'Advice to a Younger Me': Female Leaders on Starting Out

Successful women share stories from their careers in a new video series from The Atlantic.
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Long before Stacey Snider became the CEO of DreamWorks, she was a Hollywood assistant tasked with picking up $50,000 worth of gold chains for Mr. T. "For real!" she insists, describing the early days of her career in an interview for Atlantic Video's Advice to a Younger Me series, above. Starting in the mailroom (literally) didn't slow her down, however; she went on to become a development executive, the president of TriStar Pictures, and eventually chairman of Universal Pictures before joining Steven Spielberg as a partner and co-chairman at DreamWorks. 

With stellar careers in business, media, and tech, the women in Advice to a Younger Me bring a myriad of perspectives to the table. Michelle Peluso, the CEO of Gilt, describes a run-in with an older, more senior male colleague soon after she joined Travelocity as a young entrepreneur. It was intimidating in the moment, but she became more confident over time. "I think it's fine to be underestimated a bit!" she says, describing how she won her adversary over and was soon promoted to CEO. 

 

Two more women in the series, Ayah Bdeir, CEO of littleBits, and Rachel Haot, Chief Digital Officer of the City of New York, began their careers as startup founders in the tech sphere. Haot's experience running a crowd-sourced news platform called GroundReport helped her take on the challenges of role that didn't exist in New York (until she was hired to do it).  

 

Bdeir, meanwhile, has some counterintuitive advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Sometimes less experience is an advantage. "Naiveté is important," she notes, saying that if she had known how tough starting a company could be, she might never have tried. Still, littleBits, her high-tech toy business, continues to grow and make engineering accessible to novices everywhere. 

 

Stay tuned for our final interview in the series with Lake Bell on Monday, October 21. The actress describes how she got into to screenwriting and what it was like to direct her first feature film, the award-winning comedy In a World. 

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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