Today in our Core Careers feature, SES speaks with Trisha Hegg, Vice President of Global Product at Sanuk. Trisha shares how she got started in the industry, her advice for success, what has driven her throughout her career in the surf industry and who has inspired her along the way.
How did you get started in the industry/what has been your career path?
Trisha Hegg: I started in retail, back in the late ‘80s at Nordstrom. From there, I went into wholesale sales in Active/Apparel.
Through a personal relationship, I was hired at Oakley where I was a Regional Sales Manager for Eyewear. That was my first real intro to the action sports industry.
My manager at Oakley, John Wilson, left to go to Reef and took me with him. He appointed me in a newly created position for Reef, as the National Sales Manager for Women’s Footwear. That was in 1999. Dedicating a position to focus on the Women’s category was pretty progressive if you look back at it now.
I stayed with Reef for 10 years in different capacities of product merchandising and as the Women’s Brand Director both in San Diego and in the European office. After I moved home from Europe, I left Reef.
I then went to work for Olukai, in a newly created position as Women’s Brand Director for just under two years.
Which leads me to my current role at Sanuk as the VP of Product. I have been with Sanuk/Deckers for the past three and a half years, and am so excited for what the future has in store with the brand.
All in, I have been specializing in Footwear for the past 16 years. Whew, I must be getting old!
Why do you think you have succeeded in building a successful career?
Trisha Hegg: That’s an interesting question. I guess partly because I have always followed my heart, and aligned myself with brands that I really believe in.
When you combine work with passion, it’s a win-win and keeps you engaged and inspired. I have been so fortunate to have had great opportunities with brands that have enabled me to do what I love, and work with inspiring people.
What are three key lessons you have learned during your career?
Trisha Hegg: In no particular order:
Hire great people! Support, mentor and give them a solid path to achieve their best! Surround yourself with excellence, and the outcome is fantastic. I love to mentor people and give them the opportunities I have had in my career to flourish.
I have learned how important it is to have a voice within your organization, and understand how your “footprint” impacts your reputation. It's not easy being a woman in the action sports industry without having the “she is a very strong woman” title attached to it. You kind of have to be, in order to succeed. But you also need to remain authentic to yourself and your core values.
Always remain authentic to who you are. Don’t let the pressure of your job sway you to make decisions that you regret. Regardless of the company you work for, you are responsible for your “personal brand” and the legacy you leave behind.
Who influenced you early in your career and why?
Trisha Hegg: Funny, as I think back on the many influencers I have had in my career, most of them have been men. Which is not a bad thing, by any means.
I would say that John Wilson, Brett Ritter, and Fernando and Santiago Aguerre were very instrumental in my personal and professional growth while I worked for/with them at Reef. They supported me, pushed me and guided me in ways that made me who I am today. They gave me the opportunity to flourish in a very entrepreneurial environment. I touched many aspects of the business there and I am tremendously thankful for that period of time in my career.
There is a tremendous amount of respect that I have for each of them to this day.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
Trisha Hegg: I would have to say that Birgit Klett, Co-Founder of BEEK, is one of my most treasured confidants. I have known her for more than 15 years. She gets me. She has been one of my biggest cheerleaders and advocates as I have navigated my career.
One of the many valuable traits that she taught me is how to make sharp decisions and always follow my instincts. Your gut usually steers you in the right direction, the trick is knowing when to lean into it.
In our business, decision-making is key. You have to process and execute quickly, and keep your team moving forward. It’s why I have been able to succeed both personally and professionally in the art of multi-tasking.
Can you name a mistake you’ve made in the past, and what you have learned from it?
Trisha Hegg: Well, I can certainly look back at some low points in my career that have not been my proudest moments. Can’t we all?
Like I mentioned earlier, I am an extremely passionate and competitive person in everything I do. Sometimes that passion turns into a “she is difficult” personality trait. Again, going back to the strong-woman-syndrome (SWS).
It kills me inside to have that stigma. It is authentically not who I am. I’m a lover, not a fighter. I certainly do not like conflict in my life, especially in the workplace.
I have continued to work hard at recognizing how to overcome those situations that might create a moment where I would regret the outcome.
Is there an accomplishment in your career of which you are most proud?
Trisha Hegg: One that stands out was when I accepted the position as the product director, all categories for Reef/ EMEA, based in Lugano, Switzerland.
I had been solely focused on the Women’s category for almost eight years at Reef, and this position was inclusive of the Men’s category.
The challenge was on many fronts. I quickly needed to understand and execute the international market needs through local European design consultants (footwear and apparel), while infusing the U.S./Global line that was an important thread to stay connected to the brand and headquarters in San Diego. I did have a slight advantage due to the fact that I had been with the brand for so long.
On a personal note, it was equally challenging balancing my work life with long hours in a new environment, and keep my son -- who was 5 years old at the time -- thriving in an all Italian-speaking school and community. What was I thinking? But, in all honesty, it was an experience of a lifetime that I am so grateful to have had.
What are your thoughts on how the industry has evolved throughout the years?
Trisha Hegg: That’s a big question, so I’ll dive in with a smaller scope.
From my perspective, there have been some really cool smaller brands that have come up through the years that have created new space and opportunity in the market. They have really helped evolve the landscape. It’s no longer just a market for the bigger surf brands. Lifestyle and fashion brands have become an important part of the industry.
There is a nice blend of SoCal inspiration, mixed with surf-inspired fashion that is working to our advantage. This blend keeps our industry fresh and aspirational, and stretches our reach to consumers around the globe.
I also love that there are more aspirational women that have found success and earned respect in a predominantly male-driven industry. They are the ones that inspire and set the bar for the up-and-coming women to achieve greatness in their careers. There is definitely room for more… so come on ladies, keep working hard to achieve your career milestones and goals.
Where can we find you when you are not working?
Trisha Hegg: That’s easy, between the beach (Encinitas, CA) and the mountains (Park City, UT). I love being outside, camping, riding my bike, hiking, running, snowboarding, and anything to do with water.
I’m a travel junky! On a moment's notice, my bag is packed. It is an important part of what makes me thrive. New experiences keep my mind sharp and inspired.
I enjoy and cherish every moment I can while making memories with my son Jack (12), and staying connected to my incredible tribe of friends and family.