Inspiration: Beneath the Surface

Brains & Beauty

Estée Lauder’s group president Jane Hudis
on women who inspire her,
and why millennials are ruling the industry.

Jane Hudis is passionate about her work, to say the least. As group president at The Estée Lauder Companies, she oversees a handful of the industry’s most exciting brands, including our own. But her passion comes from a true love of what she’s doing, and of the people she surrounds herself with. When she’s not tirelessly traveling the world (the best way to stay familiar with the 150 countries her six brands have a major presence in), she’s conferencing with the younger generation of creatives—“the only people who have a handle on what’s going on.”

Having gotten her start at the brand Prescriptives as their marketing manager right out of grad school, she had Leonard Lauder (that’s Estée’s son!) act as her personal mentor. Since then, she’s played a major role in the growth of the company, and has had a hand in helping the brand evolve from “a product-driven company to a media company.” Here, she outlines exactly what drives her and how she stays inspired.

Why she starts work at 7 AM:
“The thing about it is, I’m a morning person! My brain is active, and I’m moving and grooving! I also get the peace and the separation to do the work and to concentrate. All day long I’m with people and in meetings, so this is my time to get my work done. I love my mornings!

“I don’t know what day it is half the time. I don’t know what time it is! My days are full—morning’til night they are chock-full. I haven’t spent a day here looking at my watch like, ‘Ugh, it’s only 2:00.’ It’s not like that! I love the people I work with. They inspire me! I especially love the young people, because they know what is going on.”

It’s very important to me to be very good to other women and to bring them along and to mentor and to show them a great path to the future.

How she got her start at the company, and was brought into the
family fold:

“My first job was marketing manager for Prescriptives. It’s kind of a crazy story—the cut-to-the-chase version of it is that I went to Vassar undergrad and I was an art history major. I was very inspired by all things visual, and it was a great vehicle to learn history and culture and language. Anyway, I worked in PR for three years after that. I went to graduate school at Columbia to get my MBA and when I was in grad school, I did a final project that ended up being in cosmetics. Through that I met someone who did all the advertising for Estée Lauder. At that time we had four brands: Estée Lauder, Clinique, Aramis, and Prescriptives. When I joined, I became the marketing manager for Prescriptives. What I did in the beginning was work a lot on organizing, and getting our products shipped. I rose in Prescriptives to do almost every job there. I was head of marketing. This is when we were a small private company.

“Very early on my mentor was Leonard Lauder. I knew Estée, and Leonard became my mentor. My office was next to William Lauder. I was Jane [Lauder’s] second boss. I’ve worked very closely with Evelyn [Lauder] for years in fragrance. Evelyn introduced me to my husband—when you work here, the Lauder family is very eager to make sure you are happily married.”

The importance of maintaining company culture:
“We are a company that gives back. We are a company that cares. As big as we’ve gotten today, there remains a strong family connection. First of all, there are generations of Lauders involved, and it’s been the family mission to keep the culture, the caring, and the values. It’s extraordinary. It makes life far more meaningful than just having a job. I am lucky because I’ve found my passion and my passion was doing this and my passion was being here.”

How to innovate while staying true to the brand’s identity:
“When I took over the Lauder brand—and I’ve been around long enough to know that people have had different approaches to it over time—but the idea that I was committed to was building on our heritage to create a modern future. This brand has been built over decades, and I understood early on what was rich and important about it. The modernization of the brand has been an evolution building on its greatness and its original founder. It’s caring for others and it’s passion for quality, which the brand is known for all around the world. There are what we call franchises, like Advanced Night Repair, which have become cultlike products that people love all over the world. A product like Double Wear that is loved by a twenty-five-year-old and a seventy-five-year-old. You have to have a great respect for those and say, ‘How do I nurture the great things about this brand and evolve it over time?’ I am incredibly proud of being very sensitive to where that line is and I’m not sure that is something you can teach.

“You have to have respect for your history! Life isn’t just about an Instagram post, it’s about understanding. Great brands have stood the test of time. You have to understand why, and you need to understand what matters and what the values are and really respect that.”

If you love what you do and you do what you love, life is a beautiful thing.

What inspires her:
“Great creatives rock my world and great entrepreneurs rock my world. I admire the great architects of the world. I think it’s really cool when people build things that are meant to stand the test of time.

“I am very inspired by entrepreneurs and I can’t not be, having studied Estée Lauder for so long and trying to make her proud every day. I am inspired by Aerin Lauder—she is a great entrepreneur, and following in her grandmother’s footsteps. Katia Beauchamp, who started Birchbox. Emily Weiss starting Into The Gloss. These are great women who are starting things.”

The best advice she’s ever received:
“The best career advice I ever received was from Leonard Lauder, who said, ‘Always hire people who are smarter than you.’ That’s how it goes. That’s what it’s about. They make it work better and I love that. It’s always been true. He told me that when I was probably twenty-six years old and I didn’t understand what it meant. And now I’ve come to appreciate it and it’s the best advice that anyone could ever give me.

“The advice I give is: Find your passion! No matter what. If you love what you do and you do what you love, life is a beautiful thing. When you spend so much time working, if you don’t like it, change! That idea of experimenting early on and having the courage to change and take risks and try new things is important. I think in addition to that, it’s important that people get out of their comfort zone. You don’t really know your full potential unless you take on something and try on something that is big and different. It’s important to feel uncomfortable when you try new things to move yourself to the next level. When people come to me for advice and say, ‘Well, I don’t know if I’m good at that—’ There is only one way to find out: try. You only have one chance—might as well take advantage of it.”

Story and images courtesy of Coveteur.

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