Galway woman Galvea Kelly on life as Global Vice President of Digital at Benefit's San Francisco HQ

From the Brown Thomas Galway beauty counters to working – in instrumental roles – behind the scenes at globally-recognised cosmetics brands, here’s what proud Oranmore-native Galvea Kelly has learned when it comes to life lessons, lipstick, and living out her career dreams


The impressive executive moved to San Francisco two years ago to take up her position as Global Vice President of Digital at Benefit Cosmetics; a €1.3 billion beauty brand that likely needs no introduction thanks to its inimitable packaging and high-quality yet affordable products.

Unsurprisingly, there’s no such thing as an average day for Galvea at the brand’s dynamic HQ; aka ‘Beauty Central’.

“Every day is unique and exciting at Benefit,” Galvea told IMAGE.ie. “I get up around 6am and watch the news, catch up on the latest digital marketing news and check my emails for any urgent needs from our markets. We’re a little more laid back in San Francisco, so morning meetings typically don’t start until 10 am.”

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“These can vary from discussing upcoming launches, reviewing campaigns or meeting partner tech companies like Instagram. I also travel quite a bit to campaign shoots, visit our many international markets and connect with and meet other LVMH brands [Benefit is one of 70 companies owned by the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy conglomerate].”

Galvea oversees three “incredibly talented teams” of people daily at Benefit, including Global Digital Marketing and Production and Project Management

Paying it forward

The humble and hardworking UCD alum maintained that she’s been fortunate to have had accomplished business mentors “believe and invest in her” during her stellar career, and this is something she strives to pay forward. She advises anyone who wants to pursue a role in the ever-evolving digital space to participate in ‘reverse mentorship’.

“I sought out people I thought I could learn from and in turn, I could teach them about the rapidly-changing digital landscape. If I was to pass on one word of wisdom, it would be to seek out mentors and initiate ‘reverse mentorship’ by coaching senior executives on digital platforms and technologies – and in turn, they will organically coach you too. Senior executives are hungry to stay close to digital and understand younger consumers, so never underestimate what you bring to the table.”

“Exposing people to new opportunities and allowing them to make mistakes along the way are all stepping stones to figuring out what they are passionate about and discovering their full potential. You’ll never know how good you are until you step a bit outside of your comfort zone,” she said.

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The glitz and glamour

Glamour is usually the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of working in the world of beauty, but Galvea was fast to confirm that it’s hard work first and glitz second.

“Every job has its challenges and mine is no different, although I like to think I’m fortunate that I’m very passionate about what I do,’ she stated.

By the time the weekend rolls around, she’ll likely be found making the most of San Francisco’s nature and catching up with friends, including fellow expats.

Before San Francisco and Benefit entered the picture, Galvea – who is the first to admit she “wasn’t sure” what avenue she wanted to pursue when she was growing up – served as Global Head of Digital Marketing for L’Oréal, Maybelline New York, Revlon and Almay cosmetics.

“During my time at L’Oréal, I oversaw the global content team for Maybelline New York which was sold in 130+ markets.” she said.

“This was a really exciting time to be part of Maybelline – we went through a rebrand to better speak to Millennial and Gen Z consumers. We had a ton of fun with our global brand ambassadors like Gigi Hadid, Adriana Lima and Christy Turlington. It was really a dream come true working in New York for the world’s number one makeup brand.“

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Global career

While her internationally-focused career has also seen her living in Dublin, Paris, Nice and Bucharest, Galvea noted that a lot of what has come her way is due to her Galwegian background.

“My parents exposed my siblings and I to a lot of different cultures growing up; I was always fascinated with people and their stories," she said. "Marketing has been the perfect outlet for combining my curiosity of people and storytelling.”

“Like so many people, one of my first memories is seeing my mother apply lipstick and I was fascinated with the power a bold red lip gave her. Seeing how makeup gives people a boost of confidence and self-esteem to go out and conquer their day still makes me smile. In work situations, especially meeting new people, wearing a killer lipstick, bold brow or volumising mascara feels like having a great pair of shoes on.”

“I will be forever grateful to Brown Thomas for kick-starting my career in the beauty space,” she added. “Retail experience is highly valued in the industry as it allows you to understand customers and their needs, something that I use every day in my job now. Obsessing over our customers is key.”

Highlights

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Ultimately, her biggest learning curve came with owning her own digital agency, which she set up when social media was barely its own entity.

“Brands were only beginning to dip their toes into the digital arena, it was a real hustle to convince brands to move their marketing budgets from traditional channels into digital and prove out the importance of digital marketing,” she recalled. “This experience gave me a real appetite for risk and gave me the confidence early on to always trust my gut.”

“It also taught me about believing in myself and the power of hard work,” she shared. “It also taught me to avoid complacency like the plague. If you want to keep growing, you can never take your foot off the gas. There is only one speed and one direction: ahead. Always be thinking about your next goal or challenge too.”

To try and summarise how many awards she has won so far in her career (29!) would be doing her a disservice – but among the many highlights are being named number one on the list of top 40 under 40 Irish professionals in the US, among the top 40 under 40 Brand Innovators in the US and in the top 40 Digital Influencers in New York.

Her own biggest reward is now mentoring others and dispersing some hallowed advice to those starting out.

"Try and get an internship at a company that you are excited by," she advised young and driven career professionals. "When you send your CV to people refrain from sending a blanket email – make sure it's personalised and relevant, and show how you can add value. Use social media to your advantage and engage with people/companies you would like to work with. Always follow up – nothing great happens overnight. This business is all about relationships; so build them early on!"

And, as she would say herself, adding a swipe of confidence-boosting lipstick will go a long way too.

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Follow Galvea on Instagram here.


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