Miriam Vales is the Interim Chief Executive Officer of Baccarat Inc. In her role, she oversees all aspects of Baccarat’s North American business operations. With more than 28 years of professional experience within various industries, Vales began her career in finance and accounting with Elf Lubricants North America (now Total SE), and has subsequently held positions at LP music group, Kirker Enterprises, and Michael Kors, Inc.
We spoke with the female boss to learn more about her role with Baccarat, what an average day is like, and the obstacles she's faced—and overcome—in her professional career.
EBONY: As Interim CEO of Baccarat, what does an average day look like?
Miriam Vales: The days vary, but they’re always busy. We have two corporate offices in the US—one in New York and one in New Jersey—so I split my time between the two. Since I’ve become Interim CEO, I’ve encouraged Baccarat’s employees to take advantage of our work from home policy—I believe it’s better for mental health and productivity to have a hybrid work environment. I try to follow my own advice by working from my home in New Jersey a day or two per week as well.
One of the more exciting parts of my job is that I get to attend the many events Baccarat takes part in. Baccarat strives for excellence and only partners with the best, so the brands we work with reflect this ethos. I recently traveled to Miami for the Pegasus World Cup, where I presented a gorgeous Baccarat trophy in the winner’s circle. We will also take part in upcoming events in Palm Desert for the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, Connecticut for an upcoming product launch, and of course, the annual EBONY Power 100 in Los Angeles.
Briefly walk us through your journey of landing at the French luxury brand.
The great thing about finance—the world I come from—is that your skills can translate to just about any industry. I seem to have gravitated towards French brands (I grew up speaking French and English with my family). I started out as a general accountant, and over the years elevated myself to CFO, and am currently interim CEO of Baccarat North America.
I never thought I’d end up at a French luxury brand, but the roles I’ve had over the years have had one thing in common—they’re brands I love. My experience with Baccarat has been so positive, not only because of the brand, but the people, both in the U.S. and other markets around the globe.
As a Black woman exec, what obstacles have you faced and overcome over the years?
I try not to focus too much on the obstacles I’ve faced, but rather learn from a given scenario and try to affect a positive outcome in the future. When I talk to Black women I know, what I hear tends to be similar, and reflects my own experience. They encounter microaggressions, they can feel invisible in the workplace, they’re often second-guessed on their decisions, despite their obvious expertise.
I’m the type of person who doesn’t dwell on those things. Or, maybe I have gotten used to it. I’ve just focused on doing what I’m good at, and I think that’s gotten me where I am today.
Outside of your career, what are you passionate about? What do you enjoy?
I love the arts, and I love reading. Being a numbers person, I’m drawn to the creative brain and the beautiful things it can create. I think it’s amazing. The way a creative person with a completely different skill set than my own can produce something so awe-inspiring. That is in part why I joined the South Orange Performing Art Center (SOPAC) as a board member.
My late sister, Carline Vales, was so creative. An architect and structural engineer by trade, she used to paint, play the guitar, and she made jewelry—she was always designing. She instilled the love of art in my daughter, Isabelle, whom she’d take to art classes with her. For me, being around her art is proof that she’s still with us. Art can do that in a way nothing else can.
What advice (or lessons learned) can you share for other Black women looking to one day land executive positions for international brands?
Know your strengths, and your flaws. Always be your authentic self. Don’t pretend you’re something you aren’t, because it will catch up with you. Have a sense of what you bring to the table, and know that you’re in the room because you’re supposed to be there.