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Jess Lee on Udacity Talks

It’s one thing to read about someone and think to yourself, “Wow, that person sounds amazing, I’d love to talk with them.” It’s another thing altogether to meet them, and have that feeling confirmed. But I think it’s safe to say that’s pretty much how everyone at Udacity felt yesterday after Jess Lee’s visit for Episode #3 of Udacity Talks. Even Sebastian Thrun himself, who has certainly met his share of remarkable people over the years, was clearly impressed—in his unscripted introduction he referred to her as an “unbelievable, great leader” and  “one of the top minds and brains in Silicon Valley.”

High praise certainly, but Jess Lee really has experienced a pretty remarkable trajectory. She came to the United States from Hong Kong to go to school at Stanford, where she ultimately studied Computer Science. She didn’t grow up as a programmer, and she didn’t actually start studying CS until she got to college, and when she arrived, pretty much everyone around her was—in her words—a “dude.”

Needless to say, there were some challenges, but she stuck to her Garrison Keillor-esque mantra to “do good work,” and with the example of her mother—who ran her own translation business out of the family apartment—to remind her there was nothing unusual about a woman running her own business, she pushed forward along the independent career path that would ultimately see her running her own company as well. But there was one critical step to come between Stanford and Polyvore. That step, was a job at Google.

To watch the rest of Jess and Sebastian’s chat, to hear our student’s questions being answered, and to find out what Sebastian was referring to when he said, “Your product sucks, but here’s the solution for you,” please watch the video below!


(pro tip, the talk starts at approximately the 5:23 mark!)

Don’t forget to RSVP for the next episode of Udacity Talks, because it’s going to be amazing! We’ll be hosting Eric Darnell, the Chief Creative Officer at Baobab Studios, a new company on track to become the preeminent animation studio for VR.

Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins is Senior Writer and Chief Words Officer at Udacity. He types on a MacBook or iPad by day, and either an Underwood, Remington, or Royal by night. He carries a Moleskine everywhere.