The first time Andrew Heffernan’s Parsons professor asked students to go around the room and introduce themselves, he kept silent. The soft-spoken Dublin native suspected his background and experience would have been hard for his fellow students in his AAS Fashion Marketing courses to believe. “Finally, I had a class where the teacher insisted on a complete introduction, who we were and why we came to the program, with no holding back,” Heffernan said.
One by one, Andrew’s AAS classmates revealed their past lives. One student used to be a figure skater in Disney on Ice. Another came to Parsons after several years working in Hollywood. A third had been a lawyer. Another was a graduate of Oxford.
Finally it was Heffernan’s turn. “It took me 10 years to get here. I was a doctor. Then I was a banker. Then I went to Harvard and got my MBA. Finally I found a place to study what I want to study.”
The AAS in Fashion Marketing
, one of four Parsons degrees that immerse adults in the theory and practice of a new profession, was a perfect entry-point for the 36-year-old Heffernan. The degree can be completed on campus or online, in either two years or through a “Fast Track” option that takes only two semesters.
But even in a program designed for career-changers, Heffernan is unusual. After completing medical school, he spent six months as a surgeon and six months as a physician before deciding that medicine was not for him. A few years as an investment banker at Goldman-Sachs offered managerial know-how and a background in finance. But again his dream eluded him.
After two years at Harvard, he completed his MBA and found himself in Amsterdam, working as a consultant but sustained after business hours by the fantasy of starting his own brand. “In that second year, I decided once and for all that I wanted to pursue my passion,” he said. “I was coming to New York quite a lot to look for ideas and again and again, Parsons kept coming up.”
Heffernan enrolled in the AAS program in September 2009 and finishes in December, hoping to begin his own lifestyle brand. On the way, he has lined up an internship with luxury men’s brand LimoLand, whose Tanzanian inspired logo and colorful sportswear has already made ripples in a crowded industry. At LimoLand’s flagship store in New York City’s Meatpacking District, Heffernan uses his business acumen and creative approach to marketing to direct attention to the upstart brand.
“The AAS is focused on marketing. But they’ve given us enough design that I can sit with a designer and know what he’s talking about. They’ve given us enough Photoshop that I can sit with my graphic designer and decide how an image should look. If you had said to me, ‘yarns,’ I’d have thought you were speaking French. But after a course in textiles, I know enough.”
While he admits that the future is indeterminate, it’s clear he has finally settled on a career far more satisfying than medicine, banking, and business.
“I got sidetracked for a few years but always wanted to do what I’m doing now,” he said, “which is branding, marketing, creating a world that you step into. And I don’t feel as if I’m working. From the first day at Parsons, I’ve been learning.”