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News > Catch Up:Friends > Catch up with Benjamin Ghassemi-Smith

Catch up with Benjamin Ghassemi-Smith

In the second of our series reconnecting with alumni working in the fashion industry, we spoke to Benjamin Ghassemi-Smith who is now a business analyst at Chanel.
9 Apr 2024
United Kingdom | France
Catch Up:Friends
College Photo Day 2019
College Photo Day 2019

Benjamin Ghassemi-Smith graduated from Concord in 2019 then headed off for the University of Warwick where he read Economics and French. Now a Business Analyst at Chanel, Benjamin passes on his words of advice to anyone thinking of following a similar degree path including his career journey so far working for a luxury fashion brand.  

Q) Please share some memories of studying at Concord with us!

Having been at Concord for 5 years I have banks and banks of memories. Some being great and some being not repeatable. Some great memories that stick with me are the final couple months of the year when the weather was good and we were all able to work and hang out outside or Sunday brunch when you could walk through the good weather and see all your friends lazily cleaning up a plate of sausages and eggs.

Q) What were you like as a student?

I was an outgoing student, being part of the football and basketball team as well as having been a lower school captain and a prefect for my house I generally knew people in all year groups. I was a joker at times and generally quite outspoken, which got me into my fair share of detentions.

Q) What might your old teachers say about you?

Depends on who you ask, I am sure some teachers thoroughly enjoyed having me as a student. I still speak to some of those teachers today, some probably were glad to see the end of me after 5 years.

Q) What motivated you to study Economics & French at the University of Warwick?

I had a passion for economics and it is also a good degree to have in regards to getting hired so it was logical to do it. I mixed in the French as having grown up in France and being able to speak the language, it helped me maintain my level. I chose Warwick as firstly they accepted me, but also as I am from London I did not want to study there, so I chose Warwick since it was close enough to home but far enough I could maintain my independence. 

Q) What was the experience like compared to what you expected?

The freedom gained at university was what I expected to be, it is difficult to comment on what the full experience was as Covid happened during my first year. So I definitely did not expect to be put through a global pandemic. I think I was surprised though by how much time you do actually have on your hands being a student. As in school you are going through classes 9-5 every day but at university obviously it is a lot less. 

Q) Did you consider applying for other degrees and if, so which ones?

No I was certain with doing Economics, looking back I could have also gone towards some more Business Management degree but at the time I was set on it.

Q) What other advice would you have for someone considering doing your degree at Warwick? 

Do not live in Coventry your second year, move to Leamington Spa. 

Q) How did you get your job at Chanel as a Business Analyst? Was it qualifications, experience etc? Which was most important?

Well after I graduated, I did not have a job lined up. I was still going through rounds and rounds of interviews. Having been a bit tired of the whole experience I decided to spend some time travelling as this was truly the only time in life I have ever had nothing to do. As your whole youth you are a student.

I was lucky enough to then travel Japan for 3 months, however once I was there I saw the opportunity to work at Chanel in London. The offices also being walkable from where I live. It felt a little too good to be true and I thought there was no chance I would get it for that case.

However, I applied and got to the interview stages. Because it was a graduate role they were mainly looking for someone who was willing to learn and adapt. Sure I imagine there were other skills I brought in such as the ability to speak French and having come from good education. But because it was a complex technical role they needed someone who could learn. 

Q) What does your role entail? What skills do you need?

So I am a Business Analyst, I started off working for the E-com team but have now also moved to the Clientellign team. The gist of what I do is I am a middle man who works on projects. I link with the 3 divisions of Chanel, (Fashion, Watches & Fine Jewellery and Fragrance & beauty) while also working with the respected teams in those divisions such as Finance, Marketing, CRM etc.. And we work on projects during their full lifecycle until they are delivered onto the Chanel website. For example we worked on creating digital gift card on the website and we are currently working on digitalising the paperwork needed when you return an order.

The skills you need are I would say stakeholder management, so being able to work with loads of different people throughout the business. You need to be thorough at what you do, as IT architecture is incredibly complex so you need to be able to check every scenario. Being able to grasp things quickly as there are so many different types of people and systems you come across, all with their own ways of working so you have to be on the ball quickly. 

Q) How might working as a Business Analyst for a famous international fashion brand differ from other industries? What is the business environment like (I imagine very competitive) and are there any perks?

Everything we do is about customer experience, as we are a Luxury brand we are expected to deliver the best to our clients at all times. Other industries may be more corporate in the way it is more profit driven. The work environment is actually quite relaxed though, people are very friendly and the office is very international.

Perks, I am able to get some clothes and FNB items cheaper than retail price so my mum is happy about that. 

Q) You left Concord in 2019 so do you have any thoughts on what you may be doing 5 years from now? Do you have a plan, or will you see how things go?

Career wise it is all about progression and moving up. However while I am young I want to move around as the world is too small to be in one place. So my main goal is to go work in Japan and Dubai. I have been taking Japanese lessons in order to make that happen. 

Q) Any final words of advice for 16 or 17-year-old students hoping to work as a business analyst?

I would say, any job you get in the corporate world can be very daunting in your mind. But trust me with time and experience things become very simple. Also do not get disheartened when you are first looking for a job out of Uni, I went through dozens and dozens of interviews and rejections before I made it to here. 


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