AEO Pride Spotlight: Zach, Associate Manager Store Experience

At AEO, we celebrate the diversity of one through the inclusion of many. Throughout the month of June, we will be celebrating associates who are members of the LGBTQ+ community – highlighting their accomplishments, learning about their unique roles and hearing about their experience at AEO!

Zach started his AEO career as a Brand Ambassador in Anchorage, Alaska. It was his first job and being a self-proclaimed “shy guy,” he vividly remembers his first day where he was asked to greet guests – a task he believed he was ill equipped to do. Fast forward 11 years, he is now the Associate Manager of Store Experience at the AEO Corporate Office in Pittsburgh. Throughout his decade-long tenure at AEO, he’s proud to see how far he’s come personally and professionally.

Zach (middle), AE Brand Ambassador, 2011

Q. From being a Store Associate to leading teams at corporate… what did your growth path look like?
When I first started as a Brand Ambassador, I immediately fell in love with the company – the product, what the brand stood for, I truly felt at home in my store. I was promoted to Assistant Store Manager within a few years and was always fascinated with how the company facilitated major initatives like floorsets and stockroom layouts. Because of this, I always knew I wanted to work at corporate. I actually interviewed for 2 roles before I was offered a position on the Store Operations team. I realized I wound up exactly where I was supposed to be.

Q. Tell us about your current role.
I support the American Eagle brand by overseeing store training, contests and recognition programs for the field team. Day to day, I get to work with a team of extremely talented individuals. Ultimately, our role is to continuously find ways to support our store teams, ensuring they have the tools and resources needed to effectivley do their jobs. Plus, we establish programs that make people excited to come to work every day- that type of work feels great!

Q. Tell us more about your small, but mighty team…how do you guys work together?
On our team, everyone has a voice. We know we’re better when we speak up, challenge eachother, and ask for feedback. We each bring a unique perspective and that always allows us to think outside the box. Almost every member of the team came from a retail store background so we’re always thinking in the mindset of our associates, because we were them at one point.

The larger Store Experience team at the 2019 Spring District Team Leader Conference
Zach and Meghan, Manager of Store Experience, filming associate training videos for AEOtv.

Q. What is one project you’ve managed at AE that you’re really proud of?
In 2018, I helped launch our internal associate recognition and incentives app platform. The app gives associates the ability to have a one stop shop for daily recognition, challenges and information that’s important to them for their role. This was huge for store teams because it allowed them to eliminate a ton of paper and move to a platform our associates use every day. Plus, we were one of the first retailers to launch something like this!

Q. What advice would you give to members of the LGBTQ+ community starting a career?
Finding your voice is challenging no matter who you are, but AEO has taught me how to find value in my own voice and that my opinion matters. What I would say to those starting their career is to find a company that matches your values and lets you be who you want to be. In order to find happiness, you have to not only enjoy what you do, but you have to feel comfortable and supported at work. Don’t settle!