Mary Kate Kloeblen: Combining Love of Retail with Passion for Engineering
Mary Kate Kloeblen (’13 I E) always found a way in college to match both of her passions in fashion and engineering.
As a distribution analyst for J. Crew, she says she is living out her dream combining those interests in a way that allows her to keep learning about retail distribution and makes her excited to come back each day for more.
Though Mary Kate’s decision to go to Penn State was an easy one, she originally chose civil engineering as her path, but later took an entrepreneurship class and realized that she really enjoyed business. She says industrial engineering provided the business side she longed for.
Throughout her four years at Penn State, Mary Kate completed two internships to prepare her for the working world. She interned at Dalian Fuyou Enterprise Group in China the summer after her sophomore year, and she interned in supply chain at J.M. Smucker Company the summer after her junior year.
Mary Kate’s first job was at Port Logistics Group – a third party logistics company that works with Macy’s and other apparel retailers. The retailers would ship their goods to Port Logistics Group and they would store the goods, pack them, and ship them to the customer. She says the job provided her with a solid background in retail, but she eventually decided she wanted to understand other ends of supply chain in retail.
Mary Kate then moved to Tiffany and Company as a supply chain analyst. In that role, she kept inventory of jewelry parts, worked with jewelry repair vendors, and sourced jewelry parts.
In September Mary Kate joined the team at J. Crew as an analyst on the allocation team where she works with a merchandising and sales planning team to figure out what inventory is going in each store and how much they should sell in each style. She explains that the job is an interesting mix of understanding both the J. Crew product and the demographics of the stores.
Mary Kate says J. Crew provides an exceptional work environment with an inspirational CEO who is involved in every aspect of the company. Though she did not originally know if she wanted to live and work in New York City, she is enjoying residing across the river in Hoboken, New Jersey, and thriving in the energy of the city.
Mary Kate believes it is important for young women to find mentors early on in their careers whom they can trust and openly share ideas. She has three older siblings who support her in all her career endeavors, but her oldest sister has always been a great a mentor who provides career advice, pushes her to take risks, and has helped her come into her own.
Over the past two years, women in the industry have also helped Mary Kate see what a career in fashion looks like by showing how a technical mindset can mix into fashion and provide a fresh point of view in retail.
“I believe it is important to find that support, build a network, and feel confident that you can take on anything,” Mary Kate says. “It is important to support other women engineers. I am able to do what I do because of people who I look up to who have given me great advice to try new things.”
Mary Kate would like to stay in fashion and gain more perspective on retail distribution in the future. She hopes to one day start her own women’s apparel company or work for a startup and have a stake in how it is formed.
“Figuring out that passion for clothing and retail was the first step that kept me going until I found where I am today and what I am very passionate about,” says Mary Kate. “Not every day at work is the easiest, but when you are doing something you are excited about, it keeps you wanting to learn more and more.”