Earlier this month, we were delighted to meet Nicole Howard, a 2005 graduate of FIT’s Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management (CFMM) master’s program, who has taken on the role of Executive Director of Global Corporate Innovation at The Estée Lauder Companies. We caught up with her at a recent reception that celebrated the flourishing careers of CFMM alumni who are working across various brands, regions and functions at The Estée Lauder Companies. Read what she had to say about the long-lasting partnership between FIT and the company, the valuable connections that have helped her succeed in the industry, and some of her must-have beauty products!
Tell us about your academic background.
I attended Vassar College for undergraduate school, Class of 2000, Major in Economics/Minor in French. I then received an MPS in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management from FIT in 2005. I also completed my MBA at Columbia University, Class of 2011.
That’s a very interesting and diverse education. Why did you choose FIT?
I specifically chose FIT because the MPS in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management was the perfect program to complement my career and pave the way for future growth and long term success in the beauty industry. It was the perfect environment to grow my understanding and knowledge of the industry beyond just the world of Product Development, where I first started my career.
Did the CFMM program fit your work schedule?
Yes, it was designed as a part-time, evening degree which allowed me to still have a full time job and immediately put my classroom learnings to use at my company.
What would you consider most valuable about your FIT experience?
The incredible network of students and alumni. I have contacts and both personal and professional relationships across the industry that enrich my work and broaden my knowledge of the industry being able to tap into resources and insights from other students.
Those connections and resources seem to have played an important role in your career, working for such companies as Origins, Bumble and bumble, MAC, and now Estee Lauder Companies—just to name a few! What inspired you to begin working in the beauty and cosmetics industry?
During my undergraduate years, I had the opportunity to intern for The Estee Lauder Companies Corporate Retreat at Vassar College. It allowed me to learn about many aspects of the company and the industry, see first hand this was an industry and company that highly support women and also exposed me to products that I love. I have always been a beauty junkie and it is amazing how I leveraged a personal passion into a professional career.
It was wonderful to meet you and all the graduates from the program who are working at Estée Lauder at the alumni reception. Talk about the company and the importance of this alumni group.
The ELC FIT alumni group is an internal organization that helps to foster continued learning and networking amongst alumni in order to leverage our strengths, experience with the program and to stay connected as part of the FIT community. It offers special events and access to Senior Leadership as well as other opportunities to instill the ELC culture across the organization.
What does your new role at Estée Lauder entail?
I am presently the Executive Director of Global Corporate Innovation. We are the team who focused on the long term innovation pipeline for the organization to ensure we have breakthrough technology and concepts that can support company growth over the long term. We then leverage technology and conceptual platforms across multiple brands and categories such as skin care and color for large-scale success versus just one product.
Tell us about a mentor in your life who has had a lasting influence on you.
Mrs. Jeanette Wager, Chairman Emeritas of The Estée Lauder Companies. She is offers best in class insight and has great perspective on both how the company has grown and opportunities for the future. I always seek her insight on any next steps in my career and have stayed in touch with her since she was confirmed as my mentor over ten years ago.
What advice would you give to someone interested in applying to the CFMM master’s program at FIT?
Go for it! It will be a life changing experience from an academic and professional perspective. Also the network and friendships that you will build will be a very valuable tool for the future.
Do you have any exciting ventures in the works?
I have a personal passion for travel and determined to see and visit new countries as often as I can. I also volunteer with Project Sunshine.
As a self-proclaimed “beauty junkie,” what are your top three can’t-live-without products on your shelf?
That’s tough! I would say MAC Mineralize Foundation, Bumble and bumble Spray de Mode, and Jo Malone Peony and Blush Suede fragrance.
What advice would you like to share with peers and current students as they pursue their dreams?
Don’t get overwhelmed and focus on your goals. Prioritize one or two projects that are important to you and don’t spread yourself too thin. Also, have the confidence to believe that in spite of overloaded schedules, school work and personal tasks, it will all come together and work out. Believe that you will be a success.
Learn more about the Master’s in Professional Studies, Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management.