Julie Bourgeois (SKEMA 2008): “SKEMA allowed me to launch my career”

18 January 2021

While studying at SKEMA Business School, Julie Bourgeois opened doors that led her to a brilliant international career. After some ten years in Asia where she held high-ranking positions in big-name companies, she moved to the United States where she now works as CEO North America for Jacadi. Here, Julie tells us about her multiple professional experiences, talks about the challenges she has faced, and explains the role SKEMA has played in her career and life.


Why did you choose to study at SKEMA Business School?

I grew up in the Greater Paris region, in an Education Action Zone (ZEP in France). Study was the only possible choice for succeeding in life. After high school I joined a prep school, and after that I wanted to go to business school. When I sat the CERAM admission exams (CERAM is what SKEMA Business School was called back then), I immediately felt a great connection with the professors and students. I really loved the setting, too. It’s difficult not to be won over when you discover the Sophia Antipolis campus! SKEMA has really held a very important emotional place in my life. When I arrived at the school I had no contacts and no network. The school guided me and really helped me open up my field of possibilities. I am very grateful to SKEMA, which really enabled me to launch my career. It’s also where I met some of my best friends, who are still part of my life to this day.


What role has SKEMA Business School played in your career?

My involvement in the school’s student associations gave me a lot of visibility and prominence, which opened the doors for me to the next stage of my career. During my studies I was president of the student fashion association Avenue Montaigne. With a few students, we organised a fashion parade at the Palm Beach in Cannes, a casino owned by the Partouche group. Through that event I got to meet the group’s head of marketing, who then offered me the chance to launch a new loyalty programme for the group during my gap year. In that same year I did a six-month academic exchange in Hong Kong. I loved those few months in Asia so much that I decided to stay there! I then joined the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce, where I was in charge of developing the member network. That was a great springboard in terms of network and ecosystem, and it really helped me to better understand the business world in Asia. I worked there for over two years and on the side I set up my own event hostess agency in Hong Kong, a business I later sold. I then joined IWC, a Richemont Groupe brand, at a time when luxury goods consumption was booming in China. Shortly after, there was an opportunity for me at Nespresso, to develop the brand in Hong Kong and Macau. I absolutely loved the challenge of having to adapt the product to an Asian clientele for whom coffee is not at all a part of the culture. After that I joined the Peninsula group, one of the biggest and oldest Hong Kong groups in the hospitality industry. I was offered the opportunity to take charge of creating a Peninsula merchandise brand. I was the liaison between the retail and hospitality worlds. It was an incredible experience in the world of hospitality and ultra-luxury; one that taught me a lot.


Can you tell us about your current role?

After 12 years in Hong Kong, my husband was offered a career opportunity in New York and we decided to embark on that new adventure. I left the Peninsula group. I had to build up a new network, credibility and an entire career when I arrived. It was a real exercise in humility to have to prove myself all over again. First I launched my own consulting agency, and shortly after I met the new CEO of Jacadi. He was looking for someone to manage the North America zone for the brand. So I took charge of the US zone and, recently, North America. It was a bumpy start, because I joined the company at the beginning of the pandemic. We had to adapt very quickly to the situation, protect the teams, the assets, find solutions for each store... We really had to reinvent ourselves. But that also enabled us to reinforce the brand’s values. We concentrated our efforts on our website and implemented new digital services (private shopping sessions, click & collect, in-store pickup, deliveries from our stores, etc.). I had to gain a really good grasp of digital marketing in order to master our primary source of revenue. We also chose to take a customer-centric approach, to adapt our strategy based on the specific needs of consumers. That has worked really well: we have had exceptional growth over the last few months.


Are you involved in the SKEMA Business School alumni network?

I was very involved with the SKEMA network while I was living in Asia: I was a SKEMA Alumni ambassador for ten years. We organised social and professional meetups. From the United States, I help the school with certain events. Actually, I recently represented SKEMA as master of ceremony for the FrenchFounders Transatlantic Leaders Forum organised jointly with the support of BNP Paribas and SKEMA. I also got involved in the school’s fundraising campaign alongside more than 300 alumni who have already made it possible to give out 100 grants to students in financial difficulty. I had the honour of making a short video from New York to support the 2020 end-of-year fundraising campaign.


What advice do you have for new or recent SKEMA Business School graduates?

I would advise them to make the most of the school and use all the opportunities it can offer in terms of academic exchanges, internships abroad, and networking. Networking is everything! You have to be visible on LinkedIn, do a lot of self-marketing, exchange with the other students, the professors, the guest speakers and lecturers... It’s while you’re studying that everything starts. As soon as you arrive at the school, make sure you familiarise yourself with the SKEMA alumni network that is available to students, whether it’s to ask for advice, connect with an alum, apply for an internship, review a CV...  You have to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself, and there are so many at SKEMA! 

Contact: Julie BourgeoisCEO North America for Jacadi 

Interview by for SKEMA Alumni