Yen D. Chu ’97
Yen D. Chu ’97 readily admits that she felt a bit out of place during her first days as corporate and global compliance counsel for the luxury fashion brand Ralph Lauren.
“I’m sure everyone looked at me thinking, ‘Ugh, the suit is here,’” Chu recalls, adding that she quickly modified her standard corporate business attire with more fashionable options. “When you work for a company like this, you have to really understand your business,” she explains. “You have to adjust and work to build credibility.”
Fortunately, Chu, a native of Vietnam, is no stranger to adapting, even in the toughest of situations. At the end of the Vietnam War, she and her family fled their homeland by boat, floating at sea for days before being rescued by the Philippine Coast Guard. A young girl at the time, Chu sought refuge with her mother and father through a church in Minnesota and eventually settled there. The experience, she says, has always motivated her to overcome obstacles and learn from each challenge.
Now, 38 years after leaving Vietnam, Chu says she regularly calls on these abilities in her work as an in-house counsel at Ralph Lauren. Not only does she manage the company’s governance and compliance—including federal securities regulations, anti-bribery, and international trade—she also provides advice to its senior management (including Ralph Lauren himself) and its board of directors. Chu also advises the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation, a private nonprofit organization.
“You are expected to connect the dots and understand the different pieces of the company,” Chu says. “You live with [the brand] from day to day, and as the company evolves and the law evolves, you have to keep both on a parallel track.”