Tips For Becoming A Boss From 34 Of NYC's Most Powerful Women

Illustrated by Jasmin Valcourt.
From Lean In to #BanBossy, a wave of catchphrases and cultural movements promoting powerful women in the workplace have had major impact over the past few years. They've infiltrated our vocabulary, inspired our ambitions, and encouraged us to succeed — they've also called renewed attention to just how important female leadership is to successful business, and that gender shouldn't hinder anyone from charging forward with their goals.

The best #GirlBoss inspiration tends to come from those who've made the climb and have first-hand experience with the obstacles as well as the triumphs. So, we asked them — from the ladies behind The Skimm and skin-care goddess Joanna Vargas, to the brains behind feminist site Femsplain. Ahead, 34 of the city's raddest, most successful women share their tips for getting where you want to be, staying ahead of the game, and what they've learned about their jobs — and themselves — getting to where they are now.
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Illustrated by Jasmin Valcourt.
Danielle Weisberg & Carly Zakin, Founders, The Skimm
"Network like crazy, and spend your first year or so out of school at a big company learning from people who are experts in an industry and can mentor you later on. Also: focus, focus, focus. It's how we got [The Skimm] off the ground, and it was incredibly important when structuring our company and identifying our first hires."
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Sadie Kurzban, Founder & CEO, ((305)) Fitness
“Be direct. Because I never had a ‘real’ job — I started ((305)) Fitness right out of college — I don't understand the niceties of office politics. This has really worked in my favor in building a successful business quickly; I am direct with vendors, investors, and my employees. I don't waste time asking, 'Do you maybe happen to have a contact at so and so? But, please, don't worry if you don't!" Instead I'll simply ask: 'Can I please have so and so's contact info?' The worst someone can say is no. If you don't ask, you can't get."
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Polly Payne, Founder, Horacio Printing; Sales Director, TripleLift
"Number one: Seek out many mentors that have your dream job and ask them as many questions as possible. Ask them about their story and how they got there. You have to be willing to admit that you need help and that you want to learn. By building relationships with the high-level executives at your office, you will get the opportunity to champion new projects. I have been privileged to have incredible mentors, some of which came in the form of incredible self-help books.

"Number two: Keep digging. Never stop being curious; I believe curiosity separates the strong from the weak. Demand education, because it is not optional — it’s critical. You have to commit to being savvy and admit what you don’t know.

"Number three: Be loud, but not obnoxious. Your voice deserves to be respected, but you must speak out of a place of gratitude.

"Number four: Help others and stay empathetic to team members.

"Number five: Don’t stay connected or cling to other employees who have a bad attitude or constantly act cynical about the day-to-day. These people are poisonous to your growth. They will stay in this same role, and you can choose to rise above. Stay close to the positive leaders at your job, or be that positive spirit yourself. You need to stay uplifted and ready for the next possibility!"
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Dana Proman Canino, Cofounder, The Movement
"Follow your heart, trust your gut, work hard, and be kind. It's important to keep things in perspective and never take anything too seriously. There will be ebbs and flows, but don't forget to enjoy the journey. This [career] was your choice, so it should be fun. Lastly, there is enough room in this world for all of us to succeed. Never tear anyone else down. Support each other and we can all make it."
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Lindsi Lane, Founder & Editor-In-Chief, Lindsi In The Fast Lane
"Living in a world where social media is such a strong focus, it is so important to stay true to who you are and not to conform to those around you. Think of who you are as a person from the inside out, what you want to represent, and how you want to represent it. Reflect those qualities throughout your social platforms. Believe me, when you think no one is watching, all eyes are on you — so work hard, and continue on the path of turning your dreams into a reality."
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Amy Levin, Founder & Creative Director, CollegeFashionista
"My dad and I [have] traveled to London every year together since I can remember. When I first launched CollegeFashionista, I vividly remember having afternoon tea with him, and he gave me his best piece of advice: 'The cream always rises to the top. Be the cream.' That moment and mantra has stuck with me throughout the growth of my business, and is something I live by."
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Ambra Medda, Cofounder, Design Miami/; Cofounder & Creative Director, L'ArcoBaleno; Global Creative Director, 20/21 Design Department, Christie's
"I had the great fortune of starting my career very early. I think maybe not knowing too much, and really just relying on my instinct and collaborative spirit was what kept me so charged. The best career advice I was given was: 'Go BIG or go home.' I've been thinking big all my life and challenging what is considered normal. It makes you realize how we can be our own barrier or our own best advocate. You have to believe in yourself and trust your instinct, especially to get you through the really hard patches when things are super challenging."
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Joanna Vargas, Celebrity Facialist & Founder, Joanna Vargas Salon & Skincare Collection
"Number one: Surround yourself with the right people. I have been lucky enough to have met some amazing and inspiring women over the years. I have a very tight-knit group of friends, who are all CEOs in fashion and beauty, who I turn to for advice or just someone to vent to. It's great, because we all understand where we are in our careers. I hire women in a similar way that I choose friends — I hire women I respect and admire, who I can learn from, and who really want to learn and grow themselves.

"Number two: Never stop learning. I have never once in my career felt like I knew it all. I always educate myself. Also, the most exciting game-changing decisions I have made were calculated risks based on something I read or educated myself about. Whether it was getting my LED Light Bed engineered and patented, introducing new technologies to the salon, or doubling my staff in one year, I have always taken educated guesses that have really paid off!

"Number three: Make friends with everyone. One of my biggest, most successful actions has been trying to understand where everyone is coming from and find a common thread. I love people, and I love making friends with my clients. It's been enriching to meet women from every walk of life and from all over the world. I always advise my girls to be genuine with people and to be kind. It always comes back to you in a positive way, and let's face it — today's assistant is tomorrow's CEO!"
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Sonia Kashuk, Makeup Artist & Founder, Sonia Kashuk Beauty
"A key driver in achieving success in your career is passion. A lot of energy is required in building and maintaining a career. I look back over the past 30-plus years, and I have loved every minute of it. There are highs and lows, but you can sustain it all with passion. It is not something that is taught, it comes from within. Most importantly, find your passion, and then plan your journey."
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Azita Ardakani, Founder & CEO, LoveSocial
"Get alignment before diving into anything. Questions like, 'If this ceased to exist, who would be affected?' get to the heart of a project, job, or opportunity. We recently released our Grain of Truth process for free, in hopes that it would allow for upfront alignment for people at any stage of their career. Whether you are working at a large company in a senior role or are at the early stages, knowing where you stand [in relation] to the work you want to do, and what bigger role that plays in the world is a conversation we don’t have enough."
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Rachel Uffner, Owner, Rachel Uffner Gallery
"No one is going to hand you anything; they need to know that you want it. Do the work on your time and keep submitting it. Also, when I was at the front desk of an art gallery, I did studio visits with artists on my own time; I came up with group show ideas on my own time. Creative industries are a labor of love. Get used to thinking about it always, and letting people know what you want to be working on. If you are lucky enough to be around supportive people, you may just be lucky enough to have the things you are working on on the side become the primary focus of your work (but first you have to earn the support).

"No matter what industry you are in, have a good attitude and be a team player. I believe in working as a team toward a greater goal. Hopefully, one day you will personally benefit from that greater goal, but until then share in other's [success] and the team's achievements. It's never just about you."
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Dr. Samantha Boardman, Founder, Positive Prescription
"Number one: There is no glory in self-neglect. Take good care of yourself. Eat well. Get enough rest. Connect with friends. Make time for important relationships. Exercise. When you make your well-being a priority, you will be happier and more productive.

"Number two: Define your success by how many other people you have helped become successful. Life isn’t a zero-sum game.

"Number three: Never stop learning. Question everything. When you encounter a setback, ask yourself, 'What can I learn from this?' Einstein said it best, 'A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.'"
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Manoush Zomorodi, Host, WNYC’s New Tech City Podcast
"Go to your boss with a solution instead of a problem. This is the best advice I ever got. I think this tip works two-fold: You’re forced to really think through the issue and come up with a plan that works in your favor. That’s always better than settling for whatever quick-fix your boss might concoct. It also wins you a reputation as a creative person who takes initiative and is easy to work with."
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Claire Chambers, Founder, Journelle
"Women are programmed from an early age to be good listeners, so it took me a while to learn to appreciate feedback and go in another direction when my intuition or knowledge said something different.

"When I was starting Journelle, everyone I spoke with — vendors, investors, friends, family, and even people on the street or at a bar — had a well-intentioned opinion, and most of them were at odds with each other. Today, the most important feedback that I rely on comes from two groups — customers and employees — and I routinely tell women I mentor to listen to everything, but hear selectively."
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Sarah Meyohas, Founder, Bitchcoin
"Make space for thought, because creativity is always born out of a position of difference. Feed yourself consciously, because a vision will only emerge from those elements. Vision is a very rare gem. It is where your inner self meets the surrounding world, allowing you to imitate reality only enough to surpass it."
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Nicole Chaszar, Founder, The Splendid Spoon
"Number one: Prioritize yourself. There will always be more work to do, so I try to carve out moments to step away and give my mind a rest. I aim for a long weekend run and daily meditation, but sometimes it's as simple as taking an extra five minutes on my commute to listen to a new song, or sitting in the park for 10 minutes on a sunny day. I'm into the Headspace app right now, which makes a quick meditation super easy. You gotta keep your head fresh!

"Number two: Create a super-clear picture of where you want to be in your career. If you can really visualize what you want — be it starting a business, getting a promotion, or moving into a new department — you can make peace with the inevitable challenges and setbacks that will come along the way. The tough bits will still suck, but if you look at them as part of the journey, they may not suck as much. Plus, trudging through the tough stuff will make you stronger along the way.

"Number three: Don't forget to listen! Leading is more about being receptive to others needs than telling them what to do. I really have to work at listening, but it's a powerful skill. Just think about how much better you feel in a relationship with someone who really hears you. I strive to be that person with my team and with anyone I do business with. As a bonus, it's a great skill to hone with husbands and toddlers, too."
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Paula Froelich, Editor-In-Chief, Yahoo Travel
"When I was at The Guardian, I told my first boss, Clare Longrigg, that I was thinking about going to journalism school. She shot back, 'What do you think you're doing here? You're getting an education, and we're teaching you. Unless, of course, you want to spend $40,000. Then by all means, go ahead and do so.' I've learned that each job offers an opportunity to teach and be taught."
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Whitney Tingle & Danielle DuBoise, Founders, Sakara Life
Whitney Tingle: "Do what you're good at, what interests you, and make sure you're always creating, not just doing."

Danielle DuBoise: "Remember that there are no rules whatsoever. Every rule that was ever made was made by someone, so it can be remade and reimagined. And, act from a place of love, always."
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Kinjil Mathur, Vice President Of Marketing, Foursquare
"Number one: Be open to all opportunities. Do not focus on the specific industry and/or company you want to work for. Not all that glitters is gold.

"Number two: Growth is key. Finding the perfect job is not just about the scope of the role, the salary and perks, the company and culture — it should include ensuring you will receive fantastic mentorship from whomever you're working for. Someone that will push you and inspire you to keep growing professionally and personally.

"Number three: You're always on and always thinking about your work. The same goes for anyone on your team. Work is a large part of a person's life, so being a team leader is a big responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly. You're responsible for the happiness of a human. That's major! Keeping your team members smiling should be a daily priority."
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Amber Gordon, Founder, Femsplain
"Networking online has played such an important role in my career success. When I moved to New York City three years ago, I hardly knew anyone. The most common way to network was through 'meetups' or unofficial networking (read: drinking) events, but for someone less outgoing like myself, I never found meaningful connections this way.

"I used social media, mainly Twitter, to follow those who had similar interests, and eventually started meeting these people offline. I found these connections to be most genuine, and eventually [this online networking] led me to landing multiple jobs, new friends, and even helped me find my current business partner. Authenticity is the most important thing to keep in mind. I would never just follow someone for the sole purpose of networking with them. Friendship came first, and the rest just happened naturally."
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Bethany Lyons, Founder, Lyons Den Power Yoga
"When making a big decision or leap of faith, figure out the worst case scenario in case it doesn't work out. If you can swallow the outcome no matter what and know you'll be okay, you can easily go forward and pursue the risky decision [and take the] leap you want without any worry."
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Danielle Strle, Director Of Culture & Trends, Tumblr
“After studying industrial design in college, I was making officially-licensed sports accessories, painting junior high schools with kids as an after-school programs leader, and giving out Vitamin Water on the streets as a part of a mobile marketing team, until I finally took a corporate job working for Getty Images.

"At times they felt like strange career steps, but I really love the tech career I ended up with, and I can't tell you how often my skills, experiences, and connections from those earlier jobs have resurfaced years later. Honing the gift of gab with strangers over free Vitamin Water gave me great practice for meeting people and networking at conferences like SXSW and Cannes. Explaining to 12-year-olds and corporate volunteers how to tape a wall and organize a work site was great prep for explaining technical details of the Tumblr API and organizing big projects.

"I learned so much about business and media working my first big company job at Getty Images. I recently taught an intern how to make a balloon arch for an office party. I learned that as a hostess at TGI Fridays. I guess the point is, I'm really tickled at how all these skills and experiences added up to my life right now. I wish I had written more of it down. I don't think I fully appreciated how great a foundation my first jobs were.”
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Heather Marie, Founder & CEO, Shoppable
"Create your own 'luck.' By working hard, you will create opportunities and prepare yourself to take advantage of them when they cross your path. That's the truth about luck: We can all be 'lucky.'"
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Julie Ann Orsini, Fashion Archivist & Founder, The Wardrobe
"I think experience, hard work, and building relationships is a great recipe for success. Intern, and don't be afraid to get your hands dirty really learning whatever business it is you want to be in. Find a mentor! It's so helpful to be able to kick ideas around with someone whose advice you trust. Try to learn from the best. Get out there and meet as many people as you can, and maintain your relationships — you never know where you or one of your contacts will wind up, or how you may be able to do something together in the future.

"Also, think of each experience as an opportunity to learn something new or pick up a new skill. All of this will benefit you down the line. Sometimes when I reflect, I think of all of the things I did earlier in my career and how things that seemed unrelated actually benefited me later."
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Kahlana Barfield, Editor-At-Large, InStyle Magazine
"Set goals for yourself. Write them down and give yourself deadlines so you have something to work for. And, don't compare yourself to people. Play up your own strengths and be your own competition."
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Meghan Asha, Entrepreneur & On-Air Commentator
"It's okay not to know exactly what you want to do with your career. When I was first starting out, I stressed about finding the perfect job. In my experience, you should think of your first job as a success boot camp, and learn as much as possible from it. Most of the skills I use today in business, I learned from previous jobs in entirely different industries."
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Stephanie Abrams & Courtney Spritzer, Cofounders and Co-CEOs, Socialfly
"When starting a business, remember that you will not know all of the answers. You have to be willing to ask for help when you are not sure what to do. Build a support system and a network of advisors. Listening and learning from others has been one of the keys to our success."
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Carly Strife, Founder, Barkbox
"Number one: Work on something you care about. It seems obvious, but if you want your career to last, you need to work on something that you’re excited to talk about and work on every day. Life and work will naturally bleed together, so if you’re not happy about what you’re working on, it will be a drag on the rest of your life.

"Number two: A lot of companies spend too much time thinking that perks will help them retain talent: free lunches, beer/wine fridges, etc. I’ve found what employees really want are well-communicated goals, productive feedback, and a clear path for career growth.

"Number three: Hire smart people (smarter than you), and get out of their way. If you set some guiding principles within your company and business parameters, smart people will find creative paths to solutions you may have never imagined."
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Leslie Blodgett, Creator, bareMinerals & Executive Chairman, Bare Escentuals
"I absolutely knew the industry I wanted to be a part of — beauty — so I focused my energy on finding ways to get hired. Every position I went after made me so excited I couldn't sleep — like going to a concert in the front row. I believed I was the best person for the job, so I would work my ass off.

"Stay true to yourself and your beliefs. Work for people and companies whose vision aligns with your own beliefs and who truly value your opinion. There is nothing worse than feeling that you are battling alone.”
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Alexia Brue & Melisse Gelula, Founders, Well+Good
Alexia Brue and Melissa Gelula: "Stop worrying about your career path and 'what’s next.' Instead, stay focused on the present moment and your current job. Do that job to the best of your ability, and try to get as much out of it as possible. If you do that, opportunities will present themselves, and you’ll be ready to seize them. Also, this is how expertise takes shape and where actual career happiness happens.

M.G.: “'If you're offered a challenge — take it, and run with it, as you never know where it will lead.' That wasn’t exactly advice spoken to me, but it’s what happened with my boss, Gary Walther, who is a bang-up editor-in-chief and was probably the most influential person in shaping my writing and editing career. I’d been a travel editor, and he gave me the beauty beat at Luxury SpaFinder magazine. At the time, I wore clear lip gloss, if that. Even though I knew nothing about beauty — and cared nothing for it, at first — the opportunity helped me become a better investigative writer and critical thinker. I launched a section of the magazine called 'Beauty & Brains: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Skin Care,' where I pushed chemists to explain 'hero' ingredients, became incredibly wise to marketing ploys, and had the country’s top dermatologists and facialists on speed-dial to help debunk or approve them. I pretty much never wrote a product review where an item's merit was, 'It smells good.' It opened me up to a huge industry that I didn’t know was going to fascinate me, and that I still care about to this day. It’s one reason why Well+Good is focused on natural and organic beauty now."

AB: "My dad’s an incredible entrepreneur who grew up on an Iowa farm before founding a chain of bagel bakeries and a cream cheese company, so his career analogies tend toward the agricultural. When I was struggling to find my career path after college, he always sang the song, 'Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.' He’d say, 'I’m not going to tell you to follow your passion, because you have to be realistic about what’s in front of you. Focus on cultivating your garden…your tool kit of knowledge and experience. It requires discipline and acceptance that you’re not in control of everything, but ultimately that your plant will grow.'”
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