The global vice president of product at K-Swiss talks about self-motivation, start-ups and sneakers.
What does your diary look like today?
My schedule is generally hectic. It’s packed with a wide variety of things, from interviews and recruiting calls to strategy and organisation sessions, as well as merchandising and product reviews. A lot of travel is also added to the mix.
What task are you most looking forward to today?
Today is great because it’s one of those rare days that I am focused mostly on design. The only thing I enjoy as much as making products is being out in the market and selling what has been created - both ends of the spectrum motivate and inspire me equally. Convincing people to be part of what you are working on is an easy task when you are fully engaged in the creative process and believe in what you do.
What task do you wish you could postpone?
I tend to attack the things I don’t look forward to first so they don’t hang over me. Any time there are budget or forecasting tasks, for example, I get them off my list as fast as humanly possible.
How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve made a point of always working in fields where I have immense passion for the product or service involved. I’m an avid music guy, and that is where I started my career. I didn’t look for a job, I created one for myself in an area I love by starting a creative agency called MediaGuild, which later closed. Also, I’ve always had a love for sneakers and through that have been able to work for some amazing brands. Today I’m working for one of the most authentic brands in the sneaker world - K-Swiss is a heritage American tennis brand with a compelling backstory, and bringing it back to prominence is easy to get motivated about.
What has been your career highlight?
I’ve always gravitated towards start-ups and turnaround projects. Whether it was starting MediaGuild from scratch, being part of Adidas Originals and Le Coq Sportif in their start-up (or restart) phases, or joining Puma through its tremendous turnaround and growth phase, I’ve been lucky to be involved with cool projects at early stages of their development. Each of these began as a relatively blank sheet of paper and became a truly exciting experience.
If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?
I dropped out of college to start my own business, which was a great decision that has shaped my career and equipped me with important experience and lessons, but there is a bit of an empty feeling in knowing I started something I didn’t finish.
I certainly wouldn’t change my path, but I suppose at some stage I may feel compelled to go back and get that piece of paper to satisfy my sense of accomplishment.
Who is your mentor?
For me mentoring is a non-traditional, network-based thing. I have met incredible people while living and working all over the world who now hold top business and design positions for great brands. I stay connected with these people and constantly share challenges and successes. But if I had to pick a single person it would be my brother, Mike Sarin. He is a very successful small business owner in the construction sector who has always given sound advice on a range of important topics. The fact that he comes from a different field to mine always gives unique perspective on the issue at hand.
What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?
In coaching me on a big decision, Mike asked a simple question: “What is your goal, where do you want to be down the road?” and followed up by saying: “Keep asking yourself that question and let the answer guide you in making wise choices.”
How do you see your career progressing?
I’ve never had a plan for my career. I’ve always followed my heart and chosen to work in creative and collaborative environments with people I respect and can learn from, and that won’t change. However, there is a method to the madness. I will get back to where I started, which is running my own company or brand.
- Salaries for this position range from £120,000 to £150,000 (estimate provided by CVUK)
2013 Global vice president of product, K-Swiss, US
2009 Global product director, Le Coq Sportif, France
2004 International business unit manager, Puma, US
2000 International product manager, Adidas Originals, Germany
1996 Designer, Adidas, US
1992 Owner, MediaGuild, US
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