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Meet the Founders of Fairygodboss
Ladies…When you are looking for a job, do you ever wonder what it is like to work there? What is the company culture really like? Curious about company salaries? Guess what? Fairygodboss gives you this information and so much more!
In fact, Fairygodboss founders Georgene Huang (left) and Romy Newman (right) know the value of deep career research. They certainly did a lot of it in school (Cornell, Stanford, Yale, and Northwestern Universities) and while working their way up and through Big Law, Wall Street, Bloomberg, Dow Jones, Estee Lauder, and Google. Whether you work in a small non-profit or a big corporate firm, they are obsessed with making sure you know what you’re getting into.
Meet Georgene & Romy
Natasha: Can you describe the feeling you had on the day that you launched Fairygodboss?
GH: We didn’t exactly have a formal launch, but slowly built our product and invited small groups of people to use it at the beginning. Fairygodboss really took off though in late 2016 around the time that we got some attention for our crowdsourced parental leave database which includes thousands of companies’ maternity and paternity leave policies. We were featured on CBS This Morning, which was really exciting, though it was a little bit nerve-wracking to be on national TV!
RN: I always say that the whole first year of working on Fairygodboss felt like I sent emails to other people and received almost none. Every day, I’d look at my inbox and dream that someone would respond to me. I started to feel like we finally had traction when people finally started responding to my emails — and even taking calls with me!
Natasha: How has the business changed from when you founded it in 2015?
RN: So much has changed! When we first started it was literally me and Georgene working by ourselves in our apartments. We now have a team of nearly 30 and are continuing to grow. We engage with millions of women and work with more than 70 corporate partners.
GH: We’ve evolved so much, too. Fairygodboss now not only has our anonymous review platform, but we produce career-focused editorial content, research and recently introduced a new product feature to allow women to ask and receive career advice from each other, share interesting articles and interact with each other as a community.
Natasha: What were the biggest career challenges you dealt with before you founded Fairygodboss?
GH: One of my biggest professional challenges led to the founding of Fairygodboss when I was suddenly fired from my executive role at a major company as part of an unexpected management shakeup. At the time, I was two months pregnant and hadn’t yet told anyone. So I was in this position of looking for a job and going on interviews — and feeling quite pressured to hide my pregnancy.
While interviewing, I wanted to ask certain questions — like, is work-life balance enabled here? Are women paid and promoted fairly? What’s the maternity leave policy? — but feared being judged as less than fully committed to my career if I asked. So, I turned to the internet for answers and was surprised by the lack of information I found, given how crucial this information is to women’s careers. That’s when I had the idea to see if women would be willing to share their workplace experiences, so women could have a better understanding of leave policies and company cultures, and now we have Fairygodboss!
RN: I think my ongoing challenge was that as I climbed the leadership ranks, I was often the only woman in the room or the only woman on the team. I felt like I was sometimes judged for my ambition — or even for my enthusiasm! And, I felt like I was overlooked for promotions because of my gender.
Natasha: Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
GH: Yes, I always knew I wanted to start and run my own company one day. I didn’t know when I was going to do it but I was always interested in the idea. My father is entrepreneurial and I grew up in Silicon Valley where I had actually interned during college one year. I thought the innovation and excitement of building something from the ground up were extremely appealing, despite the risk.
RN: My grandfather and mother were both professors at business schools – so I have grown up loving the idea of building a business. For me, starting my own company seemed like a dream — but probably more like a distant one. Among the many reasons that I am so fortunate to have hooked up with Georgene is that she helped give me the courage to achieve this dream!
Natasha: What have been the most meaningful lessons learned from founding Fairygodboss?
GH: I’ve learned that my job changes every year or so. What I had to do in order to be successful in year 1 is not the same thing I should do to be successful in year 3, and so forth. That’s what makes startup life so challenging. In order to succeed over the long run, you really have to adapt very rapidly to the new situation and new role you play.
RN: I agree with Georgene that my job changes every year. But I also think that running this business has taught me to focus on the moment and the issue at hand — because if you spend too much time thinking about how high the stakes, it’s PRETTY terrifying.
Natasha: What are common career questions you hear from the Fairygodboss readers?
GH: Women in our community are really seeking information about how best to navigate their careers. We hear quite a bit about leave policies. Women to know about company-specific policies, how to plan for maternity leave, how to tell your boss you’re expecting, and how you can ease the transition back to work. Women are also interested in making career transitions, and also we receive a lot of questions around negotiation and interview tips!
Natasha: If you weren’t the founders of Fairygodboss, what would you be doing?
GH: I think I have the startup bug in a major way so I would probably be starting or trying to start some other kind of company.
RN: I think I’d be working for a not-for-profit. As I’ve gotten older and built a family, it feels more and more important for me to give back to the community and help make the world a better place.
Natasha: What are the best social media platforms for job hunters to use for career opportunities?
RN: We’ve found in our research that women use social media much differently than men when searching for a job. In fact, they are much less likely to use social media during a job hunt. However, using social media can be so helpful in finding your next opportunity. Obviously, we want women to use Fairygodboss during their job search. But, it’s also helpful to use LinkedIn and Twitter to build your own personal brand!
Natasha: How do you define success? And, how much of your career makes up that definition?
GH: I think success is very personal and after hearing from so many women about what they want to achieve in their lives, I am very aware of the wide range of experiences that can constitute success for different people. For me, career success is about making a business success that has a social mission I really believe in.
RN: I completely agree! To me, success for Fairygodboss will be both financial and also social. I hope that at the end of this amazing experience, we will have brought more gender equality to the workplace — and also built a hugely successful enterprise.
Natasha: What is something no one knows about you?
GH: I wouldn’t say that no one knows this about me, but very few people in my professional life know that my first university experience was as a flutist at a music conservatory. I was very far away from the business and academic world starting out in my adult life.
RN: I once rode cross-country on the back of a motorcycle! It was right after I graduated from college. Candidly, I thought I might be a hippie. But it turned out I was a lot happier in an office — then and now!