Originally a flower buyer, she came in for a part time foodmarket position, wanting to take a step back in her career. However, 12 years in she finds herself heading up the Harvey Nichols beauty department in Manchester. Shamrock Hilton shares what life is like as a Department Manager on Beauty and how Harvey Nichols recognised her talent, allowing her to develop herself beyond what she ever anticipated.

Tell us about your background and how you ended up at Harvey Nichols?
My story is quite a funny one! I actually studied “horticulture” and many science-based subjects and worked in buying in the floral industry between the Netherlands and the UK. I would venture out to Holland to buy tulips and such. It got to a point where I wanted to do something different and was thinking of reducing my hours.

Meanwhile, I was a loyal Harvey Nichols customer and whilst I was buying something at their food market a staff member came up to me and said: “why don’t you come and work for us?” I then decided to interview for a parttime foodmarket position, but when I came in they told me I could do more and should apply for a fulltime sales management position. They persuaded me to give it a chance for 6 months and I ended up absolutely loving it. After 6 months I was made Assistant Department Manager on accessories, then after 12 months I became Department Manager on fashion and now I have been Department Manager on beauty for 7 years.

What are your thoughts on staying on much longer than you intended?
I came in for a step back, but ended up taking on much more than I could have ever anticipated because I loved it so much! That’s the unique thing about Harvey Nichols: the people who interviewed me saw something in me and recognised my transferrable skills. They did what they could to help me evolve and progress from ‘flowers’ to ‘fashion’, which is refreshing and unusual in a big business. Even ending up at Harvey Nichols through an initial conversation as a customer says something about the people that work here – they really engage with their customers.

What do you do as Department Manager on beauty? 
I do many things such as keeping the team on track, eventing, liaising with marketing and doing stock control. But mostly, I spend a lot of time with our brand concession partners looking at new exclusives and launches. I have conversations with them about how it’s going, how we’re doing financially, what we want to achieve and what we can offer to each other. It’s all about marrying the aim of Harvey Nichols with the aim of the brands.

What do you like most about your job?
One of the best things about being a DM is the people side of it. Everything with selling is about relationships. It’s about building that respect with them and making the brands understand that if they want to do something with us we’ll run with them. We’ve got so many brand to work with that there's something happening virtually every day. It’s fast-paced, exciting and changes all the time. Every day I come in and I think ‘Oh, I love this!’

What’s it like to work in the beauty industry specifically?
Beauty is different from fashion and accessories in the sense that every brand has its own identity and hero products. You have to get to know their points of difference and unique edge. It’s so diverse, there’s always something new I want to work on. You are always pushing yourself, you always want to do a little bit better. We also have a huge team of people that work for the beauty brands, which keeps you interested because you are talking to different people working for different brands all the time. It’s about making it all work together.

What tips do you have for people who want to succeed like you did?
If you want it, you need to go for it! You can’t do everything, but you can do anything if you decide what that is. Sometimes you just need to give things a go. I gave this unexpected opportunity at Harvey Nichols a go and may have ended up disliking it, but I found my niche right away. Just try – what’s the worst that can happen?

Meanwhile, if you want to succeed, you should be able to adapt to change, be self-motivated and absolutely remain yourself. Also, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and work on those; admit them and take responsibility. Finally, I think you need to lead by example; set a very high standard and don’t ask anybody to do anything you wouldn’t do.

What do you like about working for HN in particular?
At Harvey Nichols you are not a number; we are quite different. The difference lies in the little things such as that you can express yourself in the way you dress. It’s an eclectic family and diverse mix of different ages and ethnicities over here. How diverse we are is not a deliberate or contrived thing, but it’s natural and really special. If you’ve got skills you can bring to the table that’s the only thing that matters!