July 18, 2022
Dee Conti is our People Operations Coordinator at Nortal North America. She joined our team in early 2022 after nearly 20 years in the fashion buying industry for a Fortune 500 luxury department store. It goes without saying that the transition from one industry to another doesn’t come without its own sets of challenges; but Dee has shown that despite the large barrier of entry, it’s possible to make a successful career switch – even during a global pandemic. We had a sit-down chat with Dee to recap her past experiences and how that led her to Nortal.
Starting her professional career in 2001, Dee first looked at marketing companies and agencies in her initial job search to coincide with her college degree. After hoping for an offer from a company on a hiring freeze, she decided to get a short-term job at a retail store. After a 3-month stint on the sales floor, she got promoted to management and then moved into the regional buying office after 3-years. “I stumbled into the fashion buying world. The company was very big on promoting within and I was a perfect candidate for it,” commented Dee.
Her ability to be flexible and learn quickly were skills she naturally had as her first role was for buying for 65+ year old women as a 25-year-old at the time. Her main takeaway was to truly focus on what the customer wanted rather than any personal bias she had. Fashion is extremely personal, so she had to “learn to love their clothes like they do.”
Her career was nothing short of fast-paced, and constantly changing. She went through many restructures, management changes, and department switch-ups. From dresses, to coats, to kids clothing, she has bought it all, styled it all, and sold it all. After picking up and moving to Seattle, WA for yet again, another promotion, this move ended up being more than just a scenery change. The team she led won Merchandising Team of the Year in 2015 at their national awards ceremony. Dee has always strived for success, and part of that stems from the fact that she has given her team the acknowledgement they all deserved.
In 2020, after almost 20 years at the same company, Dee was laid off along with 30% of her team members and peers. After the initial shock, she decided to take some much-needed time off and reassess her professional career. “I loved building up teams and giving them the proper tools to be successful. I knew that in my next role that was something that I wanted to do,” said Conti. With years of investing into her teammates and customers, she decided to invest in herself and hired a leadership coach.
Her coach suggested for Dee to investigate roles in Human Resources and that was a shock to Dee. “I told her I wouldn’t want to touch HR with a ten-foot pole,” joked Dee. “She then told me that HR was intended to be an advocate for the employee and ensure they’re being taking care of which is exactly what I was hoping to do and accomplish.” Her coach connected her with a current employee from Nortal that she was also coaching at the time and thought that Dee’s values and hopes for a company aligned with what her other client had expressed about life at Nortal.
Dee met with someone from Nortal and immediately was inspired to join our team. “Listening to them speak about the company and the culture made me realize that our priorities were the same. The way Nortal treated people and made them feel valued was the main reason why I wanted to find a way to get involved.” She applied for a role in our People Operations department and got connected with a recruiter right away. “My recruiter was just another reinforcement of the culture. She was my biggest hype man during my phone screening,” commented Dee.
“Switching industries can be intimidating, but she assured me not to undersell myself and be confident in what I had to offer.”
Nortal is a great place to grow and evolve in your career. The leadership teams are invested in your professional development and will assist and encourage you along the way. Dee noticed that from the very beginning of accepting her offer at Nortal and wants to continue to be a part of it. “I would love to be a part of the company’s learning and development program. I have experience in manager development and how to strategically help the business from a people standpoint. I have hopes to partner with our teams across Europe and help facilitate the mentorship program here in North America.”
That isn’t the only thing appealing to her, she is loving her time in learning all things People and Culture. The software and systems, benefits packages, and onboarding processes are all things that she has dove into since joining the team. One thing to note about Dee is that she will always go above and beyond to ensure that people have the tools and develop the skills they need in order to be successful.
Towards the end of our conversation, we asked her what she would tell someone looking to change their field focus. Without hesitation she said,
“Stick to it. I had friends in talent acquisition that told me that they’ve never seen anyone successfully switch careers from the merchandising industry. Keep working hard, be confident in what you bring to the table, because you always bring something.”
Conti also reflected on her time at Nortal thus far saying, “In my old role, I was the manager and the leader. Now I am sitting back, listening, and taking notes from other people. I was always the one who set the tone and set examples and expectations on how we spoke to each other. I’m now understanding that other people have things that they can teach me. Respecting that and knowing that in this new role has taught me more in this career transition than I ever thought.”
Like Dee, there are many people who may be hesitant to make a career shift, or even a company shift. With Nortal’s welcoming and growth-focused culture, this may be your perfect next spot to land. If you are interested in being a part of what is happening at Nortal, visit our LinkedIn page or our Careers page.