First-Generation Fireside Chat: Retail Insights featuring H&M Merchandising Analyst, Ashley Chu ’19

In honor of National First Gen Day on November 8th, 2020, Career Services is highlighting experiences, perspectives and advice from first-generation professionals in various career fields.

Join us for a LIVE Fireside Chat Zoom Conversation with H&M Merchandising Analyst, Ashley Chu ’19, moderated by Sylvia Goldfond ’23.

Can’t attend the live session?  Register HERE to request a link to the recording.

Guest: Ashley Chu ’19, H&M Merchandising Analyst Moderator: Sylvia is a sophomore in the College from Kearny, NJ, majoring in Cognitive Science and minoring in Consumer Psychology. 

Learn more about our first generation professional, Ashley Chu:

Tell us about your background and career journey?  What led you to your current position?

Throughout my years at Penn, I worked remotely for a digital marketing agency, producing content for school districts in San Diego to boost their SEO. I created explainer videos and worked on social media posts for the agency to gain more exposure. This aligned well with my minor in Consumer Psychology and advertising classes for my Communications major. I also created an e-commerce site for a local embroidery store, again creating output in order to reach more potential clients. Summer after my junior year, I had an internship in commercial development at Colgate-Palmolive in Chicago, which was my first real exposure to data and selling analysis – I loved it! I loved looking at numbers and figuring out selling patterns. Hunting for the “why” behind the “what” was so thrilling, especially when I could present the story in a compelling way. I was open to most fields when I was recruiting senior year and H&M stood out as a company with incredible people. I joined the Leadership Development Program after graduation and was promoted 6 months later to join the Omni-Merchandising Team on the Ladies concept.

What has been your greatest accomplishment?

My host mother in Sevilla telling me I sound like a local Spaniard after living and studying there for 5 months. I told myself that I would study abroad ever since I fell in love with the language in 5th grade. It was truly rewarding when I was able to successfully acclimate to the culture and speak fluently.

What surprises you the most about your job?

The commitment to people and talent – this was a big selling point for me but something I’ve felt the company has truthfully acted on, especially during these crazy times.

What three adjectives would you use to describe your company’s culture?

Humble. Global. Exciting.

What internship opportunities does your company offer?

Unfortunately H&M does not offer internships at this time.

How does your company mentor first gen professionals? (ie. Organizations, programs, workshops, professional development opportunities, etc.)

There are no programs in place specifically for first gen professionals. LDPs in general have access to professional development workshops, which help tremendously when new in the working world. There are additional workshops that the company offers to the whole office, which have been helpful in building professional skills.

What does being first gen mean to you?

Being the first to attend college in my family – my parents didn’t have the luxury of pursuing further education, and they’ve worked to build a life where I am able to.

What unique qualities do you think first gen students bring to the table?

First gen students are able to think in non-conventional ways – without parents who have experience in university or the post-grad world, I’ve felt there is opportunity to pursue work in the way that we want. I, however, do know that parents who have not gone to college also can put a lot of pressure on first gen students, so I think there is a balance here.

How could a student highlight their unique experiences or qualities during an interview?

Examples are crucial in having a successful interview and bringing color to your skillset. The balance between humility and confidence is also key.

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome?  If so, how did you navigate through it?

Yes – when I was accepted into Penn, I couldn’t believe it! Did I really deserve this or did my first gen status get me in? I think it’s natural to have these thoughts, especially when thinking about the competition around this university. I think doubts like these only hurt us – we can try our best in everything in front of us and if we happen to be meeting some kind of quota, we have an opportunity to make our parents and grandparents proud and feel like their work has paid off.

By Career Services
Career Services Profile Picture