Alumni Spotlight

Leslie Harris

Leslie Harris

Class Of 2008

Earlier this month you were awarded Cos Frag Leadership Award, congratulations! What does that mean to you? It is a great honor to receive such an award.   Yes, it is a milestone and recognition for hard work, but it also is a reflection of the quality of a FIT education, and the investment that professors made in me during my time there.   I don’t believe that people achieve solely on their own – the support and guidance of others are essential, as it a bit of luck. 

Why FIT? I remember in 2005, I was an Assistant Manager at Kiehl’s, and my boss was in FIT’s Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management graduate program.  I used to sneak over to his desk and flip through his textbooks.  I was so envious.  I’m one of those types that can never stay out of school for long, and for my career, I knew I needed additional business education.  Instead of an MBA, however, I wanted something very targeted to the beauty industry.  I wanted those BOOKS!   FIT was the only university that offered such a targeted program, and I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from L’Oreal to attend.   Today, I teach the first course of the program, Innovation in the Development of the Beauty Industry.   I get the best of both worlds – I get to stay in school and teach what I love without having to study for tests (though now I do have to grade papers).

Year graduated? 2008.  Every year that number makes me feel older.

Major? Master of Professional Studies, Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management.

After FIT? Experiences that led you to who you are today? Today I am the Global General Manager of SkinCeuticals (owned by L’Oreal), a leading professional skincare brand used and sold by dermatologists and plastic surgeons.   I was a secret chemistry geek in high school and now I get to wear it proudly.

Daily routine? Do you really want the answer to that question?  It’s quite boring. 

Wake up, feed the cats, walk the dog, eat breakfast, and go to work.   Breakfast is really important because I never know how busy the day will be.  Sometimes I will get into the office around 7 if I have calls with Asia or Europe.  When you work in skincare, no day is ever the same.  I get to be a Jane of all trades in this position – from product development to branding strategy to finance, operations, and manufacturing.  It’s energizing and exhausting at the same time!  I’m very lucky to have a strong team who is collaborative, creative, and very down to earth.  I usually get home around 8, pour some wine, kiss my husband and animals, and turn off my brain so it has time to rest and recharge.   I know - working out should be somewhere in that daily routine, but if I have to make a choice – the family and wine win out.  

Where are you from? And how did this shape the person you are today? First of all, I’m a Jersey girl, so that should explain a lot.  But more seriously, I think the big theme that has shaped me into the person I am today is having an insatiable curiosity for what makes people and the world tick.  Some people know very early what they want to do in life.   That was NOT me.  I was so interested in different subjects that it was hard to choose.  So my twenties were a process of elimination, and then ultimately finding a career that would combine as many interests into one.   Along the way, I had an undergraduate degree in Economics, a Masters in Fashion History and Theory, and jobs in investment banking and fashion. 

Beauty is the synergy of so many interests – history, business, popular culture, psychology, chemistry – it was a natural place to land.   So to those readers who still don’t know what they “want to do”?  Don’t worry – you’ll find it.  Just keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable or decide something is not for you. 

If you could translate your style into a person, place or thing what would it be? Paris in the 1920s meets Winona Ryder - without the smoking or shoplifting.

Signature scent? How can I pick just one??  I keep collecting, though I’ve long been obsessed with Serge Lutens.  I just bought La Fille de Berlin, even though I don’t usually wear florals. 

Go to summer beauty routine? SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF Gel + a high-level sunscreen + a new formulation on which we’ve been working.  I also wear big hats and sunglasses.  Those should be considered a routine as well.   I was a sun worshipper as a teenager and I am paying for it now.  Literally. 

What three things you can’t live without? My husband, my pets, and Broadway showtunes. 

Future projects you are working on? I’m not sure if this counts, but my husband and I are trying to combine a self-drive Safari + Scuba Diving trip to South Africa, and that project is taking up a lot more time than anticipated.   But I’m looking forward to monkey sancturaries and swimming with sharks.

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