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Alumni Profiles

Karen Janes

Karen  Janes

Pilon School of Business
Year of Graduation: 1989
Program: Business - General

Business Beyond Borders

Karen Janes was working as an accountant with Cadillac Fairview, one of Canada’s largest real estate landlords, when she decided to make a career change. In 1994, she seized an opportunity to fill a maternity leave position in the area of leasing. “I took a temporary posting with a pay cut because I wanted to try something new, and I never looked back,” recalls Karen who is now Senior Vice President, Global Real Estate at Ralph Lauren.

She joined the luxury retailer in early 2015, following two years as Senior Vice President, Global Real Estate and Construction for American Eagle Outfitters.

“My work is fast-paced and creative; you meet a lot of people and you are not tied to a desk,” explains Karen.

Some issues she and her team encounter are similar, regardless of where they are operating, she adds. “Negotiations can be tricky, as both sides want exactly the opposite when it comes to rent. There are merchandise, margin and sales concerns to combat - you may lose your position to a new, better performing retailer.”

Karen brought more than 13 years of experience in the retail clothing industry to Ralph Lauren. One of her most memorable and challenging tasks over her years at The Gap was opening 12 Old Navy stores in the GTA on the same day in 2001. “It had never been done in company history and has never been repeated,” says Karen, who was Vice President, Real Estate for The Gap, which owns Old Navy.

Having a sound business and accounting background has been an advantage in her work, says Karen. In addition to studying business at Sheridan, Karen pursued her CGA designation, attending night school and spending a year at the University of Toronto. In recent years, she has passed on her know-how to other professionals by teaching classes through the International Council of Shopping Centres.

What would Karen tell herself if she could go back to the beginning of her career? “Search out someone who is willing and confident enough in their own abilities to teach you what they know. Ask questions. Listen. Don’t be too impatient. If you work hard, have high integrity and some political savvy, you will go far.”

Learn more about Sheridan’s Faculty of Business programs.