CONFIDENTIAL
If I Could Go Back in Time, Here’s What I Would
Tell Myself about Careers in Computer Science
JESS LEE, POLYV...
CONFIDENTIAL
Hi! I’m
Jess Lee
POLYVORE CEO
STANFORD CS 2004
jessyoko.com
@jesskah
CONFIDENTIAL
Grew up in
Hong Kong
•  EXCELLED IN MATH
•  LOVED ART
3
CONFIDENTIAL
Studied CS
at Stanford
•  WHOA EVERYONE SO SMART
•  LOVED PROGRAMMING
4
CONFIDENTIAL
Joined
Google’s
APM Program
•  DERAILED MY PLANS
TO BE AN ENGINEER
•  AMAZING LEARNING
EXPERIENCE
5
CONFIDENTIAL
GO WHERE YOU’LL GROW & LEARN THE MOST
Always take the more challenging path
CONFIDENTIAL
Learned a
Ton at Google
•  PM OF GOOGLE MAPS
•  HOW TO BUILD PRODUCTS
•  HOW TO LEAD TEAMS
•  HOW TO BUILD CU...
CONFIDENTIAL
One Day
Polyvore
Caught My
Eye…
•  GOT ADDICTED TO IT
8
CONFIDENTIAL
I Sent a Note
To the Founders
•  FIX THIS PLEASE
9
Hi Pasha,
Nice to meet you!  :-) I just wanted to tell you...
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...
CONFIDENTIAL
Impress your interviewers with your
knowledge of their product!
CONFIDENTIAL
CONFIDENTIAL
CONFIDENTIAL
Polyvore Today
•  90 PEOPLE IN MV & NYC
•  20 MILLION USERS PER MONTH
•  PROFITABLE
•  PM à VP PRODUCT à CE...
CONFIDENTIAL
VOLUNTEER TO DO THE HARD, ANNOYING THINGS
Find ways to make an impact
CONFIDENTIAL
Career Planning
16
1. ROLE
2. COMPANY
3. CULTURE
CONFIDENTIAL
Career Planning
17
1. ROLE
2. COMPANY
3. CULTURE
CONFIDENTIAL
Career Decision Tree
ENGINEERING
PRODUCT
MANAGEMENT
Technical Manager
Individual
Contributor
Manager
USER
EXP...
CONFIDENTIAL
2 Engineering Tracks
19
TECHNICAL
Associate Software Engineer
Software Engineer
Senior Software Engineer
Staff...
CONFIDENTIAL
Technical Ladder
20
Complexity
& Scope
Knowledge
& Experience
Business
Impact
Leadership &
Influence
Associate...
CONFIDENTIAL
2 Product Management Tracks
21
INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTOR
Associate Product Manager
Product Manager
Senior Produc...
CONFIDENTIAL
How PMs Grow
22
Product
Strategy
• Vision
• What and Why
• User Empathy
• Market
Research
• Analytics
Leaders...
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
CONFIDENTIAL
Career Planning
24
1. ROLE
2. COMPANY
3. CULTURE
CONFIDENTIAL
I learn through mentorship & training
I want the potential of high reward
I learn by being forced to do it my...
CONFIDENTIAL
What Can I Learn?
BUILD T SHAPED KNOWLEDGE
2626
Web
Dev
Mobile
Dev
Big
Data
Cloud
Platforms
Machine
Learning
...
CONFIDENTIAL
THAT UNCOMFORTABLE FEELING IS CALLED LEARNING
Make sure you’re always slightly nauseous
CONFIDENTIAL
Career Planning
28
1. ROLE
2. COMPANY
3. CULTURE
CONFIDENTIAL
Culture is
Guiding
Principles
•  NOT PING PONG TABLES
CONFIDENTIAL
Culture Comes
from the Top
•  EXTENSION OF THE
BELIEFS & PERSONALITIES
OF THE LEADERSHIP
CONFIDENTIAL
Meritocracy is
What Makes
Companies
Female Friendly
•  FAIR PLAYING FIELD
•  LOOK FOR GOOD ROLE MODELS
31
CONFIDENTIAL
WORK IS YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Culture Fit Matters A Lot
CONFIDENTIAL
Should You
Start Your
Own Company?
•  ECSTASY AND TERROR
•  99.9% FAILURE RATE
•  100% GUARANTEE YOU’LL
LEARN...
CONFIDENTIAL
Learn How to
Build a Company
•  LOOK FOR TRANSPARENCY
•  LEARN THE NON-ENG SKILLS TOO
CONFIDENTIAL
TALENTED PEOPLE WHO YOU CAN LEARN FROM
PEOPLE YOU ENJOY BEING WITH EVERY DAY
Surround yourself with great peo...
CONFIDENTIAL
Thanks! Questions?
@jesskah
polyvore.com/jobs
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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.

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

  1. 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. 2. CONFIDENTIAL Hi! I’m Jess Lee POLYVORE CEO STANFORD CS 2004 jessyoko.com @jesskah
  3. 3. CONFIDENTIAL Grew up in Hong Kong •  EXCELLED IN MATH •  LOVED ART 3
  4. 4. CONFIDENTIAL Studied CS at Stanford •  WHOA EVERYONE SO SMART •  LOVED PROGRAMMING 4
  5. 5. CONFIDENTIAL Joined Google’s APM Program •  DERAILED MY PLANS TO BE AN ENGINEER •  AMAZING LEARNING EXPERIENCE 5
  6. 6. CONFIDENTIAL GO WHERE YOU’LL GROW & LEARN THE MOST Always take the more challenging path
  7. 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. 8. CONFIDENTIAL One Day Polyvore Caught My Eye… •  GOT ADDICTED TO IT 8
  9. 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. 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. 11. CONFIDENTIAL Impress your interviewers with your knowledge of their product!
  12. 12. CONFIDENTIAL
  13. 13. CONFIDENTIAL
  14. 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. 15. CONFIDENTIAL VOLUNTEER TO DO THE HARD, ANNOYING THINGS Find ways to make an impact
  16. 16. CONFIDENTIAL Career Planning 16 1. ROLE 2. COMPANY 3. CULTURE
  17. 17. CONFIDENTIAL Career Planning 17 1. ROLE 2. COMPANY 3. CULTURE
  18. 18. CONFIDENTIAL Career Decision Tree ENGINEERING PRODUCT MANAGEMENT Technical Manager Individual Contributor Manager USER EXPERIENCE Design Research
  19. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 24. CONFIDENTIAL Career Planning 24 1. ROLE 2. COMPANY 3. CULTURE
  25. 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. 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. 27. CONFIDENTIAL THAT UNCOMFORTABLE FEELING IS CALLED LEARNING Make sure you’re always slightly nauseous
  28. 28. CONFIDENTIAL Career Planning 28 1. ROLE 2. COMPANY 3. CULTURE
  29. 29. CONFIDENTIAL Culture is Guiding Principles •  NOT PING PONG TABLES
  30. 30. CONFIDENTIAL Culture Comes from the Top •  EXTENSION OF THE BELIEFS & PERSONALITIES OF THE LEADERSHIP
  31. 31. CONFIDENTIAL Meritocracy is What Makes Companies Female Friendly •  FAIR PLAYING FIELD •  LOOK FOR GOOD ROLE MODELS 31
  32. 32. CONFIDENTIAL WORK IS YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME Culture Fit Matters A Lot
  33. 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. 34. CONFIDENTIAL Learn How to Build a Company •  LOOK FOR TRANSPARENCY •  LEARN THE NON-ENG SKILLS TOO
  35. 35. CONFIDENTIAL TALENTED PEOPLE WHO YOU CAN LEARN FROM PEOPLE YOU ENJOY BEING WITH EVERY DAY Surround yourself with great people
  36. 36. CONFIDENTIAL Thanks! Questions? @jesskah polyvore.com/jobs

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