How the Strategic Design for Global Leadership Degree Helped This Alumna Become a Creative Leader

We recently caught up with Lara Harris, MS in Strategic Design for Global Leadership (SDGL) alumna and the Associate Creative Director at Thrasio, a consumer goods company that acquires and scales leading brands on Amazon via data analysis and optimization. 

Since graduating from the executive degree program offered through Parsons Executive Education in May 2020, Harris has utilized her experience to help shape her leadership style, refine her tactical skills, and cultivate a valuable network within the industry.

When Harris was looking at graduate school programs, she was working at Johnson & Johnson as Director of Skincare + Beauty Consumer Solutions on the internal design team and looking to bridge the gap between her creative expertise and business acumen. 

“There is always tension between the business side of an organization and the creative. How do you translate business needs to the creative? I started exploring how to bridge the gap.” In pursuit of an answer, she found the Strategic Design for Global Leadership program.

What set the program apart for Harris was a combination of elements that specifically catered to her career aspirations. She valued the program’s focus on human-centered design, business sustainability, and leadership development. She also learned how to nurture the soft skills needed for creative leadership, which has been particularly significant for her growth.

The unique hybrid format also allowed for immersive in-person experiences while simultaneously accommodating her busy lifestyle, making it an ideal fit for someone like herself who sought to balance professional and personal commitments.  

“I found that similar degree programs were all either full-time in person or online only. I didn’t feel I would be able to engage as fully if it was online only. I wasn’t able to step back from my role and fully dedicate myself to full-time in person education, either. This program was unique in that it was the only one I found that was hybrid, which was very appealing. The fact that it was also global made it even more attractive,” explains Harris. 

The Strategic Design for Global Leadership program has made a profound impact on Harris’ leadership approach. Applying her learnings from Johann Verheem’s class on leadership and Roger Manix’s class on relationships through play, Harris evolved from an individual contributor and manager to a leader prioritizing her team’s growth and success. 

“I’m now looking to support my team and lead them — whether that’s within our company through work they’re doing or understanding their broader aspirations, personally or professionally, to really make sure they’re getting the experience they need. Whatever I can do to help them excel. My approach really shifted once I went through the program,” explains Harris.

When asked if she has any advice for incoming students, she first emphasized the importance of building strong relationships within one’s cohort. “Those are the people you’re going to be going back to — again and again — to support you not only through the program, but beyond. There are a handful of people I continually check in on. I might ask for advice or just want to connect with them personally or professionally. We can support each other and learn from each other. That is always my number one recommendation,” Harris says emphatically. 

Her second piece of advice? She encourages students to make the most of the immersive experience this degree offers. Stepping away from everyday life to fully engage in learning and networking is a unique opportunity that should be embraced, Harris says. 

Harris’ own journey from a design-focused background to a cross-functional leadership role is a real testament to the transformative power of holistic programs like the Master of Science in Strategic Design for Global Leadership. On the way, she was able to reevaluate how to lead with a purpose and support her team and ultimately the broader organization.