Career Code: The Top 5 Qualities You Need to Get Hired
In honor of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s upcoming book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($17), we’re kicking off an interview series featuring 17 questions (to echo the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of inspirational female leaders who are at the top of their fields.
Beginning with an industry that’s close to MyDomaine’s heart, if the design world had a superwoman, Serena Dugan would be it. The co-founder and chief design officer of popular home goods brand Serena & Lily is a true creative who has turned her passion into a booming business. For Dugan, art truly does imitate life. Drawing on her artistic background as a freelance decorative painter she creates unique, handmade textiles, and patterned décor we all want to have in our homes. It’s why Dugan makes the perfect candidate to kick off our series. With a cult following of over 85,000 Instagram fans, we’re clearly not the only ones obsessed with her signature style.
In 2003, the mother of two co-founded Serena & Lily with former IBM executive Lily Kanter and successfully bridged the gap between art and technology, by selling handmade textiles and home goods online. Dugan’s inspiring creative vision runs through the entire Serena & Lily range, from her hand-block-printed fabric by the yard to the brand’s original collection of furniture, patterned throw pillows, rugs, and lighting. She designs and oversees everything with her in-house team. Naturally, Dugan’s work has been featured in all the major design glossies including Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, InStyle, and more.
We’re beyond thrilled that this self-made pioneer agreed to be our debut profile subject. There is so much we can learn from this design powerhouse, so keep scrolling to discover her best career advice.
“I direct the creative vision for the Serena & Lily brand and design the prints that feed that vision. This process is in constant flux as the company and product line grows. My role is to know who we are as a brand, who we’re not, and supply the DNA that keeps us differentiated.”
“That I’m still designing patterns myself. At this stage in most companies, my role should become more of a managerial one, but I love to design, and our brand has a unique fingerprint because of that. So I find a way to keep doing it in the midst of all the rest, and I’m supported in that mission.”
“Sonia Delaunay. She was a true artist-designer self-propelled by vision and integrity. She managed to merge her artistic vision with commerce in a way that felt natural and authentic. That’s rare, to say the least.”
“I regret not documenting and cataloging my art and decorative painting work better. As an independent designer, my hands were in so many things, and I was always looking forward. Now I regret that it isn’t easier to look back. There’s some good work that I wish I had reference to but don’t.”
“Enthusiasm, self-confidence, drive, personal style, and curiosity.”
“My grandmother’s tiger’s-eye Mayan necklace—I’m convinced it has special powers.”
“If I had one, I’d ask! Assistants in the past always progress to bigger roles, I’m happy to say. My assistants are now artists and designers. Chances are they would have described me as ‘pulled in many directions, but decisive, disorganized, yet somehow capable.’”
“I get out of the studio and office and go see something I’ve never seen before. There’s always inspiration in originality.”
“Through open communication, mutual consent, and two-way support.”
“Amazingly enough, we have a little amazing French café called Le Garage steps from my studio. It sits on the water in the boat marina where we work. It’s great to step out and eat at, or I can go order and they’ll bring a proper lunch to our studio as though we’re one of the tables. If I really want a treat, I love Sushi Ran, also up the street in Sausalito. That’s a daytime treat! I actually never make lunch. We’re surrounded by so many fresh and great options making lunch is never worth the effort.”
“Not offering their perspective and opinions. It’s hard to grow and rise professionally when you don’t project your instinct strongly.”
“Morning: Sitting quietly with a coffee before my kids get up. Thinking about what I’m appreciative of from the day before and setting my intention for the day I’m about to embark on. My day can contain so much that it helps to chart my course daily.
“Evening: This seems to be a little wilder and less directed, so I lean heavily on my morning for establishing some presence and direction.”
“Do what you love, and success will follow.”
“Our Westport, Connecticut, store opening in April. I’m working on a batch of paintings that will be sprinkled throughout the store, which is a historic Queen Anne Victorian mansion. It’s a dream project.’
Inspired yet? Preorder The Career Code below and transform your work life.
If you could ask Serena Dugan one question, what would it be? Let us know in the comments below, and then shop Serena & Lily’s new arrivals.