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A day in the life with luxury and tech entrepreneur Ashley McDonnell
Sponsored

A day in the life with luxury and tech entrepreneur Ashley McDonnell

Sponsored By

by Shayna Sappington
29th May 2024
Sponsored By

Galway native Ashley McDonnell gives us a glimpse into her life in Paris, her favourite haunts when she visits home, and the road that led her to success in the luxury space.

At just 30 years old, Galway girl Ashley McDonnell is already an award-winning Irish entrepreneur and is currently the powerhouse behind PUIG’s beauty and fashion division, with an impressive CV and effervescent style that oozes confidence. 

At her home base in Paris, her official title is PUIG’s director of the consumer engagement team and she works with an impressive range of major brands such as Charlotte Tilbury, Rabanne, Jean Paul Gaultier and Carolina Herrera.

The young entrepreneur says the role is a dream come true, as she’s felt destined for the industry from a young age. “I’ve wanted to work with luxury brands since I was 16 when I attended a Dior exhibition in London.” Ashley attended DCU and earned a double major in business and French, before pursuing her master’s at UCD Michael Smurfit and HEC Paris, alongside an array of internships in Paris. “I ultimately decided that if I wanted to succeed within the industry, I needed to speak fluent French and have a strong education – the major luxury groups hire from a select few business schools in France.”

She was offered an end-of-studies internship at the headquarters of LVMH group, the world’s largest luxury conglomerate, which led to her first full-time role within one of their largest houses: Dior. “It took a few years, but my first full-time role as digital manager in Paris was for Dior’s travel retail division at their global headquarters.”

Ashley credits her tenacious drive to her family, many of whom are entrepreneurs. This passion has carried her from luxury to tech, and one of her biggest career challenges was when she left Dior to join Google. “I had quite a culture shock! Although I learned a lot and made incredible connections, being in a pure tech company that focused on software and ads wasn’t where my passion lay.”

“Ironically, while at Google I won the EMEA Impact Award for a project I led for Christian Dior. That was the moment when I felt I’d finally been able to bring my luxury and tech knowledge and skills together, and to win an award at a regional level from one of the biggest tech companies in the world was quite the shock. Vanessa Hartley presented me with the award, and I had the opportunity to have a call with her after. She’s recently been appointed head of Google Ireland and I’m delighted to see an Irish woman take on this huge role.”

All of this experience, Ashley says, laid the foundation for her current role, and when she was asked to join PUIG in 2021, she felt she finally found the right fit. “I took a step back inside the industry, leveraging my new skills from the comfort of where I am happiest and perform best. I see my experience as an incredible educational journey, learning from the best in both luxury and tech.”

Ashley’s days vary immensely, with time spent working on her Tech Powered Luxury podcast, stopping into her Paris office, having lunch meetings with international clients or planning her next trip home to Dublin.  “I usually spend the early morning checking in on everything related to my podcast, then walk to the PUIG office on the Champs-Élysées to start work around 9.30am – which is normal for Parisian standards – and jump into meetings with international teams.

“My main focus at the moment is on consumer acceleration, driving growth for our brands globally, especially with high-value clients from Asia and the Middle East, who are typically top customers in all major cities. Artificial intelligence is also a big topic at the moment: how can AI drive ROI for creative brands, something I’m incredibly interested in, especially for creative companies that have huge scale.”

Ashley says a business lunch with clients or colleagues is a really important part of the day in French working culture so they are quite a regular part of her routine. Then afternoons are spent catching up on emails and meeting with the UK or EU teams from global brands like Carolina Herrera, Penhaligon’s, Jean Paul Gaultier, or Dries Van Noten to name a few. “Finally, I try to leave by 7pm and if I don’t have an event or dinner already planned, I’ll head to the gym, catch up on anything related to my podcast and be home for 9pm.”

Then, of course, there are her regular trips to visit home. “When I’m back in Ireland, it’s usually for my work with Digital Business Ireland, podcasting, attending IMAGE events, catching up with Irish designers (who I love to wear when in Paris or elsewhere for fashion events), and spending time with friends and family.” 

All this travel means having her own wheels is essential and Ashley says she’d be lost without her car – the DS 4. “Trips are always jam-packed and can involve a lot of moving around, so having the DS 4 means freedom to travel and more often than not, bringing everything with me that I might need for sports, work and events.

“The DS 4 that I drive in Dublin is an automatic, a really smooth car to drive with all the luxuries you could wish for in a car but it is also extremely high-tech with the latest innovations.

“The DS Extended Head-Up Display feels like augmented reality, bringing luxury and technology together seamlessly – something I talk about constantly in my podcast! On a more practical note, having space to bring everything I need but also to pick up friends and family is perfect, and I know that driving a hybrid is the most responsible way for me to get around the city and beyond.”

As someone who really does it all, Ashley says it’s vital for her to enforce work/life balance when she can. Regular workouts, spa breaks, and strategic downtime help her stay focused and fulfilled before facing another day, be it in her Paris office or in Dublin on the go. 

“I started working with an executive coach, Emer Deane, almost five years ago, which has been crucial to being accountable to myself on my overall business goals – from my corporate and board roles to managing the podcast – and also for my well-being. Emer likes to call them ‘speed bumps’ – the things I try to incorporate into daily, weekly and monthly plans: from something small like exercising at least four days a week, to a spa break once a month, and a long weekend whenever possible. When I’m in Ireland I try to book myself in for a day in Eden One as often as possible, to join a group class, have a PT session, a spa treatment and to switch off and enjoy the space in general.”

Ashley says she loves working in this sector and urges women with similar interests not to be afraid to join the fold. “The luxury industry is one of the most passionate! It attracts hardworking, motivated, creative people who love what they do. Every day I meet new people who teach me and inspire me to keep innovating and creating. The brands I work with are all unique and different too, so it means I can never get bored!

“If I could pass on any advice it would be to understand where you want to go and what you want to do – this is the first step to taking action. Being really clear on the type of role, company or even city you want to work in can help guide you to the right role or opportunity for creating a new company. From there, looking at the backgrounds, education, experiences and languages spoken by others who have succeeded in something similar can help to create a plan.

“This is the approach I used when I first had a dream to work for Dior, which led me to learn French, study at the French business schools where Dior employees often studied, and gain as much experience as possible through internships. If I can do it, so can anyone!”

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