Several weeks ago, I saw an interesting job opportunity come through in one of my LinkedIn searches. It was at the Paris-born boutique skincare and luxury cosmetics maker, Maria Galland. Headquartered in Munich since its acquisition by the German healthcare group Klosterfrau in the 1980s, the role reported directly to its CEO and had as its main responsibility driving the execution of his key strategic initiatives. With its connection to France, the team preferred a French-speaker.
Given my interest in the cosmetics industry, my experience working with C-level-type-humans, my strengths in strategy and execution, my digital prowesse, my language affinity, my love of Paris and my desire for Munich, I went for it. To my delight, I was selected out of hundreds of applicants to be part of a handful of carefully curated candidates given opportunity to meet with the CEO and HR Partner.
While this story isn’t about my experience as a candidate interviewing with the Maria Galland team, I must share that it was THE BEST recruiting experience I have had since I started considering permanent employment roles 6 months or so ago. Chapeau to the team for making me feel celebrated as an individual, for caring about my unique experience, goals, aspirations, strengths and genuinely being respectful at every single step in the process. The experience lead me to discovering more about the brand, its origins and heritage, its go-to-market and growth strategies, its own uniqueness.
I didn’t get the job.
But, ironically, it was the nicest rejection I have ever had the pleasure receive. While the team reported they “really liked me”, they didn’t think the role was an appropriate fit for me: they had observed me as someone who could lead a team, inspire others, take on great responsibilities, and have a significant impact, beyond the scope of the role in question. To my delight, in a couple of conversations, some email exchanges, and a review of some of my body of work, they had nailed it, figured me out, recognized my value. I agreed to let them keep my information in their candidate files for future consideration. “And please do let us know the next time you are in Munich. We would love to meet you in person”.
A few weeks later, Collective Thoughts business brought me to Munich, indeed. On a sunny Tuesday morning, I took the bus from my Schwanthalerhöhe pied-à-terre and headed to my appointment at Maria Galland HQ. I met a few team members, experienced this intriguing corporate culture first-hand, and bonus, left with some amazing products to sample.
In my research and conversations, I had discovered that Maria Galland is about individual skin care, holistic treatments, about the energy of beauty, the uniqueness and preciousness of every woman’s skin. It’s about a sensorial experience, enabled by the premium skincare provider’s innovative formulas and textures, rendered highly efficiently by specific treatments and application techniques that Maria Galland esthéticiennes are trained to master. It’s about the mix of science and nature, the experience and the feeling, everyday.
I was so into this brand that I had to try it. In the name of research.
See, the Maria Galland spa experience is not available in the US. So in order to find out more, I would have to figure it out in Munich. I would have to make some phone calls to German businesses to make an appointment…
I used the spiffy Maria Galland website salon finder to locate providers near me. I chose to not head to the center of town, where surely English would no problem; rather, I wanted to discover this experience as a neighborhood German woman would, away from the tourist spots.
I found a salon called Body & Shape in Munich’s Neuhausen neighborhood (and thought surely they will speak English with a name like that!). I had no problem making an appointment, specifically requesting the “Maria Galland experience” when asked for the type of facial I wanted. The only hiccup was that they weren’t able to send me a confirmation notice: I was informed it’s impossible without a German phone number. Don’t worry, I’ll be there.
And then I prepared myself mentally for what would probably end up being an expensive experiment. In the name of research.
A few days later, I arrived at the salon early for my appointment. Body & Shape is a spa where you can get pretty much anything done: nails, eyebrows, lash extensions, waxing, massage, body firming treatments, skin care, all the things. While waiting, I heard beats bumping popular music and observed a few women were getting their nails done. It’s definitely not my girl Lisa’s Berryville, VA Organic Plum Studio, where facials are an exclusive and indulgent experience in full-on relaxation and pampering, with mandatory zen music and plum tea. I am going with the flow. But an espresso, or better yet, a glass of champagne would really integrate well with this research project!
At my scheduled time, a gorgeous young woman appeared from a hallway behind the reception and coyly greeted me. I followed her into a room in the back where she introduced herself in German. I made out her name: Elenia.
“Hi, I am Caroline, do you speak English?” I responded.
Without words, we somehow agreed that we would make the best of it.
I am in a room surrounded by awesome & luxurious products, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? I am going with the flow.
I don’t think I ever tried to understand German as hard and as much as I did that afternoon. I concentrated so hard, as if my focus would enlighten me to the meaning of the words I was hearing. But nein. Even with gestures and a quick review of the beautifully printed facial menu, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I am going with the flow. I am in for the ride. And I seemed to recall I had already had a hydra facial before, “hydra” and “facial” being the only words I could for sure make out. Nonetheless, I gestured to the beautifully displayed Maria Galland products on the window ledge as we proceeded to move forward and declared: “Let’s make sure we use these.” She smiled. Ja. I am in for the ride.
She put on some plastic gloves before proceeding to investigate her canvas: my face, neck and décolletage. Not exactly the smell or sensory experience I was expecting but again, cultural difference or Body Shape-specific practice. I am in for the ride. As Elenia prepared for her work ahead, I started to try and begin to finally relax. But I could still hear the popular beats from the main salon area and the second-hand of the clock above the room’s door non-stop ticking. I am going with the flow.
I understood there would be vier steps in my facial. I counted with Elenia as she ein cleaned, zwei microdermabr-aised, drei applied some kind of acid and vier extracted and hydrated my skin. I mostly zoned out to the sound of the hydra facial machine as I felt Elenia’s swiftly talented handling of its wand over and over on my skin, with thorough discipline.
She then applied a crème that felt smooth and cooling, a welcome sensation for what I expected to be the beginning of the “Maria Galland experience” part of this facial. After she put away her tools, she gently touched me on my shoulders before declaring: “All done!”
I am going with the flow.
But wait, what about all these amazing products, and the application techniques I was hoping I would learn here and be able to practice at home? What about the individual recommendations and the serum I know I need and was fully expecting to buy?
Not this time.
In the name of research.
And while it wasn’t really the experience I expected, I am convinced it was the experience I needed. One of letting go of expectations, of allowing a professional to do her thing, of going with the flow, and staying along for the ride, of being a participant, of getting lost in translation and of experiences in cultural differences.
But mostly, one of cultural similarities, as Eleina declared upon my checking out: “Beautiful!”
It was a great facial. In the name of research.
Until next time, Maria Galland.