Own Your Career
Determination propelled industry leaders to the top
It’s lights, cameras and non-stop action for two Cal U grads with top-tier careers in the filmmaking and fashion industries.
Kimberly Krause Snyder ’84 is president and chief executive officer of Panavision Inc., which provides camera systems and equipment for the motion picture industry.
Christopher Buffington ’07 is the worldwide merchandising director for Salvatore Ferragamo, an Italian luxury goods company with headquarters in Florence.
Both are highly successful, positive, high-energy innovators in two industries that seem to evolve daily in reaction to changing technologies and consumer behaviors.
“From the moment a company like Netflix or Disney greenlights a production to the final cut, Panavision provides equipment and services all along that chain,” says Snyder, of Agoura Hills, Calif.
She majored in management and computer science at Cal U before earning her MBA at the University of Rochester. Snyder is the first female CEO at Panavision, which has more than 60 locations around the world, and she’s a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the American Society of Cinematographers.
“People often ask me what it’s like being a woman CEO, especially in what is, sadly, still a male-dominated industry,” she says.
“As I reflect back on my career, I was often the only woman in a meeting. But in those moments, and even today, I don’t let it be a limiter. I strongly believe one has to move through those kinds of roadblocks and let one’s actions and contributions speak for themselves.”
Her mantra — head down, surge forward, get it done — is shared by Buffington. Nothing comes easy, he says, and he almost prefers it that way, relying on the lessons learned from a hard-knocks upbringing in Pittsburgh, Pa., to keep himself grounded.
“I didn’t get my first break for four years after I graduated, but it didn’t discourage me,” he says. “The game outside of college is tough and competitive, and I think my background prepared me for that.
“You have to learn to manage your time and surround yourself with a great team, because none of this can be done by yourself.”
With an obvious work ethic that has withstood the occasional setback, both Snyder and Buffington pushed for more of the things that would help to ensure success.
“Right after graduation from Cal U, I started my career at Eastman Kodak as a software developer,” Snyder says.
“During my time there, I had the opportunity to work in a variety of roles. I found that the recipe to successfully taking the next big career step included three things: delivering on your current job, networking with the right decision makers and strongly advocating for yourself.”
This recipe eventually led Snyder to being promoted to president of Kodak’s Entertainment Division. In 2012, she joined Panavision as its CEO.
“It’s all about being flexible and being able to adapt,” Snyder advises. “Don’t be intimidated. Own your career and navigate it with confidence.”
It has been an arrow-up career trajectory for Buffington, too.
His first opportunity came as an assistant buyer, based in Dallas, Texas, for Neiman Marcus, where he learned to manage inventory and buy products for 42 U.S. stores.
“There were 15,000 applicants, then three groups of 100 people to be interviewed, then it was down to 39 people who were hired,” he says.
“I was 26 years old, and I think that experience has motivated me ever since, because I knew the reality. It took me a long time to get there, from opening boxes at a retail store at Ross Park Mall.”
Next Buffington accepted a position with shoe-famous Jimmy Choo, in New York City, that led to a job as a buyer for Bergdorf Goodman.
“It’s probably the No. 1 single store in the world,” he says of the legendary department store frequented by the famous. “People claim Harrods (in London) is close, but they are quite different operations. It was truly the most incredible opportunity.”
Those resume items led to his being recruited for his position at Salvatore Ferragamo. There, as he puts it, “job pressure is an understatement, but you cannot let it affect your vision.”
“I’m responsible for putting the right product in the right place at the right time at the right price,” Buffington says.
“In September, I had fall product on the floor in hundreds of stores globally, I had already sold-in product that was delivering for winter, and I was finalizing what would be shown in November when all the markets come to buy product that delivers in May. Three different collections are on my mind at all times.
“I try to take on responsibilities that are bigger than what I do currently, and then I figure out how to swim. There’s a certain level of feeling uncomfortable that makes people perform at a higher level.”
Cal U has played a part in who both Snyder and Buffington are today — professionally, but also personally.
Snyder met her husband, Jim ’85, a senior vice president for Citibank, when she was a student. Buffington met his wife, Eftihia ’08, a photographer, at Cal U as well.
“My experience at Cal U prepared me for the real world,” says Snyder, who earned the 2017 Meritorious Award from the Cal U Alumni Association.
“From great collaboration with my peers to interacting with University leaders through Student Government, my time at the University proved to be invaluable as I entered the business world.”
Cal U is a family affair for her, as well.
“My three brothers — Richard ’86, John ’90 and Jeff ’90 Krause — are all grads; I still have family in the area. California is very dear to my family.”
Buffington has a message for today’s college students:
“Talk is cheap. No matter which path you decide to go, discussions may start your motivation, but action is more important because it turns words into reality.
“This viewpoint will hold your dreams accountable and push you to execute your ideas with fewer excuses and more results.”
By Wendy Mackall, assistant communications director at Cal U