Sophie Donelson is the editor in chief of House Beautiful, the perfect magazine for every Career Girl who likes planning their dream house or getting tips and ideas on their next decorating project. Sophie is quite a young editor in chief, she is only in her mid-thirties and has been editor in chief of Hamptons Cottages & Gardens, held a senior editorial position at ELLE DECOR and has written for publications like New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Departures, and New York Magazine. Here are some super inspiring tips on being an editor in chief from Sophie…
‘On my busiest days I have up to 14 meetings, I often don’t turn on my computer until 5pm.’
The highlight of my career?
I’m living it right now! Being named the Editor in Chief of House Beautiful is a dream and the position is more fun, more engaging, and yes, more challenging, than I expected. I seriously love going to work every day.
Favorite part of the job?
Seeing a vision come to life. There are so many steps between having an idea for an issue theme, for example and seeing the stories and pictures coalesce into an experience for the reader. I particularly love seeing the layout and copy together for the first time, it’s a thrill! And my least favorite part of the job would be making hard choices. There are only so many stories I can run each month, it’s hard to play favorites.
A typical day for me?
There are no typical days. In LA this week I’ll moderate panels of designers and industry experts, host an event at a showroom, attend a cocktail party in my honor, and meet with top bloggers for lunch and drinks – reading stories and emailing like a madwoman on the plane there and back. The day before I leave, I’ll be in back-to-back meetings and photo shoots at the office from 8am to 8pm. On my busiest days I have up to 14 meetings, I often don’t turn on my computer until 5pm.
‘When I feel a major pinch of stress around a project or a big idea (i.e. burnout on the horizon), I try to clear my calendar of every non-essential (including workouts, friend hangouts, and standing meetings) until I’ve resolved it.’
The best advice I’ve received is…
My art director likes to say, “is it memorable”? I think of that all the time. What’s the story, the picture, the cover that’s going to stick with readers in 5 or 10 years? “Hey do you remember that House Beautiful story that….” If I can finish that sentence in a way that seems realistic, then we’re in a good direction.
My advice for people who are young and in a senior position or managing people older than them is…
Mostly to listen – but that goes for all people, senior staff, the management above me, and assistants, too. To truly listen, not multitask, not simply wait to speak, but to listen and hear the ideas (or irritations!) of your colleagues is simply respectful. In terms of being a good manager, I also try to make decisions swiftly. In startups there’s the mantra of “fail fast”. It means to just get your ideas out there to the people – even if it’s not fully perfected – instead of belaboring. Once it’s out there, you can make the call whether it worked or didn’t. But without action, there’s no progress at al l. We tried our first “Bath & Beauty” issue this fall and I’m looking forward to seeing how it performed with readers and advertisers. In any case, we had fun producing it.
‘…to listen and hear the ideas (or irritations!) of your colleagues is simply respectful’
I monotask. When I’m at work, I work. I don’t shop online or book a babysitter. Sure, I’ll return a few personal emails and texts, but that’s it! When I’m home, I parent my three-year-old. I’m 100% focused on him, no phone in sight. I’m lucky that the culture of House Beautiful is one that respects nights and weekends as personal time. And I’ll keep that up. When I tear through emails on a Friday night I mark the subject line *FOR MONDAY* so that my team doesn’t feel the need to respond.
My workwear style is…
A work in progress! I had to build my wardrobe almost from scratch. Dresses are my essential. Dresses, heels, a cuff or necklace, done. Dresses and heels or pencil skirt, blouse, blazer works for me. I bought a handful of bright, fun-to-wear shift dresses at Kate Spade recently and I also swung by Worth, an appointment-only salon that recently revamped its brand and collection and got an amazing leopard sequin pencil skirt, a few smart dresses and great knits. I buy a lot all at once since I shop so infrequently. Also: I get my hair blown out at least once a week, which gives me a head start at looking polished.
How I avoid burnout…
House Beautiful appears 10 times a year. At the very beginning, I was trying to cram 3 brand new concepts into every issue. Now, I map out ideas over a 12-month calendar, which allows me to share loose concepts with my team and then still ruminate a bit. When I feel a major pinch of stress around a project or a big idea (i.e. burnout on the horizon), I try to clear my calendar of every non-essential (including workouts, friend hangouts, and standing meetings) until I’ve resolved it. Mono-tasking!
‘I do that Bobbi Brown trick of contouring your cheekbones by drawing a “3” on each side of your face.’
My beauty secrets are…
I’m pretty simple: Supergoop! CC cream, drugstore mascara (CoverGirl LashBlast), lipstick (YSL is amazing), and some Two Faced bronzer. I do that Bobbi Brown trick of contouring your cheekbones by drawing a “3” on each side of your face. You brush the top of your forehead, curving below the apple of your cheek and at the chin line.
Ps. Don’t forget to check out our new limited edition CGD mugs!