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Netflix’s Lisa Nishimura on Patagonia, Nike, and Jane Austen

She fills your streaming queue with epic true stories like Wild Wild Country and groundbreaking stand-up from Ali Wong, Hannah Gadsby, and more. Netflix’s VP of original documentary and comedy takes our career questionnaire.

Netflix’s Lisa Nishimura on Patagonia, Nike, and Jane Austen
[Illustration: Aleksandar Savic]

Fast Company: When stuck creatively, you . . .

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Lisa Nishimura: Get out of my head and create with my hands: gardening, ceramics, or cooking.

[Illustration: Joel Kimmel]
FC: What’s your best habit?

LN: I listen. I’ve grown to deeply appreciate that there is a wide array of communication styles, and I regularly gain valuable insights from self-proclaimed introverts by just giving them the right time, space, and opportunity to share their thoughts.

FC: Your worst habit?

LN: I over-program my schedule. One of the challenges of loving what you do is that you always want to do “one more thing.” But having a family has been a gift and made me more efficient. I want my team to be prepared for meetings with me: Let’s be productive, efficient, fast—because you’re standing between me and getting home to have dinner with my kid.

FC: To unplug, you . . .

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LN: Go hiking with my 8-year-old, ideally where ocean meets forest. Big Sur is heaven on earth. Locally, in Los Angeles, I do hikes throughout Topanga Canyon.

FC: What book do you recommend to everyone?

LN: Let My People Go Surfing, by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, and Shoe Dog, by Nike’s Phil Knight. They generously share their ambitions, failings, triumphs, doubts, accidents, and alignments of opportunity and preparedness throughout the genesis of their companies. It’s one thing to look back on your successful business story; it’s another to let people in on the dogfight of how you arrived.

FC: What’s your wardrobe staple?

LN: I love trainers. Everything from Nike to Rick Owens, Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, and Buscemi.

[Illustration: Joel Kimmel]
FC: What advice are you glad you ignored?

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LN: That I couldn’t have a legitimate career in the arts. My parents have always been supportive, but as immigrants who lived through World War II in Japan, I think their dream for their children was always for respectability and security through hard work. That meant fields like medicine, engineering, and finance. I distinctly remember, in middle school, my father suggesting I go into insurance or the Coast Guard.

FC: What was your career fork in the road?

LN: Falling into the music industry instead of going to medical school. I graduated off-schedule, so to fill some time I took an internship at Windham Hill Rec­ords. When I got it, they said, “It pays $4.70 an hour, and there’s absolutely no full-time job on the other end.” To my surprise, after three months, they offered me a full-time gig . . . so I took it.

FC: What’s always in your bag?

LN: A Japanese omamori—good-luck talisman—from my mother.

[Illustration: Joel Kimmel]
FC: Favorite hotel in the world?

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LN: The Kyoto Ritz-Carlton. The architecture and layout of the hotel are sublime. It’s located on the banks of the Kamogawa River, and you feel the integration of nature into all elements of design, throughout each of the rooms.

FC: Your go-to food for fast fuel?

LN: Fuji apples and coffee.

[Illustration: Joel Kimmel]
FC: To congratulate someone I send . . .

LN: A handwritten note. You can’t rush them, you need to be intentional. I have my favorite fountain pens, and candle wax and stamps to seal. It’s a bit of a lifelong passion, perhaps from reading too many Jane Austen novels as a kid.

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