From Higher Ed to Global Cosmetics: A Q&A with Christian Balmaseda-Lucca, MBA ’22

Career Corner: Balmaseda-Lucca credits his career coaches, coursework, and Cornell’s alumni network for helping him to make a successful career pivot.

By: Janice Endresen
upper body portrait of Christian Balmaseda-Lucca.

Christian Balmaseda-Lucca, MBA ’22 (Executive MBA Metro NY), presidential management associate, the Estée Lauder Companies

Christian Balmaseda-Lucca, MBA ’22, is a graduate of the Executive MBA Metro NY program at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management who made a successful career pivot with the help and guidance of the Career Management Center at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

Formerly the assistant director of admissions marketing and recruitment at Cornell Tech, Balmaseda-Lucca is now at the Estée Lauder Companies in a two-year, post-MBA rotational program he describes as “designed to develop strong leaders who move into director-level positions across different functional areas post-program completion.” So far, he has worked on several teams, including product marketing for Jo Malone London North America and for Tom Ford Beauty Global, and international marketing and business development for Bobbi Brown Global.

Here, Balmaseda-Lucca shares the story of his transition into his new career.

What inspired you to switch to a new career track?

Balmaseda-Lucca: Coming into the EMBA program, I knew that my goal was to make a career pivot. I spent the better half of the last 10 years working in higher education administration. Long term, I saw myself moving into the corporate world while maybe someday being an adjunct instructor, given my passion as a lifelong learner. I gave a lot of thought to where I saw myself post-graduation and came up with my own rubric:

  1. Get experience working with consumer packaged goods (CPG). I was fascinated by the process of marketing tangible goods that would eventually make their way into the hands of customers.
  2. Work for a CPG company that sells products I care about and use.
  3. Work for a company where I proudly bring my full self to work as a queer person of color.

In what ways did the SC Johnson College of Business Career Development staff help to guide you in your career pivot? What strategies did they recommended that were particularly effective?

Balmaseda-Lucca: I immediately started to build connections with guest speakers, alumni, and peers who work in the CPG space. Jennifer Burns [director of Career Development for EMBA Programs and Alumni] and the career team were instrumental in every step of the process for me.

We met once a month to discuss my progress towards building a network that would help me pivot. They suggested events and conferences for me to attend and encouraged me to consider career paths and organizations that were not yet on my radar. They provided me with bespoke support to rebrand my resume and LinkedIn profile in a way that highlighted my professional skills that were relevant to the jobs I pursued.

The absolute game changer was the 1:1 preparation that I received ahead of my interviews. The career team really made sure that I was set up for success when searching for potential job opportunities.

Did you select course work or extracurricular activities to prepare yourself or gain relevant experience for your career pivot?

Balmaseda-Lucca: Given my passion for marketing, and knowing that I wanted to learn more about how to work on high-performing teams, I focused a lot of elective coursework in this area.

Did you build a new network of contacts that has been important to your career pivot? If so, what role did the SC Johnson College play in helping to build that network?

Balmaseda-Lucca: I would not have been able to successfully make such a seamless transition into my new career without the SC Johnson College network. Not only was I able to build immediate connections with individuals who are now colleagues at work, but I was also able to gain market insights from experts who were already doing the work.

Two men sitting on a stage holding microphones and looking out at the audience.
Christian Balmaseda-Lucca (left) speaking at an alumni panel discussion hosted by the Career Management Center on the Cornell Tech campus, September 2023. On the right is Adon Davis, MBA ’21 (Executive MBA Metro NY)

I cherish all of the connections that I made during my two years in the executive MBA program and I’m proud to say that we all remain good friends who continue to support each other.

One of my favorite things about Cornell is our strong alumni network. There are countless opportunities to build connections, gain mentorship, and to pay it forward by mentoring the next cohort that comes behind you. I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring current EMBA students this year, and the experience has been just as rewarding and insightful for me as I hope it is for my mentees.

What advice do you have for other students or alumni of the SC Johnson College who are interested in making a career pivot?

Balmaseda-Lucca: It is never too late! That said, the road to a career pivot is long and involved. Don’t expect it to happen overnight and don’t be discouraged by the “nos” you are going to hear. The right opportunity is out there and the SC Johnson College will give you the tools to help you find it. Start the process early and stay consistent with your follow-ups. The hard work you put in will eventually pay off and you will be able to look back with gratitude.

Christian Balmaseda-Lucca walking in a parade in the middle of the street in NYC and carrying a "Beauty in Pride" sign.
Christian Balmaseda-Lucca, international chair for the Estée Lauder Companies’ queer employee resource group, wELCome, participating in the New York City Pride March, June 25, 2023. “Pride was the highlight of the year,” he said. “I had the privilege of working across multiple regions to execute a cohesive series of events showcasing the ‘Beauty in Pride.’ 2023 marked the company’s first year walking in the NYC Pride March and we showed up in style with a beautiful float and passed out samples from all of our amazing brands.”