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5 Career Questions With Polyvore CEO Jess Lee

July 11, 2014
Glamour
by Jane Buckingham

Ever look at women in "power jobs," running companies, changing the face of business, or starting their own and seriously consider emailing them to ask how they got there? And how the heck YOU can get there too? Yes, well, me too—so I did! And I'm sharing their awesome answers with you every month, right here on Glamour.com. Learn their career secrets and get advice from some of today's most successful women. It's like having your own private networking lunch, minus all the time, money, and excess bread-basket calories. This month, we talked about everything from impressing the boss to finding happiness at work with Polyvore's Jess Lee.

I'll admit it. My life became a little more complete when fashion social-media site Polyvore made shopping its chic user-generated style collages even easier. If you haven't spent your lunch hour putting together outfits on Polyvore or gawking at the boards others have created, give it a try (but don't blame me if you get sucked into an addictive fashion vortex of style inspiration and shopping). Jess Lee is one of the reasons Polyvore is as addictive as it is. After getting her degree in computer science and working for Google, she helped cofound and is currently CEO of Polyvore. Here, some of her best career tips and advice to inspire your inner entrepreneur.

My first big break:
My first big break was getting accepted into the Associate Product Manager program at Google. I was a 21-year-old, fresh-out-of-school computer-science grad, yet Google expected me to own a product used by millions of people and lead teams of people way more experienced than I was [Lee worked on Google Maps]. The whole time I was thinking, Wow, I can't believe they're letting me do this. I must prove myself worthy. I learned a ton and will always be grateful to Google for that opportunity.

One little secret to success:
Tenacity and treating people well. Start-ups are incredibly hard. Tenacity is important because it takes an irrational amount of faith and grit to make it through all the bumps in the road. Treating people right is important because it takes a team, and nobody wants to work with a jerk.

I'd never hire a job applicant who:
I'd never hire someone who is not a team player. Great companies are built by great people working together. That one brilliant jerk is never worth it.

The worst (or best) advice someone ever gave me was:
Best advice: My first boss, Marissa Mayer, told me to always follow the more challenging path and to go where you can learn and grow the most.

Worst advice: Follow the money and plan your career around getting paid the most. Money is not the ultimate happiness-maker.

How did you rise so quickly at Polyvore?
I was proactive about finding ways to make myself useful, beyond my given role. That included picking up tasks that were hard or annoying or that no one else had time for. For example, figuring out how to sell ads (hard), picking up the "boring" programming tasks (annoying), or finding our first office space (no one else had time to do it). After a while, Polyvore's three cofounders felt like I had taken on a founder-level amount of work, so they decided to recognize me as an honorary cofounder. That gesture meant a lot to me and also says a lot about the generosity of our founding DNA.

5 Career Questions With Polyvore CEO Jess Lee

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