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#StartupStories: What do startups look for in employees?

An interview with Julie Görgen, Head of People & Culture at Lesara

Before joining a company, there are so many more things you should consider more than the salary. For example, are you a good fit for their company culture? Are you THE employee they are desperately looking for? We chatted with Julie Görgen, Head of People & Culture at Lesara, to learn more about what they are looking for in employees and her own experience working with Lesara.

Lesara is an online fashion retailer founded by Roman Kirsch (CEO), Matthias Wilrich (COO) and Robin Müller (CTO) in 2013. Headquartered in Berlin, supported by its office in Guangzhou, the startup aims to deliver fashion and lifestyle products to customers in over 23 countries.

Julie says she looks for three personality traits when recruiting talent for her team: Intelligence, passion and eagerness to learn. Julie points out that they are looking for people with a good problem-solving approach coupled with the ability to face any challenge. “Hiring smart people is crucial as they tend to be more successful in many different roles at many different stages,” Julie adds. “We are also looking for people who are passionate about something, no matter if it’s fashion, machine learning or anything in between, we want to feel your passion when we talk to you because it is exactly this excitement that motivates us to work towards the future success.” Finally, a willingness to keep learning completes the perfect employee package. “We look for people who understand that experience will never be enough and seek to learn and do more,” Julie mentioned.

Lesara: The team, the people, the culture

Julie describes working at Lesara like working in a big family, but she says that doesn’t mean they get along without friction. “If you really think about a strong family, it's a group of people who work together through the good and the not-so-good times, pushing each other to be the best versions of themselves, holding each other accountable, who are honest without hesitation and who realize that you get out what you put in. At Lesara, we have each other's backs, we hold ourselves to really high standards and we work towards the same goals,” Julie explains.

Just like a family, Julie says successful people at Lesara have some common startup genes and expect these from potential new family members:

  1. Self-motivation: being in a startup usually means you are given a great deal of trust coupled with a lot of freedom from day one. You don’t have someone looking over your shoulder, checking your work at the end of the day. In other words, it’s up to you to make things happen.” Self-motivators do well because they focus on the big picture and with the end result in mind,” says Julie. “They don't get too down when things don't go flawlessly and they don't need a pat on the back every time they do something well.”
  2. Insatiable curiosity: curiosity is of vital importance in the startup world as this is how we obtain new knowledge in our fields on a daily basis. “In order to move the business forward, it is crucial to have staff that are continuously learning and are seeking new ways to improve their day-to-day business,” Julie says.
  3. Accountability: Working in a startup means you are given a great deal of responsibility from the start. “We look for accountability junkies who crave responsibility and want to own their tasks whether it’s successful or not, learning from the mistake they made.”

Julie says they don’t differentiate between interns and employees at Lesara, everyone is valued equally. “We make sure to support each of our members in their professional development. We realize that investing in our team members is an investment in Lesara's future and that's why it's so important for us,” Julie reveals. At Lesara, every department has different training and information sessions based on their individual needs. They survey each employee quarterly to understand what trainings they are interested in, then Julie’s team will come up with ways to help each employee to get the professional development they need.

A team of diversity. A mix between startup and corporates

Julie points out that the Lesara team is built upon diversity, they have a 50-50 ratio of male and female team members from over 27 different nations. As Lesara grew, they made a decision to consciously protect their diverse culture, adding in new perspectives, backgrounds and ideas. “The diversity in our team ensures that we don't just stick to the standard methods and concepts. We inspire innovation in each other through our many different perspectives and this makes us a unique and stronger team.” Julie points out.

The team has grown from five people to 200 employees, with more structure than when they launched in 2013, but they cherish the startup vibe. Julie reveals that the great part about building a company is that they can determine the company culture. “I think you shouldn't be too startup or too corporate and I love how Lesara takes the best of both worlds. We have great processes which ensure amazing things like our supply chain can work as efficiently as possible, but we are still able to maintain our startup vibe by being agile and open-minded enough to challenge the standards and bring in new ideas.” 

A personal journey with Lesara

Julie says the best part of being a member in Lesara is the challenge. “People who work at Lesara are put to a new test every day, your days are never the same and something new will always come along,” Julie pinpoints that the biggest challenge they faced in the past year is continuing their growth rate. “We have ambitious goals that rely on all departments to basically achieve the impossible, we have worked hard to make sure our growth is not only rapid but sustainable. We were just awarded the Tech5 award for the fastest growing startup and we won't stop there,” Julie says.

As an early member of Lesara, Julie reveals that she joined the team of five back then because she believes in the people. “The team was just five members and we didn't even have our website launched yet. I had no idea Lesara would be as much of a success as it is today but I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Lesara took a chance on me, I took a chance on Lesara, and I think we are both pretty happy about how it's working out."

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