It’s fairly commonplace to have doubts and concerns about choosing the right career path, and many of us will likely change direction multiple times before age 30 (or 60!). Thankfully, we have only to remind ourselves that no decision is final, and that, with enough resolve, we can wiggle our way down a different road.
Ashley Torres, a 27-year-old former accountant, is no stranger to this dance. She began working in a field that wasn’t exactly her cup of tea and, luckily, made her move early on. Within her was a budding fashionista that needed to run free, and she couldn’t ignore her intuition.
Happily, these days most fashion-conscious creatives come with an equally colorful and stylish blog, and Ashley is right on point. Say hello to Pursuit of Shoes! Ashley’s popular shoe-centered blog has served her well, beginning as an outlet when creativity ran low at her corporate gig. Delving deeper into her job as a buyer for an increasingly popular retailer, she discovered that fate had landed her in the perfect mixture of her love for numbers and for fashion. Now, a social media manager for REVOLVE Clothing, she is able to embrace her true passions while not letting go of her past. It doesn’t get much better than that!
These days, Ashley tirelessly works to achieve the perfect balance of joy in both her professional career and creative personal life. Sounds tough, right? But, like a true Contessa, Ashley proves that it can happen and that it’s okay to start over. Read the full story below
copy: Maria Cavassuto
photos: Lauren McGoodwin
Her Starting Point
Social media management is a relatively new industry that has slowly blossomed into a burgeoning career field. How did your interest in social media first come about?
Definitely through my blog—I was using social media as an extension of PursuitofShoes.com and it became a brand awareness tool. I gave my blog readers a reason to follow me on each social channel and, basically, made that the motto (Why should they follow you?) when I created HauteLook’s social media plan. This is something I’m currently implementing at REVOLVE.
How were you able to transfer your major into an asset for this new field? Can you tell us about your path from college graduation to your current position?
After graduation I started a job in Audit Services at Deloitte, passed my CPA and then realized I was not happy. There was a little fashionista in me that wanted to do something more creative. I ended up leaving to go work for HauteLook and worked my way up to become a buyer. Buying was the perfect mix of creativity and analytics… or so I thought.
After buying for almost two years, I was approached by a Director in Marketing about taking over HauteLook’s social media. He was very aware of the things I was doing for my blog and felt that I could bring a lot of those skills to HauteLook’s social channels. At the time, it had never crossed my mind to work in social media (other than my blog), but I instantly knew it was the right step. After all, social media really is a mix of creativity and love of numbers. From there, I created HauteLook’s Social Strategy and executed it for a little over a year. Then it was time for a new adventure, so I decided to take a position with REVOLVE Clothing not too long ago!
We love your blog, Pursuit of Shoes! How and when did you decide to pursue this venture? What made “shoes” the driving force for your site?
Working at an accounting firm wasn’t really all that creative, obviously, so my blog became my creative outlet. The focus on shoes really comes from my unhealthy obsession with footwear, which I attribute to my Catholic school uniform days. When you grow up wearing only white tennis shoes, there is something inside of you that is oh-so curious about other shoes out in the world.
Her Big Break
REVOLVE Clothing is a very successful shopping website with some of the world’s most coveted brands. How did your position there come about? What was most important when deciding to take on a new job?
I’ve been a fan of REVOLVE Clothing since college and it just seemed like a natural next step. The most important part of taking on this new position was the challenge. Working in full price retail is an entirely different ball game than off price, and I was/am ready to make my mark in the full price space. There’s still so much to learn!
Social media is an ever-evolving field. How do you manage to stay on top of technologies?
Mashable and TechCrunch, baby! Really, it’s just being in the space. Any major tech news usually breaks on Twitter first, so if you’re constantly on Twitter you’ll be in the know. I’m also very fortunate that I’ve built close relationships with teams from Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, along with innovative vendors in the space.
Many college programs are now offering social media oriented options, either with class choices or a specific focus. How did you become social media savvy? Where did you learn the skills necessary for your current position at REVOLVE Clothing?
Oh boy, do I wish I had social media classes in college! I became savvy because I was in the thick of it: creating the strategy and executing all aspects. HauteLook really gave me the freedom to take our social presence to the next level and we were all about testing and trying new things. Trial and error is the name of the game.
How has your blog helped you become a better social media strategist? What are some essential assets you gained by starting a blog?
Right now there is a huge shift in personalization; you have to humanize your brand. How can you be relatable while still pushing your product? My blog is just an extension of myself, so it’s pretty easy to be relatable, but applying that to a brand is most challenging and rewarding. Another asset is understanding both the brand and blogger sides of collaborations in the fashion/retail industry. It’s a lot easier to create campaigns with influencers and other bloggers when you know exactly what they’re trying to accomplish.
Social media relies heavily on cellphones and computers, which can take a toll on its users. How do you handle this portion of your job? Are there any apps that make connectivity easier for you?
I’ll be the first to admit that I have an unhealthy relationship with my phone. Last time I traveled in NY, I had serious anxiety that my phone was going to die and there would be nowhere to charge it! In terms of tools, I do use Hootsuite for scheduling tweets sometimes.
However, I’m not a big fan of any other “scheduling” methods as the point of social media is to be in the moment and on the pulse of what people are talking about now; you can’t do that with 3rd party scheduling tools. Facebook’s Pages app is a great way to connect with your fans and to see data on-the-go. Instagram,
if you’re reading, I would love the ability to toggle between accounts!
Many people think that social media simply involves posting on Facebook and Twitter. Could you enlighten us on the specifics of your job? What are your main duties and responsibilities at REVOLVE Clothing?
This is one of my favorite questions! The community management aspect of social media is to primarily post on channels. However, the role also entails customer service on social channels (which isn’t always so simple), channel analytics and brand partnerships.
Another area of social media is managing the social spend—that’s everything from working with Facebook PMDs (Preferred Marketing Developers), strategizing with Twitter on boosted content and managing a handful of partner relationships.
Then there’s overall strategy, which is where I come in. How can I help my community manager optimize her content? If my social media manager needs to budget for Q4 and Holiday, we create a spending strategy. My main duty is to support my community manager and social media manager. Along with that, I manage all of our social channel relationships. This means working closely with our Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter teams on any new products rolling out so we can be one of the first to test it. I’m the one thinking about implementation (like rich pins, Twitter product cards and user generated content), mobile optimization and onsite share functionality. I also brainstorm with the PR team around Influencer Strategy and Brand collaborations. Plus, the accountant in me gets a lot of joy creating and maintaining our Social Dash and Analytics.
What advice would you give to women trying to pursue a career in social media management? What skills are essential to their success?
I was talking to my social brand manager about this the other day. There really is a sixth sense to social media that cannot be taught—you have to have an eye for beautiful imagery and the ability to create witty and engaging copy. On top of that, you do need to have somewhat of an analytic background or at least a strong affinity for math—there’s a lot of numbers and data to weed through!
What are the most rewarding parts of your job? What parts could you do without?
The best part is really being part of the team! For the most part, social media has immediate gratification. How many likes did that post get? Who RT’d and favorited your tweet? Is that pin going viral? I love diving into why it happened and linking the engagement to actual revenue. I wouldn’t say there is a part I could do without, but one aspect that can be defeating is customer service on social channels. People can be really mean!
Social media has a reputation for being very time consuming. What routines do you have so that you stay fresh for your job and your blog?
1. Workout at least two to three times a week
2. Minimal phone usage when I’m with my boyfriend, family and friends—I’m trying my best to really live in the moment and not my iPhone.
3. Beach days! There’s nothing better.
Many people face struggles during the development of their careers. Have you ever faced any? If so, how did you overcome them?
Oh boy, yes…lots of tears. One instance I will never forget is when I decided to tell my parents that I wanted to quit accounting. I was terrified! After I explained to my parents how unhappy I was, my stepdad said something that I will never forget: “You have to find a job/career that you enjoy because you’re going to do it for the next 40 or more years of your life.” If you’re not happy, it’s not worth it. I’m not saying everyday is going to be rainbows and butterflies, but you know that I mean.
To add to that—another tough decision was when I ultimately left Deloitte. I took a huge pay cut and ended up working a second job on the weekends just to get by. Yes, I was exhausted, but exhaustion beats unhappiness any day. I learned at a pretty young age that sometimes you have to make sacrifices, and money definitely does not equal happiness.
Many women have trouble making their career dreams a reality. What advice would you give to women who grapple with this issue?
1. Make educated decisions, not rash ones. Always write a pro and con list, and discuss any big career decisions with the important people in your life. Be open to their feedback as they genuinely have your best interest at heart!
2. Find a mentor. This is advice from Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’—definitely a book all women and men in the working world should read
3. No one cares about your career growth more than you—no one. This was something that was a bit hard to swallow, not that I’m old and wise now, but you really have to look out for yourself, always.
What’s next for Ashley? Where would you like to see your career go from here?
Once I’ve tackled social media in full price retail, which won’t be for a while, I could see some sort of social media branding and consulting business for retail brands and bloggers. In terms of Pursuit of Shoes, a collaborative shoe line would be incredible!