Mercedes Abramo

Every issue, GRAZIA USA highlights Game Changers, who inspire, educate, and celebrate individuality, beauty and style. Meet Mercedes Abramo, the newly promoted deputy chief commercial officer of Cartier International who shares insights into her career and how she stays motivated. 

After studying political science in school, I first worked in a few different industries, including law and banking, before landing at the Ritz-Carlton. I was really drawn to hospitality, where the product is intangible and ephemeral. The value is entirely in the touchpoints that shape a client’s memory. This experience would kickstart a yearslong career in luxury hospitality that led to a graduate business degree in luxury brand management, which ultimately led me to the luxury retail industry and to Cartier.

I started at Cartier in 2008, as director of our flagship Fifth Avenue Mansion, and from there, I moved into several executive retail positions. In 2014, I became the first female and the first American to be named President and CEO of Cartier North America.

When we have conversations about women in leadership — or women in the workplace in general — the emphasis is often on what women do not do, such as self-promote, but there are a lot of things that women often do better than average, like managing with empathy and expressing appreciation for their teammates. Don’t be afraid to lean into that. Also, we tend to have this idea of leaders as the people doing all the talking, but you can’t be a great leader without doing a lot of listening first.

I like to set goals for myself — both personally and professionally — but I also like to remain open, leaving room for inspiration and new opportunities. I’d say that one decision I made for myself early on really helped to shape my path and ultimately led me to where I am today: I didn’t go directly to business school right after university, but instead, I chose to gain invaluable working experience in-between those two touchpoints.

I really enjoyed the fast-paced nature of retail. You can sit in an office and think you know what the customer wants, but until you’ve actually worked behind the counter or on the floor, the reality is that you don’t. The on-the- floor training still really resonates with me today. Working with people you don’t know, people with personalities and styles different from your own—this was a great experience for me, prior to getting my MBA. These dynamics really prepared me for leadership in a way that no book can really teach you.

The best piece of career advice anyone ever gave me was to not be stagnant. Not only do I live by this advice in my day to day, but I like to give this advice as well. Whether this means changing roles within a company, moving to a new city or even going back to school, I think it’s relevant for any stage of one’s career path. Remaining flexible, open-minded and curious has provided me with incredible opportunities and experiences, so I’m a big champion of this approach. I have been really fortunate with the balance I’ve found— between planning ahead and remaining open to opportunity—which has afforded me the chance to live and work all over the world.

I love how energetic and fast-paced my role is. I love working with people — my teams, our clients. Making human connections, having real conversations, it takes me back to my days in hospitality and working the retail floor. No day is the same and that is something that truly invigorates, motivates, and inspires me. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic and the general economic turbulence of the past several months, the luxury sector has seen both strong growth and extreme resiliency.

At Cartier specifically, we’re seeing continued strong demand for our creations. As you might expect, we’re always thinking strategically about how we can best serve our existing clients, while also anticipating how we can continue to grow and evolve as a business. Currently, we’re seeing very strong growth from clients in new demographics, including clients in smaller, faster-growing cities across the U.S.

Every day I aim to bring my best self to work, and I encourage all of our teams to do the same. I’ve found that leading by example — with enthusiasm and commitment — never stops being a good idea. Creating an environment where everyone feels safe, supported and empowered to share the best version of themselves is our aim. Our ideal habitat is a community where we can genuinely connect and encourage one another to share ideas, ask questions and create, together.

Read GRAZIA USA’s Spring issue featuring cover star Lucy Boynton: