Years ago, tech and fashion were rarely used in the same sentence, let alone thought of as going hand in hand. Today, tech plays a huge role in the fashion industry and companies rely on it to grow their businesses- especially in the ecommerce world. Meera Bhatia was no stranger to this industry, as she began her career building tech products for multiple business such as Microsoft, Hotels.com, and LinkedIn. With her impressive tech background, Meera decided to take her skills to the fashion industry when she joined as the Chief Product Officer at Stella & Dot. The company uses technology to sell jewelry and accessories from creative independent stylists online. In addition to creating market tech solutions for Stella & Dot's consumers, Meera helps to empower women by making it possible for them to have their own business by selling the Stella & Dot designs online. Read ahead for some of this boss babe's advice on #MakingIt.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry?
To be honest, it was never a move I imagined for myself until I ended up in it. Throughout my career, I’ve searched for experiences that I can learn from and companies where I feel I can have a real impact. On a personal level, I always enjoyed fashion, but there wasn’t a clear path to combine the two given a historical lack of focus on tech by the fashion industry. But times change and fashion/retail companies are realizing that they must innovate through technology. Stella & Dot has had technology in our DNA since our founding and all of a sudden there was this opportunity to combine two things that I love. I knew it was a match that was meant to be.
After studying mechanical engineering, how did you use those skills to move into the fashion industry?
Engineering really teaches you a way of critical thinking. It’s about figuring out how to break down big problems, apply analytical thinking, and problem solve. Those skills can really apply to a lot of different industries. My degree opened up opportunities in technology consulting as my first role out of college and from there the rest unfolded through a lot of hard work and an equally large amount of luck.
What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
I was probably a little naive assuming if I just put my head down and did good work, everything else works out. You need to find your advocates/mentors and make things happen for yourself. You need to be the captain of your career and be proactive.
What inspired you to switch from LinkedIn to Stella & Dot?
I was inspired by Stella & Dot’s mission- to give women a way to earn income flexibly. In larger technology companies it can sometimes be difficult to see how your work really makes a difference in people’s everyday lives. At Stella & Dot, it is so clear. Every bit of improvement we make in our technology directly impacts someone’s ability to live the life they want and that is so inspiring.
What staple piece do you believe every woman should have in her wardrobe?
A color-popping shoe (I’m partial to stilettos) and, of course, a Stella & Dot statement necklace like our new Dannika Floral Necklace.
Do you have one project or collaboration in your career that was your favorite?
This past summer we launched a new App (called mimi) to our Stylists that is designed to help them share style quickly and easily from their phones. Building that app was so fun because the team was incredible and totally motivated to do something great. Launching the app was equally amazing because of the immediate impact we had on our Stylist’s ability to communicate and share great styling recommendations with their Customers. When you share a demo of something and the people watching launch into a spontaneous dance party because they are so excited, you know you are doing something right.
How do you believe E-commerce and social media are changing the fashion industry?
So much! Both are making fashion just so much more accessible. Social media opens up the potential for everyone to be an influencer. As a consumer, you are not just looking at what celebrities wear in magazines anymore. You are looking at real people and then able to instantly act on something you like and buy it online. Social and specifically social media advertising also make it possible for complete upstart brands to find an audience and actually build a customer base. I think this is great for consumers because they just have so many more options, but it’s also a challenge for traditional brands who now have a lot more competition and have to work a lot harder to build brand loyal customers.
Although w’ere sure no two days are ever the same, can you describe a typical work day?
I’m an early riser (5:30am) and love to get a workout in before I head to the office. I’m generally in the office by about 8:30/8:45. Usually my mornings are spent on calls touching base with members of my team that are outside the US- making sure I’m available to help them unblock anything they need my assistance with. Lunch happens generally at my desk pouring over my emails and Slack chats. Afternoons are generally spent in meetings - either with my team or with my cross functional partners on whatever pressing business issues need to be moved forward. My favorite meetings are what we call “product reviews” when we’re going through the end to end plans for something we’re building. Reviewing everything from why we are doing it and why our sales field/customers are going to love it, to how we are delivering it and ensuring it will be successful. I generally get home by 7 so I can have dinner and will finish off some work from home on my sofa.
As a working mom what is your best advice for achieving a good work/life balance?
Well, I’m mom to a dog and cat but no children. I actually think the best advice to find balance is to find a job you really love so that it’s ok if some of the lines are a little blurry because at this point we’re pretty much always “on” because of our phones. But I can leave work when I want and take my Dog for a walk or get dinner with a friend because I know if I’m really needed, I’m accessible. At the end of the day, I really enjoy what I do so don’t mind if something comes up during that personal time.
As a busy women on the go, what is one thing you make sure to never leave home without?
The obvious answer is my phone… But I never travel, not even for one night, without my running shoes. A good run will always make everything better.
What advice do you give women who are looking to enter the retail/fashion industry?
I think the most important thing is to think about what you want to do in the industry because there are so many options. Once you are clear on what you want to do and have a compelling story about why you would be great for that role, network network network!
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