Before Millie Chou signed on with the legal department of online shoe giant Zappos.com Inc., in 2006, she had never ordered shoes over the Internet. Now it’s been five years since she’s bought a pair in a store. When we spoke with Chou, she said she was wearing a pair of Donald Pliner sandals. “That’s one nice thing about working in Las Vegas,” she says. “I get to wear a lot of open-toed shoes!”

Chou got her foot in the door at Zappos back in 1999, long before the company turned billions of dollars in profits and landed on Fortune‘s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. When Chou graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, CEO Tony Hsieh hired her to help run the investment fund that would provide Zappos with its first influx of funds. The job was supposed to be temporary — Chou was set to begin work at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher later that year. But Hsieh convinced her to stay on, and Chou quit her law firm job before she began.

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