Often described as Ireland’s very own Emily in Paris, Galway native Ashley McDonnell, has become an undisputed force within the luxury and digital space. Her latest venture, a podcast called Tech Powered Luxury, explores the merging of tech and luxury as Ashley delves deep into the minds of industry leaders. Here she shares more about her day-to-day.
Did you always want to work in the luxury and tech industries?
Yes, but I never thought that I could find roles that incorporated both industries into one!
In college, I studied… a lot! I have two bachelor’s degrees (a BA in global business and French from DCU and a BA in international management from NEOMA Business School in France) and two masters degrees (an MSc in management from UCD Michael Smurfit and ab MSc in CEMS from HEC Paris), as well as a postgraduate diploma in entrepreneurship essentials from Harvard Business School.
My most formative work experience was… my fourth internship, which was at LVMH Group as a digital analyst in the Chief Digital Officer’s team in Paris.
My first real job was… as an international digital project manager at Christian Dior in Paris.
The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… to stay calm, curious and hungry.
A common misconception about what I do is… that it’s all about fashion shows and events.
My main responsibility in work is to… drive digital transformation at scale across major luxury brands globally.
Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from?
I have many informal mentors, as well as an executive coach.
The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… leaving Dior to join Google, and leaving Google to join PUIG.
I wake at… 7am if I’m working from an office – earlier if I have a flight, later if I’m working from home. Everyday is different!
The first thing I do every morning is… do a 10-minute guided meditation.
My morning routine is… do my meditation and self-care routine, take my supplements, write a few lines in my gratitude journal and daily planner, get dressed, have a coffee, catch up on emails and then start meetings by 9am.
I can’t go to work without… two phones, lipstick, my AirPods and a beautiful handbag.
I travel to work by… plane, train, metro, taxi, walking – it changes every day depending on where I’m working from. My favourite way to travel is definitely walking.
On an average workday I… speak with executives from luxury brands based all over the world, from Paris to Geneva, London to Dubai, and even Panama and Singapore. I mainly focus on the larger brands within the group, including Paco Rabanne, Carolina Herrera, Jean Paul Gaultier and Penhaligon’s. I engage with our multiple digital, media and influencer agencies, and with the major tech platforms that power our campaigns.
I start my working day at… 9am.
The first thing I do at work is… check my agenda for the day, followed by catching up on emails and checking in with my team.
I usually spend the first portion of the day… in meetings! From 9am to 5pm it’s mainly meetings, and from 5pm to 8pm I wrap up on any projects I’m working on and send them out to everyone involved.
I break for lunch…. at 1pm and usually have a salad and a coffee if working from home in Geneva. If I’m at the Paris offices, lunch is one of the most important parts of business, to catch up with teams and build relationships.
The most useful business tool I use every day is… my calendar. I can have over 10 meetings a day with my agenda becoming full two weeks in advance, so my Outlook and Gmail Calendars anchor my day and keep me on track!
I save time by… having super structured days and making fast decisions, trusting my teams and using data to back up any business strategies I’m working on.
I rarely get through my working day without… learning something new. I am constantly learning and reaching out to various tech, luxury and China experts so that I can keep up with change and progress. Tech Powered Luxury, my new podcast launching on November 1st, has been a huge part of these learnings, as I gain a lot of knowledge in the preparation and the recording of each interview.
The best part of my day is… seeing my campaigns going live, bringing beautiful luxury brands to life through digital campaigns.
The most challenging part of my day is… making complex technological processes as simple as possible for both internal stakeholders and consumers.
I know it’s been a good day if… I left my comfort zone and brought new tech concepts to the brands that I work with.
I usually end my day at… 8pm or 9pm. At the moment, I’m managing the global digital strategy for multiple PUIG brands, developing my podcast Tech Powered Luxury, chairing Digital Business Ireland and I’m on the board of multiple start-ups. It’s the busiest I’ve ever been, but I love it!
I switch off from work by… getting active. Whether that’s going for a run, going to the gym or doing my favourite classes in Paris at Punch, Barry’s or Reformation.
Before I go to bed, I’ll… read a book. I read every night and can’t sleep if I haven’t read something.
I often prepare for tomorrow by… reviewing my agenda for the day, preparing an outfit in advance. If I’m on a work trip, I’ll likely have breakfast, lunch and dinners planned in advance, and I try to schedule sports into my schedule for at least three activities a week.
After a long work week, I destress by… travelling! Although I travel almost constantly for work, I do the same on the weekends.
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… launching Tech Powered Luxury as an in-person MBA course at HEC Paris. It was my dream for years to study at HEC, which is where I did my masters in 2015. To now go full circle and bring the first-ever luxury and tech course to the number one executive MBA globally is surreal.
If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is to… listen to my new podcast Tech Powered Luxury! You’ll learn from the best in the industry about how they managed to do it.
I’ve just finished working on… the global launch of Paco Rabanne’s new feminine fragrance, Fame, which has been a huge hit with over 100 pop-ups globally and a digital campaign that reached impressions in the hundreds of millions. At the moment I’m working on the international expansion and global digital campaigns for Carolina Herrera’s new beauty line, which beautifully merges fashion and makeup.