of the world
was a game changer"
Interview with Melanie Deschuyteneer, Senior Head of Product Line Management Sportstyle ApparelMarch 22, 2022
Interview with Melanie Deschuyteneer, Senior Head of Product Line Management Sportstyle ApparelMarch 22, 2022
As part of our ´She Moves Us´ interview series, we caught up with Melanie Deschuyteneer, Senior Head of Product Line Management Sportstyle Apparel to find out more about her career path, motivation in life and her leadership style.
APPAREL IT IS!
“I come from a small village near Strasbourg in France where I didn’t feel we had a lot of perspective on what to do with our future. To me it made sense that when growing older, I would have a job, a house and a family in the exact same place I grew up”. Going to university and meeting with people from such different places and such different backgrounds from hers, Melanie opened up to the possibility of doing something different with her life from what she first expected.
She studied product management in apparel at ISTA business school (Institut Superieur Textile d´Alsace). “I started with regular business studies then I specialized in apparel. When I became determined to work in that field, my mother told me that the studies I had chosen would never land me a job as she thought at the scale of a small region in France. I guess my mum didn’t want me to be sad or feel bad in case of failure, so she didn’t push me to take risks at all”. Melanie and her mother have always been close but taking matter into her own hands, taking a risk and by giving herself the chance to see more of the world was a game changer for her.
“For some reason, things came together, little by little, without me ever planning for anything”. She thought about becoming a nurse or a school teacher… then all of a sudden other things put themselves in motion for her.
Melanie was 20 years old when she met a girl at school who told her about a masters specialized in apparel product management. She succeeded to be part of the program: “That’s how my journey in apparel started”.
Before going to this new school, Melanie got an internship at a well-known lingerie brand. “The internship I did was definitely a turning point in my life. When I started, all of a sudden, I got really motivated because a whole new world opened up to me. I wanted to learn as much as I could. To me, it was clear that apparel was the only thing that interested me. I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.”
“The supervisor during my internship was a woman who inspired me a lot”. She was the first person Melanie could refer herself to in the work field. “I knew from the moment I met her that I wanted to follow the same path as her and hoped one day to be able to step into her shoes”.
What was also of great benefit to Melanie is that during her master’s degree, she had to spend half of her curriculum studying and the other half working for a company. “The school made sure we had a foot in the business and that’s how doors would start opening up to us”.
Melanie didn’t even finish studying when she was offered her first job as a Product Manager at a family business in France doing sportswear and swimwear.
LET´S GO AND SEE WHAT´S NEXT
At 22, she graduated and a month later she was sent on her first mission to Bangladesh and India. “I continued to travel a lot thanks to my job and in order to meet suppliers. I was sent to China, Thailand… I also took the time to travel those countries by myself which was an amazing experience”.
After two or three years, Melanie had a colleague in the company that gave her new perspective and the confidence to move on. That person eventually introduced her to the France leaders of a large sportswear brand in the area where she used to live. “I interviewed and that’s how I got my next job”. Funny enough as I was already in the dynamic of looking for a new job at a bigger brand, I did as well a spontaneous application at PUMA France at that time but there was no open position.
In her new job as Merchandising Manager, she often came to Herzogenaurach, where she lives today, to be close to the global team of the brand. Moving to Herzo was for Melanie out of the question around that time. “I saw it as going back to a small village and I didn’t want that at that age”.
Melanie’s next move was driven by the decision to follow one of the leaders. “There was an inspiring manager, a woman that I wanted to work for”. When she moved to business development, she became part of her team. “It was definitely one of the best choices I made. I always learned from having inspiring leaders. Even today, that person is still a mentor, a coach and a great adviser”.
“What impresses me is somebody who can bring things to the table in a way that make people turn their heads around and listen. A person who even though they might be the big boss, stay humble. Someone that can stay calm when there is a storm. That’s the type of leader she was. While I was working with her, my views were constantly challenged. She gave me new perspectives. It was daily learning and pushing forward. It is thanks to her that I acquired the confidence I was lacking before in my job”.
Later, when Melanie reached her thirties and had her first son Jules, her husband got a job opportunity in Switzerland. “I had never moved from my hometown area in France”. Therefore, Melanie decided, together with her husband, that they should take this new opportunity that was offered to them. “I had recently had a baby and I thought it was the right thing to do to follow my husband and leave my job. It was good for me to take a break and experience something new at the same time. I thought: ‘Let’s go and see what’s next’”.
Once the entire family was settled in Switzerland, Melanie wanted to maximize her chances to get another job opportunity that would interest her. “I worked hard to bring up my knowledge of German to the point I could use it for work. I had it in school but that had been years ago. I also wanted to acquire a good level in English because so many jobs required you to be bilingual”. After quitting her job to go to Switzerland, Melanie became very much aware of what she wanted but even more so of what she didn’t want. “I felt so strong about what I didn’t want that, one time, during an interview, I stopped the recruiter. I actually realized I didn´t like the company mindset and the people I would have to work for. I felt so relieved when I turned down their offer.”
A few months later, she found a job in the sports industry again. Here, she had to speak English with mainly native speakers. “I had again the opportunity to travel as well, this time to Australia. I had a new type of role too, I was responsible for Retail and Brand marketing. I stayed there almost three years before moving again. This time my husband found a job in Herzo and by then I was ready to go there”.
At that time, Melanie started missing being part of the “product” team. “When we moved to Germany, I just had my second child. I also arrived there jobless. When Jules was four years old and Victor was four months old, I started to be missing work. While I was browsing the internet, I saw a job at PUMA as Head of Product Management Lifestyle. I decided to apply and that’s how I ended up being part of the PUMA Fam. It was my dream job”.
WITH THE BIG CAT
When she started at PUMA, Melanie had four product managers reporting to her, today she has about 40. “Being part of PUMA gave me the chance to tackle a lot of big topics and projects which I particularly appreciate. I’m being pushed to better myself to be creative and bring new innovative ideas to the table, I really enjoy that in my job”. Melanie has been in the company for about eight years now. “I still like it because it keeps evolving. The industry change whether it is sustainability and innovation, or more Global to local perspective gives me endless energy as I believe we can truly make an impact. I learn new things all the time. I’m also very fund of the fact that the company is very international and that we get to work with people from all over the world, which makes it very exciting”.
Melanie’s favorite part of the job is to see the excitement on her team and watch them grow and become successful, and of course being excited doing great products. “I always want to ensure my team feels free to communicate. I do my best to keep myself as accessible as possible. I want to make sure they know they can reach out to me if they need to”.
In Melanie’s opinion, in order to manage a high level career while still being able to enjoy your private life, you have to be well organized. “You need to know how much you’re ready to take on and what you are not willing to do. Find your routine. For me it is sport in the early morning. Also, I would never miss an important event of my kids, for example”. Melanie tries to spend as much time with her family as she can. “I adapt myself to my family and to my work to get all the important things done”. Melanie feels lucky that the company is quite relaxed about making sure you can be there for your loved ones. “As long as I stay on top of my work, I can schedule things as needed, which is great. I feel supported and grateful for this flexibility. It is a game changer being able to have this kind of freedom in a job. My kids have the chance as well to be very welcome at PUMA events, Kids camp… and they even were models for some of our internal product milestones and they loved it! I feel also very lucky for my husband. He inspires me and pushed me to where I am today. He supports me every day and fully understands my passion and dedication for my job.”
“Life is too short and my kids are growing too fast. There is no way I’ll regret something linked to my kids, like not being there when I have the chance to.”
However, don’t be mistaken, Melanie loves her job: “I wouldn’t want to be without it, I enjoy it too much. Sometimes my kids ask me: “Mum, do you love your job more than me?”, Whenever they tell me something like that, I turn off my computer and make sure they know I’m there for them. I kind of thank them to remember me to take a break sometimes”.
What Melanie would advise to others is to stay true to yourself even if what you want in life changes over the years. “Follow your dreams whatever they may be. Your limits can also change and that’s good. Things in life are always evolving and it’s a good thing. Make sure you keep listening to your inner voice, maybe do a checkup with yourself from time to time. Be aware of what you want and don’t want, and be specific about it. Be patient with yourself as well. If you want or need something you have to express yourself, otherwise nobody will know and most likely it will never happen”.
Melanie always advises her team to know what they want next and when they have figured it out to let her know about it. “That’s the only way I can help, we can only do something about what we want when we know what we want and make it clear to others. That doesn’t mean I’m now always sure about what’s next for me”.
Nevertheless, when Melanie sees where she is today: “It is way above the expectations I had when I was a child. Knowing where I come from and what I achieved, it makes me think that anything is possible and I am super excited for what will come next.”