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Between e-commerce, blogs, apps, and the vast world of social media, fashion is as much about technology these days as it is about style. In a new series, we sit down with some of the many women who are killing it in the fashion-tech industry and find out how they're kicking ass in their careers. Their worst mistakes, their best advice... it's all here. This is Ladies Who Launch.
Photo by Jesse Fiorino
Technically, Alisa Gould-Simon goes by the title of Co-Founder and VP of Partnerships and Creative Direction at Pose—but what that really means is that she's in charge of getting people to care about the company. And she's doing a pretty damn good job. Pose, a photo-sharing app that let's users snap a pic of their outfit and get feedback from other community members, has grown to more than 1.5 million registered users since it launched in 2011, and continues to roll out new features, such as a weather-forecasting widget that launched just this week. Here's her advice on networking, negotiating, and, yes, leaning in.
Do you consider yourself a fashion girl or a tech girl?
I consider myself both actually. There are a lot of people in the fashion community who aren't as comfortable with technology. And in the technology world, it's the same—there are people who just aren't as exposed to the nuances and intricacies of the fashion world. So I think it depends on the environment.
How has the fashion-tech industry changed since you started at Pose?
Dramatically. What's been interesting to see is that when we first started going out talking about mobile and apps and time spent on mobile devices, not many people in the fashion community really understood apps and why mobile was important. So much has changed and so much education around mobile has transpired. That's been amazing for us, because it now allows us to go from a point of having to educate into just being a part of the conversation.
We were kind of early, and in some cases, almost too early. In startup terms I always say too early is as good as dead. We kind of suffered through a lot of people not understanding why we were doing what we were doing. Now what's really exciting is that the most literal place that we can see this is when we talk to brands and retailers from an advertising perspective. The people controlling the budgets now know more than ever that they need to be looking at mobile, they need to be spending time and budget on mobile. That transition has been really interesting to watch because it's a whole paradigm shift in the industry in terms of what they think is valuable.
In your opinion, how important is networking to getting ahead in your career?
Networking is always super important. The older you get, the more you realize that your contacts—be it from school, friends, or work experiences—those contacts can really open so many doors for you. It's like dating in a way, where if someone recommends someone to you as a potential hire, you're going to take it a lot more seriously if it comes from a friend. It's hard to weed through and find good people, so you trust your sources. And fashion tech is such an incredibly small world still.
What's the worst business mistake you ever made?
Not knowing how to negotiate. I've been fortunate enough to have a lot of opportunities to be forced to negotiate because I've jumped around a lot. I've realized in the last few years that so many women do not feel confident and comfortable identifying what their market value is, understanding their worth, and asking for it. I've seen this in my own experience. I've seen it with other women that I work with and their experience. It's something that as a female, unless you go to business school, you don't get exposure to.
Are there resources out there that can help women learn?
When I was negotiating the last time, I remember there happened to be an article in Inc. magazine that I referenced. It was very fact based, and I enjoyed it. It advised never to make the first offer—get an offer and then counteroffer, because once you put a number on the table it's never going up from there. [Ed note: For anyone interested, here's an article on negotiating that Alisa recommends].
I also think mentors are huge in this instance. I'm part of a Lean In circle in LA, and I was kind of hating on it at first, but now I'm very much a fan of what it symbolizes and what they're working on. In Sheryl Sandberg's book, one thing she talks about is you don't choose your mentors, your mentors choose you. I think it's true, and I've realized over the years that there are certain women that I've met who are older and have had more success, who have seemed to take an interest in me because of what I'm passionate about or because of shared interests. I've realized how important those relationships are to encourage. It can come from a lot of different places, but it's important to find trusted resources.
And what's the best thing you've ever done in your career?
Taking a risk and just assuming that I could do it. With regard to starting this company, just leaving the fears aside and taking a chance. Trusting my instincts and being confident in my capabilities. That was a huge opportunity that I took, and I'm glad I did.
What's career advice you would pass on to someone else?
A friend of my mother's who's an incredibly successful business woman was kind enough to spend 30 minutes having coffee with me a few years ago. One of the questions I asked her was what informed her career choices, because she had a family and now she's chairman on the board of a huge company, so she obviously made some interesting choices to be able to balance those two things. Her motto that she pulled out of it was that she went where she could make the biggest impact. She never took the job based on the title or the salary alone. She always considered the environment, but most importantly what impact she could make as an employee there. I thought that was so interesting, and that has really informed my thinking on where I want to be. We can get caught up on what sounds good, but if you can't make an impact, you're not going to enjoy yourself. You won't leave feeling accomplishment. Go wherever you can make the biggest impact.