Must-Read Career Advice From Benefit Cosmetics' Girl Boss Julie Bell
When you think about a huge cosmetics company like Benefit, what exactly comes to mind? Personally, I imagine a vastly pink headquarters in San Francisco with beautiful women running around testing new makeup products, big cheeky slogans plastered on the wall, upbeat party music in the background, and basically a general feeling of happiness!
Well I'm pretty sure it's all that, but one thing I'm also sure of is that this brand is the product of lots of grit and hard work from the company's founders down to the eager assistants working on the cosmetics we love and have grown fond of through the years. We had the pleasure of sitting down with one of the girl bosses of Benefit Cosmetics, Julie Bell, the Executive Vice President for Global Product Marketing & Innovation to be exact, at the Hello Happy Foundation launch in Shanghai, and we were fortunate enough to pick her brain about what she loves about her job, and what it takes to succeed in a demanding job like hers. Read on and get inspired!
Julie Bell at the Hello Happy Foundation launch in Shanghai, China (June 2018)
Metro.Style: Tell me about your work for Benefit. How long have you been with the company?
Julie Bell: I’ve worked for Benefit for 17 years. I worked side by side with our co-founders Jean and Jane Ford for over 10 years. I oversee new product, and product marketing—which is new product innovation, copy—where we name everything, all the promotional business and the strategies for our business. So basically, I have probably one of the best jobs in the world, and I’m so lucky because I work with so many great people not just on my team but also from PR. I work with people from all the different departments. My job today is to hopefully inspire and bring the passion of the DNA to all the teams of people who work for Benefit around the world.
MS: What are the milestones you will remember when it comes to your life at Benefit?
JB: First of all, at Benefit you get to be truly who you are, and express your own creativity, your own individuality, and you know, it’s such a self-empowering experience, because even though we’ve become a big brand, we still work very much like a small entrepreneur brand, when we did brows, it was literally, we found a space upstairs, and sat on bean bag chairs, and it was like a startup company. So, one of the milestones for me was definitely creating the brow collection, it was phenomenal to create, it was almost like its own company. So, it was very much like a startup. We were going to keep it first as a separate brand, but we thought it might confuse the customers.
I think another great milestone for me and my career at Benefit is being able to travel all over the world and meet people like yourself. It’s so inspiring, it’s so exciting! When I travel, I have a really crazy idea, like last night just from seeing all of you in the room, and our CEO Jean-Andre Rougeot, my boss was there. We were talking after and I said "Jean-Andre, I have this idea", and he goes "yes!”, and it just snowballs and you know, someone gives you a nice idea like “what if you did this, and what if we do that?” And so, just standing there after the event, seeing all the energy, looking at all of you I was able to come up with new product ideas. So that’s another milestone—being able to travel and meet people like you, and see what kind of beauty dilemmas people have.
The third thing I think is being able to work with Jean and Jane Ford, for over ten years, was clearly quite an experience. I was so fortunate to be able to sit there, side by side with them. It took probably over five years before I could raise my hand and give an idea because you know, I learned so much, and they’re so brilliant, and I wanted to just learn as much as I could. Working side by side with them is clearly an opportunity and experience that will be in my life-long memory scrapbook for Benefit.
MS: What are the three things you'd like to teach younger women if they want to succeed in a career like yours?
JB: For me, one of the things that inspires me most about coming to work every day is being able to mentor and inspire the next generation of leaders of Benefit. So I think the first thing that I try to teach people is you have to believe and have passion about what you do. If you don’t have passion and you don’t believe, then you shouldn’t be doing it. That’s the first and most important thing.
Secondly, I try to inspire people to really understand in their job, to pay attention to customers. To read and see what’s going on in the world. But it’s interesting because at Benefit, in the way that I create and innovate products, I have a motto, and that is: You can look to the left, you can look to the right, but you have to stay in your lane. Because if we don’t do that, we confuse the customer and then we fail. So, I’ve done products that were, you know, encouraged by others because that was the trend, that was what people were doing, and then we failed. So, the most important thing that I really teach the team who work on products is to look to the left, look the right, stay on our lane, stay true to Benefit.
And I think, just on a work level, I think follow-up is critical. I think people need to really, as we say, there’s no such thing as a no, we put a W and it’s ‘now’. So, when you get done with a meeting, or if you have an idea, get people together and communicate and share it, don’t hold it to yourself because it’s not going to happen. You have to take responsibility for your own results, and if you really stay on track and you follow-up and you have passion, and you stay true to the brand, you’ll be highly successful at Benefit.
MS: What have you learned about women in all your years of working in a cosmetics company?
JB: I think that women all over the world are the same. I think all the women in the world have the same beauty dilemmas. I think they have the same hopes, same dreams. I think that we are so lucky to be women. And I think that women all over the world are looking for the same things. So even though you may live in the Philippines and I live San Francisco, and someone else we just saw may live in Taiwan, we all want the same things and I think the biggest message I have for women is that real beauty comes from within. Makeup is great, it’s fun, it enhances you, but if you’re feeling good about yourself, you’ll be so beautiful.
MS: What would you tell your 25-year-old self?
JB: You know, this sounds really strange but I wouldn’t have done anything different. I think that everybody’s life presents different opportunities, different things at different times, we all have different dreams and goals and desires, so we all have journeys and I think you just have to stay on your journey. We’re all works in progress, so if I would’ve told my 25-year-old-self something, I would learn how important being humble is. And to listen and learn from my teachers sooner. That would be the big thing I would tell. Remain open, humble, and listen and learn from every teacher around you, because there’s so many people and gifts that the universe gives you. So just be open to take them.
Special thanks to Benefit Philippines