Christian Fortucci stepped into the CTO position at David Yurman, an American luxury jewelry company, in November 2022 after working as the SVP of Technology at Equinox. As CTO, Christian oversees all internal and customer-facing tech. As he says: “If there is a piece of technology, my team owns it.” He recently shared his thoughts on the importance of personalization, team-building, customer service and sweating the details.

Mary K. Pratt: What is your top objective?

Christian Fortucci 216Christian FortucciWe’re making a big push on personalization. As a luxury company, we want to provide the best possible experience. David Yurman has a deep tradition, set by Mr. and Mrs. Yurman, to be curious about our customers and create a warm and welcoming experience in our stores. This tradition allows our technology team to mirror the David Yurman client experience on our digital platforms, inspiring very personalized experiences in store and online. The data that we collect responsibly about you, whether it's clicks on our website or interactions with our brand ambassadors at the stores, allows us to deliver a highly personalized experience. This ultimately builds brand affinity with the client, better retention, and creates life-long collectors of our David Yurman jewelry.

What’s the big challenge you face with that push?

Everyone wants to get to personalization, but it’s very difficult to implement. It all starts with having quality data. Whether we’re personalizing the site for you or we’re personalizing an email to you, it has to be accurate, it has to be right. For example, if you’re already married and I’m sending you information about an engagement ring, that has the potential to cause a huge issue at home, right? Our AI and data quality needs to be sound.

What is the big opportunity with this push?

There is so much to gain. Customer loyalty, satisfaction, brand affinity, higher conversion rates of prospects to customers, increased revenue, the list goes on. I want other companies, no matter the industry, to look at David Yurman and say, they figured it out, they got personalization nailed.

What has been the most exciting part of your position to date?

I think the most exciting part of my job is the team that I get to work with every day. I inherited a great team and over the past year we’ve made some great hires to further strengthen our position as trusted technologists for the organization. I learn something every day from this team, it’s truly inspiring and is what gets me up every day. I want to interact with them, learn and of course I also want to lead and mentor them.

Have you always aimed to be an executive?

I didn’t aim to be an executive until later in my career. I always loved being an engineer, building the tools and the systems that helped drive an organization. It wasn’t really until my mid-30s – I’m now in my 40s – that I started to transition into having that passion for leading and mentoring teams. Once I began that journey, there was no looking back. I set goals about where I wanted to be in two, five and ten years, and I started to act upon them.

You’ve talked about your passion for team-building. Where does that passion come from?

I truly love to lead and mentor individuals. I get more excitement from giving than getting, whether it’s giving a gift to a loved one, helping a stranger or mentoring a team member. I want to develop individuals, and to build a great team that is going to be recognized and celebrated as a whole.

What’s your strategy for building teams?

There are many characteristics I am looking for, but my most basic strategy is to hire smart people and ones that are a good cultural fit. I value intellect over experience in most cases. When I have smart people, it allows for my team to be dynamic, seamlessly adapting to evolving business needs or adjusting to gaps or attrition in the talent. I also feel that being a cultural fit is just as important, if people can’t work together, that will show in our overall department performance. How many times do you hear about a professional sports team that had locker room problems and was ultimately the blame for their failures? It’s true in corporate America as well, we need to support each other in order to have true success.

 

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Can you tell me more about your approach to goal-setting?

There’s a saying: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I’m a true believer in that planning process, and setting goals is part of that. I need a vision. I need direction. I need to know where I’m going. I don’t get into a car and say that I’m going to drive to Connecticut but have no idea how to get there. I need to map that out. That’s no different in your work life. You need to set out what that plan is, know what roads to take and what’s the most efficient path to get there.

How do you make sure you get to where you want to go?

I think one of the keys is to have support. Evan Yurman, President of David Yurman, and his leadership team had identified the need for a deep investment in technology before I joined. Having the commitment from Evan, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Yurman, has given me the support needed to succeed. You also need to get into the details. If I go back to the analogy of going to Connecticut, it’s not good enough to say, “I’m going to take I95 to Connecticut.” That doesn’t tell me the small details like, how am I going to actually get to 95? What’s going to happen when I’m on 95 and there’s traffic? Is there an alternate route I can take? You have to get into the details to understand how you are specifically going to get there. I never liked the saying “don’t sweat the details” because you have to. That is how you’re going to get somewhere. If you only think broadly, that’s only going to take you so far.

You’ve also highlighted the importance of customer service. What’s your approach here?

Client experience has been extremely important to the Yurman family since the start of the brand almost 50 years ago. The sentiment has remained the same; We’re all people and we all want to feel good about ourselves. We all love when someone says our first name when we walk into a room. That feels really good, you feel important; you think to yourself, they recognized me, they remembered me. So that is something that we want to be able to deliver, but it’s really hard to accomplish and will challenge our teams to think about the tech to enable it. We also want to look at every interaction point we have with our customer and find the opportunities to remove friction, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to engage with us no matter what your entry point is.

Is customer service now all about the tech?

It’s definitely independent of technology. But technology can enhance or accelerate customer service. Whether we are supporting our DY brand ambassadors in our retail stores or supporting our marketing and e-commerce efforts led by Carolyn Dawkins, Chief Marketing Officer, we are all driving a shared goal; Create and share in exceptional moments with our clients. Technology enables every one of these interactions with real-time insightful information, coupled with the human touch to deliver an amazing client experience.

What do you feel is the most critical skill for your success?

Professional integrity. That’s what I always think about. If I were to leave tomorrow, my successor might not agree with all my decisions or the work that I did, but they’re going to know each choice that I made was well thought-out, that it was the best decision with the information I had at that time, and that I delivered it with high integrity. That’s what I always talk about to my team, at the end of the day, all you have is your professional integrity. Let’s not take a shortcut; let’s do it the right way.

 

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