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If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
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If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science

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Nobody ever taught me how to plan out my career, so I thought about all the things I would want to tell my younger self based on reverse engineering my good career decisions. …

Nobody ever taught me how to plan out my career, so I thought about all the things I would want to tell my younger self based on reverse engineering my good career decisions.

This is the talk I gave to a bunch of Stanford CS majors at Stanford eCSplore on May 10, 2014. The event was hosted by Stanford Women in Computer Science.

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  • 1. CONFIDENTIAL If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science JESS LEE, POLYVORE CEO @ ECSPLORE
  • 2. CONFIDENTIAL Hi! I’m Jess Lee POLYVORE CEO STANFORD CS 2004 jessyoko.com @jesskah
  • 3. CONFIDENTIAL Grew up in Hong Kong •  EXCELLED IN MATH •  LOVED ART 3
  • 4. CONFIDENTIAL Studied CS at Stanford •  WHOA EVERYONE SO SMART •  LOVED PROGRAMMING 4
  • 5. CONFIDENTIAL Joined Google’s APM Program •  DERAILED MY PLANS TO BE AN ENGINEER •  AMAZING LEARNING EXPERIENCE 5
  • 6. CONFIDENTIAL GO WHERE YOU’LL GROW & LEARN THE MOST Always take the more challenging path
  • 7. CONFIDENTIAL Learned a Ton at Google •  PM OF GOOGLE MAPS •  HOW TO BUILD PRODUCTS •  HOW TO LEAD TEAMS •  HOW TO BUILD CULTURE 7
  • 8. CONFIDENTIAL One Day Polyvore Caught My Eye… •  GOT ADDICTED TO IT 8
  • 9. CONFIDENTIAL I Sent a Note To the Founders •  FIX THIS PLEASE 9 Hi Pasha, Nice to meet you!  :-) I just wanted to tell you that I love Polyvore!  It's fun to use, completely addictive, and there's a pretty healthy community of users on it. I haven't been this excited about anything on the web since maybe YouTube. I honestly think Polyvore could be the next Flickr. Could you add a lightweight way of bookmarking items for future use? I want image rotation.  Just 90-degree increments would be enough. < lots more suggestions > Anyways, Polyvore really rocks and I think you've hit a goldmine. Jess
  • 10. CONFIDENTIAL They hired me! •  FIRST HIRE •  STARTED AS A PM 10 Hi Jess, This may seem a bit out of the blue...  but I was wondering if you might be interested in joining Polyvore. We are very close to completing our first round of funding (Benchmark Capital) which enables us to expand the team, etc... I immediately thought of you as one of the people I'd like to contact. What do you think? Pasha
  • 11. CONFIDENTIAL Impress your interviewers with your knowledge of their product!
  • 12. CONFIDENTIAL
  • 13. CONFIDENTIAL
  • 14. CONFIDENTIAL Polyvore Today •  90 PEOPLE IN MV & NYC •  20 MILLION USERS PER MONTH •  PROFITABLE •  PM à VP PRODUCT à CEO •  HONORARY COFOUNDER 1414
  • 15. CONFIDENTIAL VOLUNTEER TO DO THE HARD, ANNOYING THINGS Find ways to make an impact
  • 16. CONFIDENTIAL Career Planning 16 1. ROLE 2. COMPANY 3. CULTURE
  • 17. CONFIDENTIAL Career Planning 17 1. ROLE 2. COMPANY 3. CULTURE
  • 18. CONFIDENTIAL Career Decision Tree ENGINEERING PRODUCT MANAGEMENT Technical Manager Individual Contributor Manager USER EXPERIENCE Design Research
  • 19. CONFIDENTIAL 2 Engineering Tracks 19 TECHNICAL Associate Software Engineer Software Engineer Senior Software Engineer Staff Software Engineer Principal Engineer Distinguished Engineer Moving to management is not a “promotion” You can be a leader without being a manager MANAGEMENT Engineering Manager Senior Engineering Manager Eng Director
  • 20. CONFIDENTIAL Technical Ladder 20 Complexity & Scope Knowledge & Experience Business Impact Leadership & Influence Associate Software Engineer Software Engineer Senior Software Engineer Staff Software Engineer Principal Engineer Distinguished Engineer
  • 21. CONFIDENTIAL 2 Product Management Tracks 21 INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTOR Associate Product Manager Product Manager Senior Product Manager Group Product Manager Principle Product Manager MANAGER Group Product Manager Director of Product
  • 22. CONFIDENTIAL How PMs Grow 22 Product Strategy • Vision • What and Why • User Empathy • Market Research • Analytics Leadership & Influence • Influence • Communication • Collaboration • Coordination Business Impact • Business goals • Customer Love • User Growth • Revenue Growth • ROI Knowledge & Experience • PM Skills Toolbox • Continuous improvement • Perspective
  • 23. CONFIDENTIAL IT’S EASIER TO GO FROM ENG à PM THAN TO GO FROM PM à ENG If you’re not sure, start in Eng
  • 24. CONFIDENTIAL Career Planning 24 1. ROLE 2. COMPANY 3. CULTURE
  • 25. CONFIDENTIAL I learn through mentorship & training I want the potential of high reward I learn by being forced to do it myself Big Company Small Startup I don’t mind changing goals and ambiguityI prefer clear goals and projects I want a predictable, high salary
  • 26. CONFIDENTIAL What Can I Learn? BUILD T SHAPED KNOWLEDGE 2626 Web Dev Mobile Dev Big Data Cloud Platforms Machine Learning General Understanding Deep Technical Expertise
  • 27. CONFIDENTIAL THAT UNCOMFORTABLE FEELING IS CALLED LEARNING Make sure you’re always slightly nauseous
  • 28. CONFIDENTIAL Career Planning 28 1. ROLE 2. COMPANY 3. CULTURE
  • 29. CONFIDENTIAL Culture is Guiding Principles •  NOT PING PONG TABLES
  • 30. CONFIDENTIAL Culture Comes from the Top •  EXTENSION OF THE BELIEFS & PERSONALITIES OF THE LEADERSHIP
  • 31. CONFIDENTIAL Meritocracy is What Makes Companies Female Friendly •  FAIR PLAYING FIELD •  LOOK FOR GOOD ROLE MODELS 31
  • 32. CONFIDENTIAL WORK IS YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME Culture Fit Matters A Lot
  • 33. CONFIDENTIAL Should You Start Your Own Company? •  ECSTASY AND TERROR •  99.9% FAILURE RATE •  100% GUARANTEE YOU’LL LEARN AND GROW A LOT
  • 34. CONFIDENTIAL Learn How to Build a Company •  LOOK FOR TRANSPARENCY •  LEARN THE NON-ENG SKILLS TOO
  • 35. CONFIDENTIAL TALENTED PEOPLE WHO YOU CAN LEARN FROM PEOPLE YOU ENJOY BEING WITH EVERY DAY Surround yourself with great people
  • 36. CONFIDENTIAL Thanks! Questions? @jesskah polyvore.com/jobs

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