5 Ways to Get From California Lifeguard to International Exec

Levi Strauss & Co.
October 7, 2014

The following is an excerpt from an article originally published on LinkedIn, where LS&Co. leaders periodically share their perspectives and expertise on business trends, industry issues, careers and the workplace. Have thoughts or reactions to this piece? Head on over to LinkedIn to share them.

When I was interviewing for my first position at LS&Co., someone mentioned that I had done a very good job managing my career. This always catches me off guard because it’s never felt “managed.” I’ve simply followed my entrepreneurial passion and interests, closed chapters when the time was right and enjoyed opening new ones.

So how did I get to living in Europe and working for Levi Strauss? My story started in California as a lifeguard and bartender—two exciting jobs for a 20 year old. But I was without a clue as to what my “real job” would be. My uncle owned a surf company called Off Shore Sportswear, which competed with brands like Ocean Pacific, Hang Ten and Sundek (yes, I’m that old). When he suggested I come to work for him, it seemed like an interesting idea. I thought: why not work for a surf company?

I started at the bottom. I packed and tagged orders in the warehouse, made deliveries, built swatch cards, worked the cutting table, planned production, learned merchandising and spent time in independent sales. And from there, I followed my own path from merchandising to general management, enterprise level and two European expat assignments. I’ve somehow managed to work in many different segments of the apparel industry along the way: private, public and private equity-backed; small to large, start-up to global matrixed; men’s, women’s and kids; surf/skate/snow, sports, contemporary and denim; wholesale, retail and online.

On the surface, this resume may look like a bit of a mess. But an executive coach helped me put it into perspective: I was simply following character traits and principles. Each move added new experiences and knowledge to my professional toolbox. There are five big buckets that have served me well in the unlikely journey from lifeguard to corporate executive.

Read Seth’s full article on LinkedIn: