Fluent in four languages and passionate about entrepreneurship, Michelle Mooradian D’95, T’04 went from her post-Tuck consulting job at Opera Solutions to spend almost five years working for McKinsey’s Rio de Janeiro office.
After transferring to their New York office, Mooradian made the decision to switch careers and landed her current position as director of global strategy for Under Armour, arguably the world’s buzziest and most up-and-coming brand of performance athletic clothing, footwear, and accessories.
How has Under Armour reacted to its $2.3-billion sales success over the past year?
Everybody’s very excited, and it’s full steam ahead. The company’s very ambitious and entrepreneurial in spirit, which trickles down from our CEO, so there’s a lot of expectation for the future. This is the opportunity I was looking for when I was leaving consulting: a dynamic, fast-paced, and growing consumer company, where I can help drive the business and make changes relatively quickly, to realize direct and lasting impact on the future.
How did Tuck prepare you for your career?
Tuck served me well in two key respects. First, it does a great job of breeding leaders and entrepreneurs. As a result, Tuck prepared me well to navigate my career and craft my own path—this resulted in my capitalizing on opportunities to work with McKinsey and live abroad in Brazil, as well as to make the jump to a great position in industry. Second, Tuck is second to none in teaching team building and collaboration as a powerful force to drive business growth. These skills not only served me well in consulting, but are crucial to success in my current position. At Under Armour, “business as a team sport” is what we live and breathe everyday—we not only strive day-in and day-out to empower all athletes and make all athletes better as part of our company mission and vision, but are all athletes ourselves, working as one team to be the number-one global performance athletic brand.
What’s the key to effective strategy?
Balance. You have to balance investment in long-term goals versus short-term needs as well, as balancing having a vision and a plan versus being opportunistic and flexible when great breaks come along. Overall, strategy is thinking about the future and planning in a broad sense: you want to be ambitious, but there needs to be day-to-day practicality, too. The biggest challenge of a strategist is to constantly bring these two things in alignment.
Why has Under Armour’s new focus on women consumers and athletes been so successful?
The importance of women’s sports and the ever-growing number of athletic females provides a strong consumer group for Under Armour to speak to. In approaching this group, we’ve stayed very true to our brand’s strength and uniqueness, including being revolutionary in defining the “athlete,” which has set us apart from the competition. For instance, people may have been surprised when we signed Misty Copeland [the renowned African American ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre], but she’s very much in line with our unique and forward-thinking brand image: the groundbreaker, redefining sport, focused on performance, athleticism, and style. In this respect, signing Copeland is also amazing because she expands the definition of the woman “athlete.” Because Under Armour grew up so embedded in male-dominated sports like American football, this makes great strides both for our image outside the company, as well as for the evolution of our organization inside.
How have Under Armour’s recent major partnerships—for instance replacing Adidas as Notre Dame’s equipment sponsor—been received?
The Notre Dame partnership is huge for our brand, because their influence permeates college and pro athletics as well as international borders. As we work to expand our influence outside of North America, deals such as this, which increase our reach globally, will be crucial to our growth.
Why is now the right time for Under Armour to focus on international growth?
Our vision of global growth to 2020 is ambitious, but it’s the nature of this company to shoot for the stars, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. Going international is a big part of this strategy. There is a ton of opportunity for growth in regions outside of North America, and we have a brand that should resonate around the world. We see white space—tons of it—and are positioning ourselves to capture it.