Polyvore CEO Jess Lee Reveals the Surprising Ritual She Does Each Morning

In honor of our co-founders Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s new book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made ($13), we’re kicking off an interview series featuring 17 questions (to parallel the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of inspirational female leaders who are at the top of their fields. We last spoke with Chelsea Neman, founder of Tapan Collective. This week, another trailblazer is sharing her secrets to success—meet Jess Lee, CEO of online creative community, Polyvore. 


In 2008, an enthusiastic, self-proclaimed “tech geek” named Jess Lee was on a career trajectory that her peers could only dream of. At only 24 years old, Lee had graduated from Stanford University with a BS in Computer Science, was proving her prowess as a leading product manager for Google, and counted Marissa Mayer as a close mentor. Yet something wasn’t right.

Each day, Lee led the charge developing My Maps at Google, and at night would spend hours on a then little-known website called Polyvore. It didn’t take long for her to become a super user, crafting hundreds of virtual “sets” of shoppable products using the site’s simple editing tools. It was artistic, tech-savvy, and fashion-focused—everything she loved. 

So how did a passionate fan go from being a user to CEO? It took one simple email. On a whim, Lee decided to contact Polyvore founder Pasha Sadri with unsolicited, honest feedback. The email was blunt, critical, and opened with a smiley-face emoji—not exactly what you’d expect to impress the founder of the site. But it did. Sadri invited Lee to meet in person and asked her to join the company as its first employee.

Fast-forward to 2016, and things have rapidly changed. Lee is now “honorary co-founder” and CEO of Polyvore, the digital world’s largest community of tastemakers. More than 3 million sets are created each month, with hoards of users using it to curate mood boards, shop products, and express their fashion, beauty, and home décor styles. Lee oversees a growing team at Yahoo! HQ in Silicon Valley, thanks to a fortuitous sale to now-mentor and CEO Marissa Mayer in 2015.

Here, the fierce boss opens up about the qualities she looks for in employees, shares the surprisingly simple uniform she wears each day, and reveals her unexpected morning routine. Take note—this is what it takes to score your dream job, from someone who knows.

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