Power Outfit: Yasmin Desai, ‘The Start Up Girl’
Yasmin Desai, the self-termed ‘Start Up Girl’, has worked in fledgling firms her whole professional life.
Her first job out of university was at an ed-tech startup, and since then she has gone on to freelance at startup businesses – and build her own.
Yasmin regularly shares her insider knowledge and tips via her blog, which is a valuable resource on entrepreneurship and the startup scene in London. This side-hustle runs alongside her current role as the Business Development Manager at on-demand staffing platform, Catapult. We caught up with Yasmin to find out more about her career in startups and how she dresses for success in this entrepreneurial environment.
It is difficult to talk about you in terms of job titles. How would you describe what you do for a living?
My background has always been in startups, whether working for one or trying to build my own. I started off working for a few companies, then tried my hand at freelancing. I have to say, I didn’t enjoy freelancing that much, so I ended up putting my efforts into finding my ideal role in a fast growing startup. I’m happy to say that I’m finally there and now I’m working as a Business Development Manager in the supply team for Catapult.
You literally are ‘The Start Up Girl’: the name of your fantastic blog, and the focus of your professional knowledge and career. What is it that draws you to start up businesses and entrepreneurship?
When I was at university, I applied to win some funding for my business idea. I knew that I was interested in entrepreneurship, but I never had the confidence to talk about it, let alone take the first step to start my own business. Being granted the funding from my university was huge for me as it meant that I had validation from others. Once I started my own small business I became completely absorbed by the thrill and fast pace. I ended up working part-time at a small startup (a deliberate decision) to learn more about growing a small company. I loved it and set myself a goal to work in startups for as long as I could, learning how to grow a company without having to take all the risk.
What does your day-to-day working life look like?
Currently, my day starts with an early wake up call and a brisk cycle to work. I like to be in the office early as it gives me some thinking time without distraction. I work on the candidate acquisition for Catapult, so this consists of making sure that we have the right people applying to work with us. The other half of my role is learning more about the candidates in order to maximize their potential of working through our platform. Towards the end of the day, I do a 30 minute workout with my manager (the best part of my day!). In between all of this, there may be some calls and meetings, but I try to limit these as much as possible.
My power outfit:
What occasion are you dressed for in the photo?
Working in a startup, there’s no specific dress code: basically you turn up in anything that’s not extremely formal. On a typical day, I would usually wear a dress or top. In this picture I am wearing one of my favourite jumpsuits. I like to look stylish and edgy, especially if I have meetings in the hipster area of Shoreditch!
Why did you choose this particular outfit?
This jumpsuit can be worn casually or dressed up with a nice cardigan or jacket. It’s super comfortable but also looks classy. I like to wear things that are a bit different.
Here at My Little Black Book, we think women should feel unstoppable when wearing their power outfit. What does the term ‘power outfit’ mean to you?
I’ve never used the term ‘power outfit’, but to me this means wearing something that makes you feel confident. I have done a lot of presenting and I know that when you feel confident, it shows, and usually I perform much better. For me, this means putting on a good outfit and some natural looking make up.
What item of clothing do you own that makes you feel most empowered when you wear it?
I have to say, having a really nice coat can make such a huge difference. I love formal coats and this makes me feel empowered when I walk into a room.
Since you work in a startup, with no official dress code, can you be a little more experimental with your work wear or do you still have to keep a certain level of formality?
Surprisingly, in the startup world, what you wear doesn’t particularly matter. That said, if someone came to an interview in a three-piece suit, I would question their understanding of what a startup is.
I plan what I’m wearing depending on the day I have ahead of me. If I’m meeting external clients, then I definitely make an effort to dress more formally – this doesn’t mean a suit/formal dress, usually for me it means a nice blouse and smart trousers. If I know I’m going to be in the office all day, I tend wear casual outfits. We usually work long hours so I prefer to wear comfortable clothes.
On the whole, I’m always conscious that people think I look really young. Because of this, I use clothes to ‘dress older’. A good example of this is when I’m lecturing. I guest lecture on Business and Entrepreneurship at Birkbeck University. For me, a large part of how people perceive you is their first impression, so I’ll always opt for an outfit that is formal along with my glasses as they are guaranteed to make me look older.
Are you an outfit pre-planner or is it just what feels right on the day?
If I have a meeting, then I pre-plan. If I don’t, then I just put on whatever I want in the morning.
Which woman’s style do you most admire and why?
I don’t really look at other women’s styles so much. I believe that if a woman wears what she wants for herself, then this is the most admirable thing.
What style advice would you give to your younger self, taking her first tentative steps into the working world?
Knowing that people make assumptions of you when they first see you, I would have told my younger self to have more confidence in what I wear. I’ve always dressed a bit edgy and, when I was younger, was conscious of what people thought of this. I’d have told myself to scrap this way of thinking.