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Six Pieces of Career Advice Bay Area Women Should Remember

Between Google and Polyvore, Jess Lee has learned how to succeed in Silicon Valley

Photo: Sierra Lerer
Photo: Sierra Lerer

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We learned plenty of interesting tidbits about Polyvore last night from SF FashTech's Behind the Curtain chat, but the highlights of the night were 33-year-old CEO Jess Lee's pearls of career wisdom. Below, our six favorite snippets from her talk.

You don't need a formal mentor
I found people who I thought were really good, and stood by them, watched them, and tried to learn from them. I would encourage everyone to do that.

You just have to go for it. What do you have to lose?
"I met [current Polyvore CFO Cheryl Dalrymple] and thought, 'Wow, this woman's amazing.' We didn't even have a role open that made sense for her, but I said, 'Please, just work with me. Consult with us for three months.' So she did. And then I somehow managed to convince her to join us full-time by stalking her. When our three months were almost up, I knew she was going on vacation to Hawaii, so I figured out which hotel she was staying at and I sent her a huge bouquet of flowers and a handwritten note. I guess that kinda pushed her over the edge."

You don't have to be great at everything
The company philosophy is do a few things well. That's my personal philosophy as well. I just pick and choose parts of my life that I want to be great at, and then I'm okay with the other stuff being not that great. As much as I would love to be an amazing cook or make my house look amazing, my house looks like crap. I never cook. My mattress was on the floor for four years. I just said, 'I'm okay with this stuff not being perfect.'"

Her best piece of career advice
"Always take the more challenging route. Marissa Mayer told me that in my first interview. Always try to do the thing that makes you a little bit uncomfortable. That was good advice."

Things to avoid at work
"Office politics are a waste of time. Dealing with people with drama or causing drama is a total waste of time."

On encouraging a new generation of female leaders
"It actually starts very young. Young girls often feel like, 'I can't be a CEO. I can't be a leader.' I think it's really important to set more examples; have them see more people like Marissa Mayer or Sheryl Sandberg, and know that it's possible. It's better to work with girls who are still elementary school or middle school and change that pre-conceived notion."