Melissa Liebling-Goldberg of Gilt Groupe
We all know the delicate ping that sounds off on our phones every day at approximately 11:00 a.m. CST. This is one of the many ways online shopping juggernaut Gilt.com announces its daily designer flash sales. But have you ever stopped to wonder who is responsible for the curating those too-good-to-be-true collections?
Melissa Liebling-Goldberg is the Women’s Editorial Director at Gilt.com. Melissa’s chameleon-like qualities have taken her down a path of great success, and she attributes much of her journey to the simple act of “saying yes.” Melissa’s past work as a photographer, freelance writer, and style director prepared her for the juggling act of running the women’s editorial division of the Gilt Group. Melissa’s humble attitude is a breath of fresh air. Her willingness to learn from everyone around her ensures that her success knows no boundaries, yet she remains a team player in the job’s many collaborative environments.
As Gilt gets closer and closer to online retail domination, Melissa is the perfect woman to have spearheading the editorial side of the site. Her professional and personal flexibility have taken Melissa from a photo assistant at New York Magazine to Editorial Director of Gilt.com. Even with her impressive resume, she has managed to savor those special moments along the way, however large or small.
Full Name: Melissa Liebling-Goldberg
Current title/company: Women’s Editorial Director of Gilt.com
Educational background: Bachelor of Fine Arts from Washington University in St. Louis
What was your first job out of college and how did you land that position?
I was the assistant in the photo department at New York Magazine. I had been an intern there the summer before my senior year of college and had kept in touch with everyone there. Very, very fortuitously for me, the assistant quit the day before I moved to New York with no job. I started as an unpaid intern so I’d have something to do, and they offered me the full-time assistant job instead. I was exceptionally lucky.
Moved to New York from where exactly? And how did you land that internship the previous summer?
I went to Washington University in St. Louis. I was a photography and English literature double major. I actually thought I was going to be a photographer. I had interned in college for photographers and interned for a museum. I thought I really don’t want to be in a museum or a gallery or do fine art. My passion was fashion photography and portraits. I applied to every magazine that possibly had an internship program. I got very lucky that New York Magazine pulled me out of the pile of interns and was one of two places I had interviewed. They took me in as an intern, and I ended up working there for several years. It’s the kind of magazine where the staff loves it and you come back for freelance projects. It was a very nice community for me for several years.
How long were you full-time at New York Magazine until you went freelance?
I was there full-time for a year, and I actually left to open a store in downtown New York and have a clothing line with a friend. It was an opportunity that was too interesting to pass up. The store was in Nolita on Mulberry Sreet. My former partner has a clothing line now called Rebecca and Drew that’s really fantastic. After that I went to a small magazine called Seed for a few months, and then I went to the New York Post.
I was at the Post, then I was at Teen Vogue, and then I launched Style on People.com. I was their Style Director for five years and Style Watch’s Digital Director. And then that became a monthly magazine, and after five years there, I came to Gilt.
How did you end up working at Gilt. Gilt is a younger company. Were you there since the beginning?
I’ve been there for a year and a couple months. We’re turning five in November so I’ve been there for a chunk of it. They were looking for someone to come in and create this position of Editorial Director, and I’ve been a fan of Gilt since it launched. Ha, I should say I’ve spent a lot of money on Gilt over the years. When the opportunity arose, it was too interesting to pass up. There are certain things that are the same as being an editor where you’re writing and interviewing and doing content, anywhere you go. Then it’s learning this whole new, incredibly fascinating business and seeing all the things we can do as a company.
Describe a typical workday or week.
A typical day, I don’t know what that looks like. In an average week, I will write several posts for Gilt Insider, which is our content area. I will work with the buyers on trends with what I’m seeing and what they’re seeing to figure out buys. I’ll work a lot with our creative team, stylists, and creative directors on figuring out shoots and getting advice on where I can be helpful. I work a lot with PR; I’m kind of the Gilt spokesperson. I might do an interview or a TV segment. I meet other editors, and I do a lot with our marketing team. We are always trying to think of new and interesting ideas to bring to our brands, and we are always trying to push the envelope on what our customer can expect from us. We always want to do new and interesting and cool things for our members so we spend a lot of time figuring out what that looks like and what that could be.
When you’re traveling, what stops are you making? What’s the goal of most trips?
Most of the trips are definitely press-oriented. We always want to meet with editors and bloggers in most of the cities that we go to. Really, our end goal is to get to know our best markets even better. It’s hearing what motivates customers and editors. It’s hearing what people like, what people don’t like, what we can add, and if there are local designers we should be thinking about adding. We always want to be getting better and better and better. Hopefully, we’re telling people who don’t know as much about us who we are by doing TV segments and showing off some of the great things we have on Guilt to larger markets.
Given your very demanding career, how do you find time for balance?
I think it’s a daily struggle and some days you’re able to do a better job of it and some days you’re not. I’m lucky that I’m married to someone who’s really wonderful and super supportive of my career. He definitely makes my life easier. I think it’s tough. I can’t say that I think it’s easy for anyone to find a balance.
Specifically, what kind of hours are you putting into the week or day now?
It varies. Depends what’s going on. I would guess it’s generally between 9-10 hours a day and upwards. We just finished Fashion Week and (during this time) you eat, sleep, and breathe Fashion Week. It just depends what time of year it is and what’s going on. You know, I always think finishing my work at home on my couch with my dog is not so bad. So it depends what’s going on. If it’s out actually doing things or if it’s catching up on emails at home. It kind of varies. You have to figure out what your priorities are and what really matters to you in terms of getting to see people and getting to do things. You know eventually there are things you wish you could have done more of outside of work. But if something’s important to you, you kind of make it happen.
What kind of skills or personality attributes are required for your job position?
I think the ability to prioritize is an absolute skill, and I think it’s a really necessary one. Especially when you do something in a fast-paced environment, with daily publishing, you have to prioritize what has to be done now and what you can do later. And then making sure that it all gets done with an equal level of quality. And I think that there’s also a balance to be struck between making sure that things are done well but not flogging yourself if every single thing isn’t perfect. You know, I think you have to know how to get things done to a level you’re happy with. And I think that’s a skill because there’s always something better—especially in a creative field. You can always edit one more time. You can always keep refining. I think you have to be able to know what is good and be able to judge that for yourself and not always keep pushing.
And then I think people skills are really important. You know, it’s a very collaborative environment. We work with a lot of different teams. I think you have to respect the people you work with. Respect their skills. Respect their creativity. Respect their knowledge. Look at everything as an opportunity to learn more. And no matter how senior you are, you should always be humble enough to know that you can learn from other people. There’s always another skill to pick up.
I think the people who are flexible and can roll with the punches are the people who succeed. And the person who looks at their boss and says, “that’s not in my job description,” is the person who will get nowhere. I just can’t imagine thinking there’s only one thing in the world that I should be working on and not be learning something new. Yes, it’s extra work. But it’s an opportunity to learn something more, and aren’t you a better, richer, more interesting person the more you know and the more you experience? I always tell people, “say yes!” What’s the worst that can happen?
You can always go back and say, “Listen, I’ve tried this and it’s not the best fit for me.” But you don’t know that until you’ve tried that. First I was a photo editor and then a writer. You have to keep exploring and be open to opportunity. You just have no idea where your career can go if you’re open to possibilities. But if you say “no,” you can be pretty much be assured you’re on one track.
We know that Gilt sells high-end goods for less. Besides offering a bargain, why do you think the company has reached such high levels of success?
We are constantly pushing ourselves to come up with new, innovative, and fun ideas for our members. We want you to have a constant feeling of discovery and excitement on the site, and I think it’s that focus that has helped us grow.
You’ve had multiple careers at different companies, making you somewhat of a chameleon. How have all of your different professional ventures helped you as editorial director at Gilt? What specific lessons have you taken with you to Gilt to ensure continued success?
Every experience helps shape you as a person, and I try to learn from both wins and losses in my professional life. I think combining my photographic, writing, strategic and entrepreneurial skills into one job at Gilt.com has been a great fit.
Given your college degree, are you still pursuing photography at all? Do you ever get behind the lens at Gilt?
I am the official photographer of the Gilt.com Instagram account! It’s a fun way for me to shoot all the time and feel connected to our consumers and their lifestyles.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
Stop spending so much on shoes! In all seriousness, I would tell myself to relax and enjoy the ride a little more. Getting to a place of professional success is as much about the journey as the end goal, and there are a lot of wonderful, small moments along the way that deserve to be savored.