Novelist and counterculture legend Jack Kerouac once said, “Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion." This notion may hold especially true for entrepreneurs, who in some ways, are rule-breakers by nature. They disrupt, innovate, and challenge the conventional to create something new.
That Kerouac himself was a rebel is a fact that Warby Parker co-founder Dave Gilboa knew—and may have been what prompted his visit to an exhibition on the writer at the New York Public Library in May of 2009. While exploring the exhibit, Gilboa noticed that one of Kerouac’s journals included two characters with interesting names: Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker.
After taking nearly six months to nail down a company name with little success, Gilboa turned to co-founders Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, and Jeffrey Raider, who he’d studied with at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The founders ended up combining the two, resulting in the name for their now-iconic glasses, sunglasses, and contacts eCommerce company.
In an interview with The Scratch podcast, Blumenthal says, “When we looked at folks that inspired us, we often looked at literary figures because of the tie between vision and reading." This isn’t to say that literature only played a role in the initial branding of the company. It’s something that continues to define its culture today.
On the Warby Parker site, the team notes that Kerouac’s Dharma Bums is one of their favorites. So much, that employees get a copy on their first day. Quirky, like custom helium balloons featuring an illustration of a steak with a pair of glasses, printed with the phrase, “nice to meet you!"
That’s what’s pinned to every newcomer’s desk for their first couple weeks at the company’s New York City headquarters and Nashville offices. By conditioning employees to treat the balloons as beacons, they introduce themselves and strike up conversations—and help take the pressure off new folks.
Another company cultural marker is an annual internal conference called WarbyCon, where employees teach a crowd of their colleagues through TED-style presentations about, well, anything they want. Past segments have covered everything from Bayesian statistics to pop music to being a good person.
By now, it’s probably apparent that Warby Parker wants to create an environment where employees can think big and have fun, and give back. Which is to say that you might be a good fit for a job with them if you’re you’re smart, curious, kind, and committed to doing good. As for these degrees, they won’t hurt either.
Just as they dragged their heels naming Warby Parker, the four founders didn’t have a fully functioning website the day before their company launched. And who could blame them? Leading up to it, they’d spent most of their time trying to figure out how to get people to be comfortable shopping for eyewear online.
As it turned out, their patience paid off. Following their 2010 launch, GQ dubbed Warby Parker “the Netflix of eyewear" and the company met its first-year goal in less than a month. In 2012, Warby Parker made it to Fast Company’s list of the world’s most innovative companies, one it would show up on again in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
In a decade, the company opened its first retail store in SoHo, New York, followed by another 89 locations across the U.S. and Canada. They cut out the middleman and markups by selling affordable eyewear direct to consumers, even delivering “home try-on" packs to customers to test-drive at home. And all the while, they lived up to their mission to "build a business that could solve problems instead of creating them."
To that end, the brand has distributed over five million pairs of glasses through its Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program, which donates a pair of glasses is to someone in need for every pair of Warby Parker glasses purchased. The program includes collaboration with a handful of partners to train people to provide basic eye exams and sell “ultra-affordable" eyewear in their communities.
Warby Parker now has an estimated 1,800 employees and growing at its New York City and Nashville offices, and retail stores. According to Fortune, it was reportedly valued at $1.7 billion in 2019.
Warby Parker’s employees work within teams across a range of departments, including customer experience, financial planning and analysis, social innovation, and retail management. According to PayScale, employees at the company’s New York City headquarters make an average salary of $83,000 per year.
__Some of the highest-paid jobs at Warby Parker include the following, listed by average base salary:__
Scroll through Warby Parker’s job site to find open positions in areas such as operations, supply chain, and product strategy, engineering and technology, and marketing, brand management, and brand design.
In this realm, Warby Parker’s on the lookout for motivated experts to analyze and manage the flow, development, sourcing, and quality of its products from the second they’re purchased to the moment they’re in customers’ hands.
Current openings include opportunities in inventory and quality control management, contact and lenses business management, and product development management.
Job seekers interested in inventory control management will need a bachelor’s degree in business, supply chain management, or a related field, while those looking to join the company as a quality control manager will need a master’s degree in engineering. An MBA in supply chain and operations and a master’s degree in business analytics could also benefit candidates here.
Business and product management openings in this department don’t call out specific degree requirements, but they do note a preference for anywhere from four to eight years of relevant experience and “crystal clear" communication skills.
Positions in this department span data science, engineering, and technology, and are key to the evolution of Warby Parker’s retail experience and business systems. Candidates have a variety of opportunities in this realm, with listing for a senior data systems project manager and business systems engineering manager.
The company also highlights job listings for a senior data engineer and principal engineers. A variety of positions in software engineering are also available and include specializations in accounting, business, and retail systems, and site reliability.
Engineering and technology jobs at Warby Parker don’t call out a degree requirement but do note a need for relevant work experience, particularly with senior- and management-level positions. On the other hand, candidates pursuing a leg up in the application process may benefit from several technology-related degrees.
In the data science realm, this includes advanced degrees in data science, data analytics, applied statistics, business intelligence, or a similar field. In engineering, a master’s in data science or software engineering may do the trick.
In an age of content and need for the feed, Warby Parker’s searching for creative, highly motivated, and results-oriented candidates to help power the brand’s identity and support its senior leadership team. In this vein, the company lists job openings for a brand market coordinator, a video content coordinator, and an executive assistant.
Though the qualifications for these positions vary widely, none list a degree requirement. However, candidates for marketing jobs at Warby Parker may benefit from a master’s degree in marketing or marketing analytics, while a bachelor's degree in film or video production, media studies, or a related discipline may give candidates applying to Warby Parker’s video content coordinator position an upper hand.
As a brand known for eyewear that leaves customers feeling happy and looking good, with money in their pockets, it’s no surprise that Warby Parker is growing like crazy. Blumenthal echoes this in a 2014 interview, noting the fastest growth in the areas of technology, retail, and customer experience.
When interviewing for a job at Warby Parker, Blumenthal points out that some questions are better to ask than others—and that one, in particular, is best. “Ask the interviewer what gets them excited to come to work every day," he advises job-seekers. “Ask the question over and over again and see if that answer is consistent from person to person. You want to work at a place where people are super passionate about what they do."
As for questions to avoid, the co-founder notes that asking about anything readily available on the company's website is an easy way to prove you haven’t done your homework, and probably aren’t passionate about Warby Parker.
He also offers insight into candidate qualifications, which typically don’t rely on education as much as work experience. And no matter your background, Blumenthal describes the interview process as an opportunity for candidates to create a narrative that stands out.
“We're hoping to hear why you chose your college, why you decided to do what you did after that, and after that, and how it all leads to why you're the best person for this job," he says. “It gives us a sense of who you are and what you care about."
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