There is no city in the world quite like Miami.
The name itself conjures up images of sun, sand and surf during the day, and the glamorous life at night. From the art deco clubs and hotels of South Beach to the steel-and-glass towers of downtown, Miami blends old-world charm with modern tastes into a culture unlike any other. With that as a backdrop, it’s no wonder that North Miami Beach-native Stacey Ryan grew up dreaming of a career in a truly global industry: fashion.
“I wanted to be a buyer for women’s apparel,” said Ryan, still smiling at the thought of connecting consumers with the latest trends. So she attended Florida State University and majored in fashion merchandising, learning everything she could about the business. And she augmented her classroom work with real-world experience, working at department stores in the Tallahassee area before finally landing an internship in merchandising at retailer Dillard’s. Her career as a fashion buyer seemed to be well on its way, until one little problem emerged.
“I quickly realized I hated it,” Ryan said. “It really didn’t work out well for me at all. Lots of staring at numbers on computer screens – there was absolutely nothing glamorous about it, and nothing like I thought it would be.”
But there was one part of her experience in college that did stick with her – an appreciation for the importance and intricacy of retail store operations. As Ryan plotted her next career move, she looked for retailers with lots of store locations so she and her husband could have the flexibility to go anywhere, yet still have the opportunity for upward mobility. That opportunity came with a nationwide chain.
From Florida to Oklahoma City to the company’s headquarters in Minneapolis, the job kept Ryan and her young family on the move, but always moving up.
“Every relocation involved a new role, a new experience and a new challenge,” Ryan said.
But the biggest role would involve yet another move. After three years in Minnesota, a group vice president position opened in Dallas in 2007, and the Ryans were on their way to Texas.
“I did not like living in the cold and was ready to leave Minneapolis,” Ryan said, “but I also knew Dallas represented a far more challenging assignment than anything I’d ever faced before.”
When that assignment was completed, the company threw one last challenge her way in 2009 – running the high-volume Philadelphia market.
“It was about that time I knew all roads ahead for me would lead back to Minneapolis,” Ryan said, “and a mentor of mine pointed out that my potential career paths were starting to narrow.”
As she began to think about her options, one company in particular started to rise to the top: Lowe’s. The more she learned about the home improvement chain, the more intrigued she became. She learned that the company was going through transformational change, that it was significantly increasing its focus on and investment in the customer experience, and that it was building an omni-channel environment to meet customers whenever and wherever they chose to shop. And she learned that while Lowe’s used different terms and had a different culture than the company she was with, the concepts were the same. Retail was retail. Store operations was store operations. So in April 2012, she made the decision to try something new.
“I thought I was just going from one big box to another,” Ryan said. “But I learned quickly that home improvement is so different, so much more complex and intricate.”
“I thought I was just going from one big box to another. But I learned quickly that home improvement is so different, so much more complex and intricate.”— Stacey Ryan, Senior vice president of store operations, South Division
And just like with her previous employer, she showed an extraordinary ability to handle those complexities and intricacies, earning a promotion in January 2017 from vice president of store operations at Lowe’s, overseeing 112 stores in three states and the District of Columbia, to senior vice president of the South Division, with more than 600 stores in 10 states.
“There’s something so cool about what we do and the way we’re able to impact people’s lives and their biggest investments,” Ryan said. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
“There’s something so cool about what we do and the way we’re able to impact people’s lives and their biggest investment. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”—Stacey Ryan, Senior vice president of store operations, South Division