Career Diaries: Rose Fernandez’s Climb to the Top as CEO of Algenist
Some just people stumble upon a career in the beauty industry, but not Rose Fernandez. Her career history and many experiences lead her right to this point — as the CEO of Algenist, a natural yet science-driven skin-care brand powered by algae. She worked her way up from the retail floor (where she tells me she had the most fun planning large-scale events) to a leadership role at a brand she has a genuine passion for — A.K.A. she’s living the dream.
Ahead, Fernandez tells us all about her professional journey, plus what she really thinks of the “work-life balance” and her holy-grail Algenist product.
Can you tell us about your career path?
I started on the retail floor, working behind a counter and it was a really fun start — I played with makeup all day long and learned so much about products. From there, I was a promotional makeup artist for a period of time before going back behind the counter.
In my first true leadership role, I was an account coordinator and I had anywhere from 18 to 20 big counters that I managed across Southern California. It was around that time that I saw an ad for an account executive job and decided to submit my resume. It was for the brand Murad, which people didn’t really know about at the time.
This ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made; the professional space where Murad was at that time was a very welcoming space, highly diverse and full of creative people. There was this flexibility with Murad to develop and learn and grow. I was with Murad for 12 years.
I had an opportunity then to go over to Jurlique, which is this really interesting organic brand. At the time, I was in a space personally where I was questioning the ingredients I was putting on my body, so Jurlique kind of served that desire. But about four years into that, I started to miss the clinical, science part of the beauty industry. That’s when I got an alert about Algenist and basically, the rest is history. I joined shortly thereafter.
When I was presented the opportunity to take over as CEO in March of 2018, that was so special. With the strategies that we had in place, we were able to evolve in a way that got us back to our DNA, back to science and ingredients and technology, but still in a luxe yet approachable and modern way.
Now, can you tell us a little bit about Algenist?
Algenist leans into the ingredients and science really hard. How that magic happens — it's always alguronic acid. On its own, alguronic acid can go head to head with some gold-standard ingredients and does some beautiful things, from being able to address fine lines, wrinkles, hydration, pigmentation. On its own, it's quite compelling but when it's paired with retinol, collagen and vitamin C, it’s a magnificent and powerful ingredient story.
We spend a lot of time making sure that products look magical, that they look compelling. We want consumers to want to pick it up, associate with the color of the brand with something or feel something or smell something.
What is alguronic acid?
Alguronic acid is a complex polysaccharide. The microalgae strain is unique to us. It is what we have our patents on, and the process itself is also very unique to us. So, we've been able to basically extract this polysaccharide and harness the power of that in a very efficient and cost-effective way. The really exciting thing to me about alguronic acid is that you only need a sprinkle of it to do what you want it to do.
Microalgae is incredibly powerful and algae as a topic is like the great wide unknown. Every day we learn different things about algae and what it can do. I lovingly like to say that algae is our founder.
How do you manage a work-life balance as a CEO?
Before I became a CEO, it was really inspiring for me to see that there were these women in these leadership roles. I had a deep admiration for them and became very focused on becoming a leader in the business and figuring out what my contribution could be.
I stopped saying things like “work-life balance.” We make choices. If I'm going to work late, it's because I feel either responsible for something or I feel strongly for its success or solving it or getting it done, and that's part of my life. This is so important in any career. Understanding what's important to you. What interests you? Does it excite you? And then how do you bring that into your life in a way that it's just part of your life? It's not separate.
What’s your favorite Algenist product?
My absolute favorite product since before it was even born is the AA Barrier Serum. It just launched last year. We made it primarily for China because they really look at atmospheric aging and ozone protection, but I think that will become more relevant here in the U.S. and around the globe soon. We had this formula in the library, if you will, and I had been playing with it in 2017. I remember saying, “Oh my God, this stuff's amazing.” Since using it, my skin looks amazing. I don't get as many hormonal breakouts, my pigmentation is so much less noticeable. It reminds me of a hardcore clinical product, but it’s also something that anybody really could use without too much heavy lifting.
Do you have any upcoming exciting news that you can share with us about the brand?
I will go out on a ledge a little bit here. You know, we're focused on ingredient-level innovation. It's incredibly important to us and it's incredibly important to us that we continue to figure out what else algae can do. We will be launching something pretty game-changing in the next couple of months. It is from algae. It is going to rival a gold-standard ingredient that everybody uses. It is blue and it is beautiful.
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