Meet Lili, Marketing
Full Name: Lili Fakhari
Title: VP of Center Marketing, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield
Lili has dedicated her professional career to leading marketing strategy in retail, fashion and direct-to-consumer industries. From leading marketing teams to pro-bono projects targeted toward smaller companies and charities, Lili is passionate about helping brands achieve their business potential. Lili began her career in the medical field, serving as a B2B marketing liaison for a start-up company. Wanting to focus more on B2C businesses, Lili shifted paths to work in the fashion industry for 12 years. At Rock & Republic Lili forged the launch of the brand’s first e-commerce site and social media platforms and worked on some of their more storied New York Fashion Week shows. At The Collected Group she oversaw marketing for all three of the portfolio’s brands (Joie, Current/Elliott, and Equipment) across all channels, from wholesale to retail and e-commerce. Forging forward in her career, Lili joined Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield in 2017 to bring her brand and retail experience to a new challenge, commercial real estate. At URW, Lili is the VP of US Center Marketing overseeing the 30 centers across the US. Lili graduated magna cum laude from the University of Southern California’s Marshall Business School with a BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing and completed Stanford University’s Strategic Marketing Management Executive Program. Lili remains active with her alma mater, having volunteered at Marshall as a part of their Alumni-Student mentor program. Lili is also passionate about arts and culture and supports organizations like RxArt, Farhang Foundation and, more locally, the Rancho Park Rotary Club.
Share your career story.
I always knew I wanted to be in Marketing. When I was in college, but entire goal was to be a CMO. I entered college with my major already declared: Business emphasis in Marketing. My first job out of college was a bit of a whirlwind. The company I was working for was very small, not very organized, and wanted a lot from me, but I was happy that I had a prestigious job with a big title and an office. Fast forward and one month in, no days off, and working around the clock with a seriously high anxiety level, I was completely burnt out and didn’t know what to do. I felt frozen. I didn’t want to quit because “I am not a quitter” but I also was beyond unhappy. After some soul searching, I decided to give myself a break. I quit and took a month off. I went to live with my aunt in Indonesia. While there I looked at what goals I had set for myself and re-evaluated the timelines and how realistic they were. I came back to the US determined to find the right job for me and to not just give in immediately for what I think would be the right title. I started working in the medical field and worked for my boss at that company for the next five years over a couple of different businesses. Although I learned a lot, medicine wasn’t a passion of mine and after 5 years, it was time for me to move on. I kept finding myself watching the clock tick away the minutes to 5:30 which marked the end of my day. I knew this was a sign. As I thought through my real passions in life, I kept coming back to my love for fashion. I started exploring options and saw a job listing for a Marketing Assistant at Rock & Republic. Although the assistant title was lower than my role at the time, I was willing to take a step backward to follow my passion. When I went for my first interview, I was told that they didn’t have a position in Marketing that was open and that they had only used that to get candidates in the door. The job they had open was Office Manager. I was disappointed, but as I spoke with the Director of Operations, she assured me that with time and hard work, if a Marketing role opened up, it would be mine. It was a risk. I knew that. But I also knew that I was up for the challenge. I took the job and within a year I was in the marketing team. I worked my way up to Marketing Director in by 4.5 years there and learned a ton in the process. I then went on to work at another clothing company thereafter for almost 6 years where I built and lead the marketing team and integrated wholesale, retail and ecommerce channels under one communications calendar. As I started to feel like it was my time to try my hand at something new, I looked at my resume and wanted to make sure that my next role spoke to the fact that I am a Marketing Professional and not pigeonhole myself in to Fashion. That landed me at Westfield, now URW. I was able to combine my passions for retail and marketing here and also explore marketing for new and very different industries as we serve theatres, restaurants, grocery stores, banks and so many other categories.
Who/what influenced or inspired you?
I always felt like I wanted to be in business, but what solidified that for me was a college professor who was in marketing his entire career. He taught my very first class at USC and I will never forget the level of passion that he had for it. His words are still with me today and I still reach out to him from time to time even 18 years later and he always responds.
What do you love most about your job? What are its biggest challenges?
What I find most exciting about marketing is that there is always something new you can do or try. That also can be it’s biggest challenge as it is hard to know when to stop working. There is always another partner to explore or promotion you can try or communication channel to tap in to. Now with new social media platforms popping up what feels like every day, it is important to know and understand your brand and to stay true to that. It can be very difficult and will dilute your brand if you try to be everything to everyone.
Are there certain things/events that happened in your life that have informed who you are or what you are doing in your life/career? Or what barriers have you faced and how did you overcome them?
My mom is probably the most pivotal person in setting me on my career path. I came to the US in 1986 from Iran. At the time, Iran was going through a very tough revolution and the country’s outlook for a young female was grim. My mom didn’t want that for me, her only daughter, and decided to leave behind a comfortable life there to start completely over. She is an extremely smart and well-educated woman. She studied abroad and obtained two master’s degrees in England and in France. When she moved to the US, she was only able to get a job as a sales clerk working at a retail store in our local mall. Over time, she got promoted to shift manager and then store manager and then regional, but this was very difficult for my mom as she had previously worked an office job and was managing many people working for Iranian Television. After a few years, she was fired from her retail job and while that was a very big blow as she was a single income mom of two children, she persevered. She had limited computer skills and decided that if she was to try to get an office job, she needed to learn. She enrolled in a course and did so well that the company who ran the classes hired her. She worked there for a couple of years while she prepared her resume and started looking for her next big job. She wanted stability so she fixed her mind on a government role. She finally got an interview with the city for a job at the LA Convention Center. She earned the role and worked there for 20 years until she retired 10 years ago. My mom’s story is so pivotal in my career trajectory. Seeing my mom going through all of this and pushing through all of these hardships just because she wanted a better life for her kids taught me that no matter what, you cannot give up. There is always something else to try, a new opportunity on the horizon, or a silver lining. It also taught me that these things don’t come easy. You have to work extremely hard and push yourself even when you think you have little to nothing left to give. If you dig deep and do the work, there is no limit to what you can achieve.
Do you have any words of advice?
My best advice is to never give up. We all face adversity at one point or another. Some people’s challenges might seem easier or harder than others. Don’t compare. What might be easy to someone else might be the most challenging moment to another person. You don’t know everyone’s life story or how they got to where they are so try not to judge people and focus on your own output and how you can best deliver on the needs of your business and support others in doing the same.