Name: Harsimran Sawhney

Occupation: Growth Strategy and Development Professional

Education: BA in Communication Arts with a focus in marketing, Master in Science in Nonprofit and Fundraising Management

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 5.57.54 PMDescribe what you do:

An interesting turn of events allowed me the incredible opportunity to work with urban designer, Kenneth Cole, planning charity events as my first job out of undergrad. I had an educational background in Communication Arts with a focus in marketing, and I never thought I would be working in the fashion industry. I left Kenneth Cole to join Nine West Group in their Executive Training program. This competitive program hired 8 individuals yearly and trained them to become future executives of the company. Upon the completion of the program, the HR team places you where you think you belong. So here I am, with my background in PR and Marketing, and I end up being placed into Wholesale. I went from the creative aspects of fashion marketing to the more analytic part. Much to my surprise, I fell in love with wholesale and stayed on assisting planners and buyers with their assortment for seasons to follow. I moved from Nine West Group to Burberry and had the incredible opportunity to work in the luxury industry. I was enamored by glamour of working for one of the top five luxury companies in the world and with that, I could see myself changing. I had four managers in 2 years, no one stayed longer than 6 months- and I felt myself struggling to get up and go to work. The environment was tough- people were rude- the product became less appealing to me. Sunday night would roll by and I would huddle into a ball and be fearful about going to work the next day. I finally cut the cord- I gave a three week notice and went on a journey of soul searching. I stumbled across a graduate program that focused in Nonprofit and Fundraising management and decided to take the leap of faith and do a (drastic) career change. Today, I am working with a healthcare foundation based out of Los Angeles, CA, and spearheading the development efforts to assist the sustainability of a community based hospital that will open its doors to the South LA community in May 2015.

When and how did you realize this was the career path for you?

Early on, I learned that you could use marketing anywhere. If I wanted to work in finance or fashion, there was a place for marketing. Fashion fit perfectly into that element- I was able to be creative while working in an industry that was exciting for me. Finance felt very black and white for me. Fashion was full of color and constant change. I knew I wouldn’t get compensated as high as my peers who were in the finance industry, but at least I had the opportunity to have some fun in a very exciting area of work.

What do you enjoy about your job the most?

There was something very attractive about the fashion industry- especially as my wardrobe expanded and the thrill of seeing fashion shows increased. I was powerful in the sense of creating assortments for major department stores that would make or break their goals if we made any errors. I was always living a season or six months ahead of everyone else.

Considering it is nontraditional, what were your parents’ reaction? How did you deal with their response?

My parents were upset, naturally, as most South Asian parents are. They imagined I’d be a lawyer or a doctor, even an accountant.  They never could tell their friends that I worked in the fashion world– basically because they didn’t understand it. They thought it was just a phase, and now looking back, maybe it was. I was promoted quickly and they were happy to see that progress. They finally came to terms with it, but they were always hopeful one day I would do something more.

What advice do you have for young Kaurs who are unsure of what career they should pursue?

Be willing to take risks. Most importantly, find something you feel good about and it’ll make waking up every morning much easier. I’m a firm believer that if you find a job that you love, money follows. Don’t be afraid to walk away when things aren’t right. There’s never a better time to change the course of your life than today. Life truly is short and we have the opportunity to take control of it. I hope everyone can one day find a job that brings peace and positive change to the world (in both for-profit and not-for-profit industries). I’ve also learned over time to surround yourself with smart people who keep you stimulated. This will help you on your journey to finding your dream career. Good luck!