Polyvore CEO: To succeed, write ‘good, clean code’

November 20, 2013, 3:43 PM UTC

FORTUNE—Jess Lee, the 31-year-old CEO and co-founder of fashion discovery site Polyvore, is party natty, part nerd: she has a Bachelors of Science in computer science from Stanford University, is a former product manager at Google, and runs a website that helps people discover and shop for fashion, beauty, and home décor products through magazine-like displays. After she attended the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, we asked Lee 10 questions about work and play.

1. What business or technology person do you admire most? Why?

Jeff Bezos for his ability to innovate. Amazon has been continuously disrupting other industries for almost 20 years.

Also, Google. When I worked there, I learned a lot about how to build a great culture that attracts smart people and empowers them to make an impact.

2. What technology sector excites you most?

Social commerce! I’m really excited to unlock the potential of Polyvore’s taste graph to help people discover and shop for things they love. The only way to get taste data is through a social community of tastemakers, which Polyvore has.

3. What would you do if you weren’t working at your current job?

Draw a graphic novel! But it probably wouldn’t be very successful, so I’m glad I have my day job at Polyvore.

4. What is your greatest achievement?

Helping to build a company that has passionate users, a talented team, and is profitable. We still have a long way to go, but I also realize many companies never make it this far.

5. What is one characteristic that every leader should possess?

Tenacity. Nothing worth doing is easy.

6. What do you do to live a balanced life?

By being disciplined about doing a few things well. Work can take over your life if you try to do too many things at once. It’s better to say no to some things and focus on excelling at the things that truly matter.

7. What was the last book you read?

Attack on Titan [by Hajime Isayama]. It’s a manga about a post-apocalyptic world filled with man-eating giants.

8. What was the most important thing you learned in school?

How to write code. My group programming projects at Stanford not only taught me the importance of writing good, clean code that others can read/maintain, but also the thrill of shipping a product after many long nights of hard work.

9. What was your first job?

I sold anime-style commissioned artwork on eBay. Someone once paid me $75 to draw a picture of them in the arms of their favorite character from the manga Ranma 1/2. That was fun!

10. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Telekinesis. At the atomic level, you could manipulate cells and heal people. At a larger scale, you could levitate yourself and fly.

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