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Career · March 7, 2017

3 Work (Life) Lessons From Birchbox's CEO

Know Your Self-Worth

Q: You've expressed the importance of women knowing what they are capable of and how talented they arebut also staying humble and grounded. How can you walk that fine line of doing both when asking for a raise or promotion?

Katia: Women are really great at understanding this type of duality because I think we are generally more self-aware. It's challenging, but it really comes down to the details of the approach: the timing of it, the reputation you have and your relationship to whomever you are speaking. It's important for your manager to understand how vested you are in the greater good and that it's what you're thinking about constantly. Of course, you are an important part of the equation and you should state your value in that role clearly. Showing that you are someone consistently thinking about the greater good and the team will go far in building your reputation. It shows leadership and humility.

Q: It's always tricky to find the right time to advocate for yourself. Any suggestions?

Katia: Timing is really important. But don't overthink it, because part of this is just practice. It won't always be perceived in the best way. It's important that you don't fear the perception and understand that it's a part of the process. One tip is to prepare your manager for the conversation. Make sure to give him/her a heads up and clearly state what you would like to get out of it. For example, something as simple as, "In two weeks I put time on your calendar to discuss my career; I'll come prepared to share how I see myself progressing in my objectives. I'd love for you to listen, and we can regroup after to discuss next steps." Stay calm and always respectful and never apologize for advocating for yourself.

Q: What if you're not sure what you're capable of?

Katia: I think that owning things that might not be your strengths is just as important as speaking up about what you can do. Showing that kind of self-awareness and humility is such a sign of maturity and leadership. Being honest and asking for help is so important. It shows a confidence that you're not someone who thinks you need to do everything and own everything to be successful. It takes a real leader to surround herself with people who are better than her and to admit areas where you may need self-development.

Q: And how about when you feel it's time to take on more?

Katia: Doing your research to understand how your job and responsibilities compare to what's out there puts you in the strongest position to ask for a change in level or compensation. You really have to know what you're asking for, because it may seem arbitrary to a manager. If you've done your research, it's a different conversation rather than just saying, "I want a 10% raise."

Support Other Women

Q: The workplace can get competitive, especially when women are so underrepresented in high-power positions. How can you be assertive and driven, but still encourage the success of the women around you?

Katia: Birchbox is unique in the sense that the majority of our team and leadership are female. But, no matter what your work experience may be, I think the most important thing is try to think of female peers and colleagues as part of team in which the success of some impacts the potential for all. It's of course easier said than done, but I do think setting an example of giving respect and support with the expectation of receiving that in return is a start and an important step forward.

Find Balance

Q: Balance is such a buzzword and everyone always talks about how important it is. What's your take?

Katia: I learned to prioritize better once I became a mom. I realized that you do a lot of things that you don't have to do. The important stuff starts to rise to the top of your to-do list and not everything is urgent anymore.

Q: When did you feel like you were in the right place in your career to pursue having a family?

Katia: It's never going to be a "good" time. It's not going to feel easy to pursue a family and still be successful in your career. Because ultimately, you haven't yet met this version of yourself and you don't know what it's going to do to you mentally or psychologically. You don't realize how efficient you become because you have new priorities. That's why I always say that working moms are Birchbox's secret weapons!

Q: And what would you tell young women who are starting out in their career who might feel like they have to be working 24/7 in order to get ahead?

Katia: Learning to set boundaries early is great practice. You have to take care of yourself and do things that make you happy, or else you'll be miserable in both areas of your life. If you're not happy, you're not going to do your best work. It is possible to have a successful career and a meaningful personal life.


Alexis Bridenbaugh