Come on in and pull up a seat, Aerie fam, because we’re kicking off our brand-new career advice series: #AerieREAL Shop Talk! We know that you are dreamers, that you are curious and that you are full of whip-smart ideas. And we’re talking to real people just like you who have turned their own dreams into reality!
Throughout Shop Talk, we’ll interview established professionals that work in fields from fashion to finance, gathering insight about the tools and tips that helped them achieve their goals. First up, we’ll bring you stories from some of Aerie’s own rock stars and today we’re kicking it all off with our PR manager Syma Raza. Read on below to learn how she got to where she is today!
When did you first know you wanted to pursue this career and what attracted you to it? Did your career aspirations change at all over the years?
I’ve had an interest in fashion from a very young age and a love for writing. I was always inspired by fashion magazines so I decided to create my own in elementary school called “Syma Speaks.” It was print publication and had a few subscribers! That eventually led to me creating my blog and Instagram today, where I share my personal style and current fashion and beauty obsessions.
Over the years I continued to collect similar experiences that aligned with my interests. One of my first internships was helping with a fashion show in Chicago. This was my first introduction into the process of creating an event and all the elements that go into it, which was so exciting! When the day of the show arrived, it was such a rush – the fast-pace, the models, the racks and racks of fabulous clothing…I knew I had to do something in this space.
Working in PR today combines a lot of the interests I’ve always had. I work with media publications, utilize my writing skills daily, and brainstorm creative ideas to garner brand awareness – from events to collaborations and so much more!
How did you get started in your field and really break in?
One of my first major internships was working for American Eagle in the merchandising department. The Aerie brand was still in its early stages. I was an ambitious intern and asked to shadow a few different areas in marketing that caught my interest. That really helped me understand different aspects of marketing which was really helpful – I highly recommend doing this to any future interns to get the most out of your internship.
During my internship, I was so inspired after we received a presentation from the Aerie marketing team. It was still so new back then and it was so exciting to learn about the brand DNA, their target market and the overall style of the brand. After the presentation, I pitched an idea to help increase brand awareness for their target demographic, the college student, and start an Aerie blog.
The blog was focused on my college life and how I would incorporate Aerie clothing into my everyday wardrobe. That led to me being the first “Aerie Campus Blogger” and I began writing posts on their Facebook page with the help of their Copy Director. Fun fact — there was no blog back then like there is now with our beautiful #AerieREAL Life site!
I stayed in touch with that Copy Director while I was at school and looking for jobs. He ultimately introduced me to my current (amazing) boss via email for which I am forever grateful. I kept in touch with her and when I was able to make a trip to NYC, we had an informational interview. Long story short, that meeting led to an assistant position on the public relations team. Almost nine years later…I’m still here and growing every day!
What do you feel like was the turning point for your career?
I always dreamt of working in the fashion industry which is why I moved to New York City right after graduating college. My first opportunity was at a PR and events agency where I had the opportunity to get involved in New York Fashion Week. I eventually worked 12 shows featuring various designers that I had always admired and the experience taught me so much. Growing up in a smaller town in Indiana, those moments were surreal to me!
Looking back now, I am so proud to have taken the chance on New York City. That internship experience was basically PR 101 — I learned about time management, how to work well under pressure, the ins and outs of working with samples, logistics, reporting and friendship, which all were invaluable skills that helped me get my current role as a PR Manager.
How did you learn the skills it takes to be successful in your job?
I’ve been very fortunate to have great co-workers who I have learned so much from. Their mentorship and leadership has been so helpful. I’ve always enjoyed writing and that translates well with daily communication, creating pitches, and talking points for events or press releases.
Working well under pressure is also something I’ve learned over the years. When you get things thrown at you, you just figure it out! Having a mentality that asking questions is OK has been helpful for me too, especially when you are surrounded by teammates that are supportive. I’ve always been a social person and making the most out of my work relationships has been the most fun. I’m lucky because the people on my team aren’t just my co-workers, they’re my family.
How would you describe the day to day of your job?
Every day is different which keeps it interesting! We do a lot of internal and external communication which may mean corresponding with our agency or working with our marketing partners – this means a lot of emailing! Of course with the current times, Zoom has become very popular for meetings where we can plan new strategies on how to drive brand awareness and product love for upcoming seasons. Brainstorming about new collaborations is particularly fun as it can include working with a media outlet, a celebrity, an influencer or even a movie – the endless opportunities are what make a career in PR so exciting!
What have been the biggest challenges for you as you’ve navigated your career?
I did not grow up in a big city or go to a specific fashion school, which may have given me a head start in the industry to make connections. I did not have any connections in fashion but I did know early on that I wanted to be a part of this business, so I did anything I could to start building my resume. I dreamed big and ended up carving a path for myself with hard work. I really believe anything is possible when you put your mind to it and have passion!
How do you stay knowledgeable and on top of the latest news & trends in your field?
It’s part of our job to stay up to date in the industry! Whether that’s reading the latest WWD to see what’s going on in the retail landscape or keeping up with my social media feed — it’s important for us to stay on the pulse of pop culture and news. This keeps us in the know, on top of trends and allows us to have fun doing it because we’re living it.
Who are you inspired by in your field?
I’m very fortunate because the people I work with inspire me daily and are so supportive! My boss has had an incredible career – hearing her stories about PR in the 90s are golden. She is super creative, has amazing energy and always greets everyone with a smile. She has worked very hard in her career and I have learned so much from her over the years. When we first met for an informational interview as I navigated the job search and NYC, I knew I wanted to stay in touch. I emailed her right after our meeting to say thank you for our conversation and asked if she would be my mentor, which she has been to this day.
What advice do you have for others who want to pursue this career?
Work hard! Don’t be afraid to pursue a career at your dream brand, anything is possible. Also remember, a job in fashion is not always glamourous. My sister always told me – there’s grunt work in every job. You have to be a team player, roll up your sleeves and get the job done no matter what it is. You’re going to have amazing days and not so great days at times but if you love what you’re doing, work won’t always feel like “work” which is the fun part!
Technology is incredible – use the power of LinkedIn and reach out to the people you admire for just a simple informational interview. Most people love sharing about how they got to where they are – it’s nice to reminisce and share your story because it allows you to look back and realize “I can’t believe how far I’ve come”.
What’s your favorite trend right now (fashion or social)?
Matching lounge sets. I can’t get enough. If you’ve read some of my previous ARL posts on my love of workout clothes and sweat sets you will understand. So happy to work for such an amazing brand where loungewear is life! #aerieREAL
What an incredible journey shared by our PR manager Syma. We would have personally loved to read a copy of “Syma Speaks” back in the day! What was your favorite part of her story and what jobs do you want to learn about next in our #AerieREAL Shop Talk series, Aerie fam? Let us know in the comments.
Interested in jobs at AEO?
Check out/apply for one of our recent internship or training program positions:
Corporate Internship Program
· Merchandising Internship – Pittsburgh, PA
· Merchandising Internship – New York, NY
· Inventory Planning Internship – Pittsburgh, PA
Full-Time Training Program
· Merchandising Full-Time Training Program – Pittsburgh, PA
· Merchandising Full-Time Training Program – New York, NY
· Inventory Planning Full-Time Training Program – Pittsburgh, PA