Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with Emma Mortimer, Managing Director, The Outnet. Emma’s professional journey commenced within the realms of media, with notable roles at esteemed establishments like Hearst Magazines and Haymarket Media Group. However, her career trajectory eventually led her into the world of retail and e-commerce. Prior to her return to THE OUTNET, Emma lent her expertise to brands like matchesfashion.com and the Arcadia Group, making significant contributions to the launch of The Modist, an e-tailer specializing in modest fashion. Moreover, her tenure as a fashion specialist for the British government’s Department for International Trade underscored her commitment to the industry’s growth.
At the helm of The Outnet, Emma Mortimer assumes a pivotal role in shaping the brand’s global business trajectory and setting its strategic course. Her purview extends across critical facets of the store’s operation, encompassing everything from procurement and merchandising to commercial trade, brand communications, VIP customer relations, and creative content development. Her mission: is to maintain The Outnet’s esteemed reputation as a premier destination for savvy fashionistas seeking discounted designer treasures from past seasons.
With two decades of experience straddling the realms of retail and media, Emma brings to the table a profound understanding of the luxury e-commerce landscape. Her leadership is a testament to the fusion of commerce and creativity, a recipe for long-term prosperity in this ever-evolving industry.
To delve into her role and career, Emirates Woman spoke to her to see how she overcomes challenges and creates a niche for herself in this industry.
What was your favourite subject at school?
I studied chemistry, biology, and art & design in my final years at school. It’s safe to say art & design was my favorite subject given my career path in the fashion industry. However, I did appreciate the combination of the arts and science and using both sides of my brain – something that is essential to my role as Managing Director, which calls for both creative and analytical thinking.
What was your first job?
I used to work in my family’s fine art shop, helping out during the holidays. Looking back, it was an invaluable experience – from seeing the day-to-day running of a retailer to learning how to connect with the customer.
Walk us through your role at The Outnet
I’m lucky to have a wonderfully diverse role. Each day is different, a lot of time is spent reviewing our performance and working with our commercial planning and finance teams. I enjoy continually learning, especially about our customers and their behaviour, analysing updates from our customer insights team along looking at our brand and performance marketing results. I also have oversight across the buying and merchandising teams and love to hear about new brands coming to the site along with exclusive collaborations and capsules. Also, a big part of my role is liaising with our regional GMs, ensuring what we do on a global scale is regionally nuanced and relevant.
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You started your career with media, what made you switch to e-commerce?
It happened very organically – I was working in production for a mail-order catalogue company that was moving away from printed catalogues into e-commerce at the time. I’m always stimulated by future-facing innovations, and e-commerce is a dynamic and ever-evolving industry.
Talk us through your daily routine.
Every day is book-ended with nursery drop off and pick up. I hugely value this time with my daughter, though getting out of the house is a far more drawn-out process these days! I try to partly plan what I’m wearing the night before for speed and ease. I used to do a lot of exercise before having a child, but now it consists of a 20-minute speed walk to the nursery before heading into the office for a day of meetings.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
It’s less so advice and more the great examples set by my parents. They both worked extremely hard and had incredible ethics. I learnt a huge amount from watching and listening to them growing up. I remember my mum always saying to me ‘Just do your best’, whenever I was being tough on myself, and I try to remember this when things become challenging.
And what is the worst?
I honestly can’t think of any, which says a lot about the mentors and role models I’ve been lucky to have in my life. I value positive thinking.
Can you share some strategies you’ve found effective for fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment?
Ensuring an open, collaborative, and supportive team culture. I’m extremely proud of THE OUTNET’s culture which we’ve managed to maintain over all the years. It enables anyone who joins the team to feel valued, respected and supported.
How do you balance your leadership responsibilities with maintaining a healthy work-life integration?
Fortunately, being in the position I am in, I am able to help lead by example and ensure that we all switch off from work at weekends and spend time with our families and friends. The weekends are when I can take a class at the gym or go swimming with my daughter. I think it’s important she sees me looking after myself, as well as just working and looking after the family. Although, this is far easier said than done!
What advice do you have for aspiring leaders in terms of building strong professional relationships and networks?
Be open, show humility and vulnerability – it helps to connect you with your colleagues. Check-in with people; ask how they are and listen to their responses. This builds strong-rooted relationships. Keep in contact. Always be respectful, and kind and help people without an agenda. Paths often cross and you may find someone helps you out in a similar way in the future.
How do you see the role of technology evolving in your industry, and how are you adapting your leadership style to those changes?
Having the ability to access so much is a real positive. We work in a fast-paced business reacting to an ever-changing landscape. Data really helps to support decisions for a stronger customer perspective and for our business strategy. As a leader reacting to these changes has helped me become nimbler and more adaptable, whilst always having the data to support thought processes and make informed decisions.
Can you discuss the most impactful decision you’ve made as a managing director and the results it brought about?
For me, it always comes back to the people – deciding how to nurture and support our talent. This involves stretching and challenging teams with greater responsibility and opportunities. In turn, it motivates, develops, and helps to retain knowledge and talent, which leads to greater success and results.
In your experience, what qualities or skills have been most crucial in your journey to becoming successful?
Learning fast, adapting and being flexible to change. Alongside being a team player. I always remember the proverb ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’
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