Where is Rashpal Ahluwalia? He could be in Rome. Or London. Maybe Paris. Possibly Copenhagen. It’s hard to keep track of the BCIT Computing and Business alumnus since he scored a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity with adidas in Germany.
“It’s unusual for me to spend two weekends in a row at home,” says Rashpal, who moved from Vancouver to Nuremberg in October 2016. “I can easily and inexpensively travel to a different country in just an hour or two when I’m not working. And when I am working, I get to influence digital retail strategy, on a global scale, for a sports brand giant. It’s pretty incredible.”
As the senior manager of digital retail at adidas, Rashpal developed the strategy to help decide what the company should and shouldn’t be doing in retail from a digital perspective. He’s now focused on implementing some of those strategies to enhance the consumer’s experience in the store. The range of potential consumer-facing technologies is vast and can include virtual reality (VR) to create customized shoes; augmented reality (AR) to get more product information; and mobile apps to access product information, share content on social media and pay for items without using a traditional checkout counter. By leveraging digital technology in store, adidas aspires to create a shopping experience that values the consumer’s needs, is in line with its brand identity and ultimately, differentiates the brand from its competition.
“Amazon Go is good example of how digital technology can play a big role in a retail store,” explains Rashpal. “The future of retail lies in using this kind of leading-edge technology and finding ways to make it relevant for your brand. I’m excited about exploring the possibilities for adidas.”
It’s no surprise that savvy digital experts like Rashpal are in high demand.
Rashpal says that his BCIT education gave him the work ethic, confidence and knowledge to start his career and to continue to grow it years later. After earning two credentials (Computer Systems Technology Diploma of Technology and Bachelor of Business Administration), he hit the ground running as a systems analyst with the Overwaitea Food Group before moving to the role of project manager for lululemon athletica. At these companies, he gained invaluable hands-on experience designing, implementing and maintaining retail technology. In fact, his experience proved so invaluable that his current opportunity with adidas found him.
“The amazing thing is, I didn’t contact adidas,” he explains. “The company found me on LinkedIn. They contacted me, I had some interviews and then they offered me the job. I think luck is part of it, but the other big part is what BCIT taught me: that you have to put yourself out there and you have to be confident in your education and your abilities.”
One ability Rashpal admits he doesn’t have yet however, is the ability to speak German. He has taken some German-language lessons, courtesy of adidas, but since business is conducted in English, he hasn’t had a need to speak German. Except, he jokes, for the phrase “entschuldigung” (translation: excuse me), which he says he’s used quite often.
From growing up wearing head to toe adidas in the ’90s to leading the company’s digital retail strategy today, Rashpal can say his affinity for the three-stripe brand has come full circle.
“Our mission statement at adidas is, ‘Through sport we have the power to change lives’,” says Rashpal. “We make products for people to get into sports, which is a gateway to so many positive opportunities. What could be better than that?”