assist our team in keeping up with visual standards. Working with top corporate employees daily was my favorite part of this time, learning everything I could from them. I had to move home to Pennsylvania in the summer of 2014. 

I joined Team Tory once again in the fall of 2019 as a Sales Support Associate and was promoted two months later to Sales Support Supervisor. I implemented procedures for daily tasks to ensure they were carried out correctly and complied with company standards. Our offsite location was disorganized, so I came up with a plan to clean out and organize the space so it could be used efficiently. In one week, I executed the plan and delegated tasks to my associates to work quickly and efficiently. We were in the middle of updating our POS system and internet so we could begin working out of the space more often and process all send sales made via phone or requested from other stores when the pandemic hit. 

Due to Covid-19 my position, along with several other management positions, was eliminated throughout the company. This is extremely disheartening as I don’t like leaving a project of this size unfinished. My director, who is one of the most talented people I have ever worked with, had just started in November and I am disappointed that I did not get enough time with her. On the other hand, I completely understand the fact that Tory Burch feels this is what is best to protect their business so they will be solid when we can re-open. 

What is next for you? This is a time where employers who genuinely care about going above and beyond for their employees shine. I want to work for one of these companies. I don’t want to rush into something. My priority right now is to find a job that I will genuinely be excited to go to everyday. RetailU and LinkedIn have been incredibly helpful for me in expanding my knowledge and my network. Operations has always been a huge part of my life in retail but I am very open to working in corporate retail as well. 

Why did you choose FIDM? The reason I chose FIDM is because it is not a traditional college and they have a lot to offer even after graduation. I wanted to learn how to be successful in the retail/fashion industry and not get a degree just to have one. 

How do you feel FIDM prepared you for the industry? FIDM not only teaches you specifics to your interest/major, but also how to run a business. We are taught by professors who work in the industry and have firsthand knowledge of what they are teaching us. 

What went into your decision to enroll in FIDM's eLearning program? When I contacted FIDM about finishing my last four classes to receive my degree, I was living in Pennsylvania. They worked with me and got me registered for whatever classes were available on eLearning at the time. It took me three quarters to finish them. eLearning is such a great tool to be able to learn from anywhere in the world. 

Tell us about your online learning experience -- what was the best part? I was working full time in my office and was able to do some of my schoolwork there and then I would set aside time to finish what I needed to at home in my home office. It was easy to figure everything out and submit work or ask questions. Everyone throughout the whole process was extremely helpful and responded quickly. The best part about online learning is that it is all on your own time. You have a time frame from when the lesson opens to when your work is due, and you can fit it into your daily schedule. I wish that more eLearning classes were available when I initially attended FIDM. 

Any advice for current FIDM Students who are experiencing online classes for the first time? It is vital to find space in your home that is quiet and allows you to focus on your work. Make sure you set aside time daily to work on your classes or spend an entire day that you have off work getting your schoolwork done. Sticking to a schedule is always best. Do not wait until the last minute to do your work because if you must ask a question you may not be able to get an answer in time. When doing a presentation online or meeting with anyone via video conference, set up a space that will not be distracting to others in the meeting. Test your technology beforehand to work out any kinks. 

What is your biggest goal right now? My biggest goal right now is to find a job I will be happy going to every day. We spend so much time at work it is imperative to be happy and satisfied with what we are doing. 

Anything else you’d like to share? If you are working in retail do not be afraid to talk to the corporate employees who come into your store. You can learn so much from them and my connections are playing a big role in helping me to find my next job.

FIDM has been offering eLearning courses and entire majors online for over 15 years. We’ve been able to build on that foundation to deliver a true FIDM experience for our students currently experiencing an online-only quarter. FIDM's holistic approach focuses on academics, research, student activities, and career planning. Please contact FIDM Admissions to apply.

Categories:  Merchandising & Marketing Alumni