Two years and eight months into her tenure at high-end athletic wear brand Lululemon, EVP and CTO Julie Averill points to the team she's assembled as the proudest achievement of her year.
In 2017, Averill left the CIO role at Washington-based REI to remotely join the Canadian apparel brand, which is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"I didn't have any promises from the company that I was going to be able to open an office in Seattle," Averill said in an interview with CIO Dive. "I knew that there was a lot of work to do in building a technology organization, yet I believed in the values of the company."
Averill is a member of the senior leadership team at Lululemon and reports directly to the CEO, in a change announced Wednesday during its Q3 earnings call. She oversees a Seattle-based team of 255 employees, most of them a part of the technology organization. And the team, led by Averill, has been getting to work: weaving data and analytics into company processes, fending off cyberthreats and executing on its cloud strategy
"I would say every single area of our business has major technology objectives," said Averill. "There's not one part of our business that is not reliant on technology. My job is just to figure out how to unleash technology and our team so that we can go as fast as this company is going."
Averill spent a decade at Nordstrom, where she led the deployment of omnichannel fulfillment capabilities while delivering scale to the online platform. Averill's experience has been key to navigating a changing industry, as retail responds to shifting consumer trends and the influence of e-commerce.
Averill's work has gained attention for talent attraction strategies that center around strong personal values.
Behind the scenes, Averill's tenure at Lululemon has accompanied a period of digital growth. For Susan Anderson, managing director and senior research analyst who focuses on the retail sector for investment bank B. Riley FBR, associates Averill with the success and growth of the digital business, as well as an evolution of its digital marketing approach.
"I think above all I try to be fully present in whatever I'm doing."
CTO at Lululemon
Both those improvements are reliant on a smooth execution from the team Averill oversees.
"In the last year or two we've seen accelerated growth in digital for [Lululemon]," Anderson said. The growth came along just as the company retooled its digital platform last year.
In September, Lululemon said its revenue rose by 22% in the second quarter of 2019, raking in $883.4 million. Total comparable sales (or "comps," a key metric in the retail world) were also up by 15%. During the earnings call, CEO Calvin McDonald credited part of the growth to the company's "continued improvement in our data analytics and digital marketing."
Going forward, the brand's success will hinge on a reliable e-commerce platform, continued product innovation and sustaining the pace of global expansion. That means more work on the CTO's desk.
With physical locations contracting across the retail industry, the Canadian brand has set an ambitious goal to double its e-commerce revenue by 2023. The push is part of a three-pronged strategy to boost revenues titled the "Power of Three," which also includes a focus on product innovation and international expansion.
"My job is just to figure out how to unleash technology and our team so that we can go as fast as this company is going."
CTO at Lululemon
Anderson thinks the company can hit the target while sustaining growth in its physical locations.
Another way the exec is pushing forward on the three-pronged growth push is by supporting the company's digital reach beyond North America, and doing so in a way that makes sense. Eight market-specific sites for countries like South Korea and Germany have gone live — with the challenges a global deployment of that nature supposes.
"We work really closely with our business partners to make sure that they're locally relevant," Averill said.
All the hard work comes with a trade-off. Averill describes the Seattle office as a place where there always seems to be a physical activity, be it yoga or tai chi.
The ping-pong table gets used plenty, too. "We like to smash it," said Averill said.
It's in keeping with the CTO's style. Heated ping pong matches follow business calls. She eschews the concept of work-life balance, and says the idea of "work-life integration" resonates more with her.
"I don't think I ever switch off because I don't really have two sides," said Averill. "I think above all I try to be fully present in whatever I'm doing."