How She Got There: Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of The Princeton Review & Tutor.com

Name: Mandy Ginsberg

Job Title and Description: CEO The Princeton Review & Tutor.com

College Name/Major: UC Berkeley/English Literature, Spanish and University of Pennsylvania/Wharton School of Business, Entrepreneurial Management

Website: www.princetonreview.com

Twitter Handle: @ThePrincetonRev

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Mandy Ginsberg: At The Princeton Review, our mission is to help students get into their dream schools. Every day we focus on the student experience – if we can help kids get better grades and scores, we can help change their trajectory and get them into schools they didn’t think they could get into before they worked with us.

In my role, there is no such thing as a typical day. From visiting one of our many offices around the country to working with different teams from the developers to the marketers, every single day is different. We are constantly working to build and innovate our products and do our jobs better.  I’ve never had the same day twice, and I like it that way.

 

What is the best part of your job?

MG: This job really changes lives. What I love about my job is that were helping millions of students reach their true potential. What’s really cool about my position is that I’m not only a CEO, I’m a mom going through this process with my 18-year-old daughter, who’s a senior in high school. I see first-hand how tough it is to get into top colleges and the stress that these students endure daily. We’re not selling gadgets or widgets; we’re selling amazing services that truly change lives. Every week we get dozens of emails from kids about their academic successes. We have over 6,000 online tutoring sessions every night, and 96 percent of students who use our site get better grades and feel more confident. We are the number one prep company that gets students into top colleges.

What I’ve found so inspiring at The Princeton Review is how passionate our employees are about teaching and helping students. It is so exciting to be a part of and I’m proud to lead a company with employees that not only work hard, but are determined to provide great tools to students.

 

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

MG: After undergrad I wanted to live in a different country, so I moved to Tel Aviv and worked at a software company helping them build business relationships in the U.S. and Europe. I learned a lot there, and when I returned to the U.S., I started working at Edelman Public Relations and Marketing for clients like Chevron and Microsoft. I worked long hours, but it definitely helped build my character.

 

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

MG: I don’t think it’s about what I know now. The technology industry is constantly changing, and you really cannot stand still. I love change and never want to do the same thing every day – honestly, no one in the technology industry can. We are constantly changing, innovating and evolving. Having that mentality throughout my career has been an important for my personal growth and the growth of the companies I’ve led.

 

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

MG: My favorite teacher was my high school English teacher, Norm Dumaine.  He was tough as hell and taught me my love for books. He ingrained in me the importance of passion and a strong work ethic. Without those two key characteristics, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

 

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

MG: Wisdom isn’t in what you say or think; it’s in what you do. I’ve never lived by a saying or quote because I believe true success comes from your actions and not your thoughts. You need to be able to execute on great ideas.

 

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

MG: I have made a few bets that had a 50/50 shot of getting me fired, but those risks have had the biggest rewards. I think a big mistake that is easy to make is taking yourself too seriously. Also, the CEO is one person, and you cannot change the company with only two hands – it takes many. Investing in your employees and building and empowering your teams are what advance a company.

 

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

MG: We had a crazy idea at Match.com to shoot a live, real first date. It wasn’t until we looked back at the footage that we realized what we had created. As a part of that campaign and marketing effort, we tapped into such a strong emotion and knew we were about to not only change the brand, but change the online dating industry. This was a moment where one business decision affected the entire brand and company in a big and awesome way. I think that realization has been one of the most surreal moments for me.

Working at IAC has also given me access to such successful entrepreneurs. I’ve never been star-struck by people in the entertainment industry, what impresses me are business leaders who are able to make major impacts in their industry. Working alongside people like Barry Diller and Jack Welch and witnessing the differences they have made in their industries over the past decades has been inspiring.

 

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

MG: They have to want it! They have to be driven, and they have to work hard. Ambition is the difference between a great résumé and a great employee.

As internet and e-commerce businesses grow, more specialized skills are becoming important. Whether looking for an email marketing expert, a mobile developer or a teacher with incredible pedagogical experience, having specialized skills and being able to be scrappy and innovate are imperative.

 

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

MG: When you’re passionate about what you do every day, it’s hard to maintain objectivity. Don’t take every career move so seriously. Take risks. Put yourself out there, and don’t doubt yourself. It is scary and you will make mistakes, but you have to go for it! Do something you’re passionate about with people you love working with, and you will be successful.

 

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