Career Advice, Now + Beyond, Interviews

This CEO is changing the rules for women in business: An interview with Tiffany Pham

It used to be when you went into Google and typed in the word "mogul," the first [dozen or so] page results fit the "successful business man" archetype.

Tiffany Pham is the Founder and CEO of Mogul, an internet platform that averages over 72 million hits a month. Mogul was featured as “Top NYC Startup to Watch” in 2015 and the “Top Site for Marketing your Company Online” by Forbes. Pham also co-hosts The Positive Pushback and has co-produced Girlfriend (2010 film) and Funny Bunny as well as co-founding the Beijing International Screenwriting Competition with the Vice Mayor of Beijing. Pham has written the book “From Business Strategy to Information Technology Roadmap: A Practical Guide for Executives and Board Members” (2013).

Recently, Mogul has featured essays from the likes of Kelly Osbourne and Chelsea Clinton – which has had The Tempest wondering – where has Tiffany Pham come from… and why?

The Tempest: We want to get a feel for you as a person and learn more about your journey. So, what put you on the path towards creating Mogul?

Tiffany Pham: I was inspired by my family from the get-go. From an early age, my grandmother served as a very huge inspiration and role model for me. She had run newspapers across Asia to provide information access for those around her who needed it and worked to democratize media within Asia.

Growing up, I wished to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps and dedicated my life thereafter towards doing that [not only] for her honor and my family legacy, but [with the goal in mind] to provide women all around the world with an information portal by which they can connect, exchange, and access knowledge from each other.

I made this promise to her when I was 14 years old, the day she passed away, that I was going to do this one day.

Your grandmother sounds like an amazing individual. Would you say that was the moment in which you realized you had to do something and put your voice out there – to create a platform like Mogul?

tiffany1

Yes, definitely. I was 14 when I made that promise, and everything that came afterwards was towards that vision and goal.

I ended up working with a number of different companies – but even before then, when I was applying to Yale at 16, I wrote in my college essays that I was going to do this. I told them that I wanted to start this company for women, to empower them and provide them with information access. The same goes for when I was 21 and applying to Harvard – I always held on to the vision that I was going to do this one day.

I [also] worked with BBC, HBO, CBS… I handled TV, radio, websites… And I took on a role simultaneously with the vice mayor of Beijing to launch new ventures in the U.S. in an attempt to bridge our marketplaces. I took on a third job producing feature films and documentaries to highlight different social issues that needed more global awareness.

As I worked in these three jobs, all of a sudden, I found myself named on different lists. Forbes’ 30 under 30, Elle Magazine’s 30 under 30 – and I found myself receiving a lot of attention from women around the world. I started receiving letters from hundreds of young girls asking for advice, asking me about the videos I was watching and the articles I was reading.

As I received these notes, I started to realize that instead of sharing all my advice one-on-one, if we had a platform whereby women all around the world could share their ideas, journeys, and advice from the ground-level, we could all gain access to more knowledge from each other. And this was going to make us [as women] that much stronger, that much better.

These are the moments that ultimately lead to Mogul’s creation.

That’s truly amazing. Is there a certain process you have to go through to post on Mogul, or is just for whoever feels the need to put their story out there?

For us, it’s about having created a platform of trust, warmth, and support that thereafter has led a lot of young girls to spread the word for us. They found Mogul to be a place for them to share their insights and stories, and as they did so, it became so valuable to them that they spread it on their own.

So that’s what we found – for every 1 million visits, we were getting 650,000 social shares on the platform. It was [a]

Why did you name your company “Mogul?”

tiffany2

Well, actually, it goes back to the story of my grandmother. I wanted to honor her, because she was a Mogul herself. When I was in business school, my classmates also started calling me “The Mogul,” or “The Media Mogul.” But then I graduated, and all of a sudden, I started to realize that was actually quite rare. No woman that I knew – in person at least – had ever been called a “mogul.”

It used to be when you went into Google and typed in the word “mogul,” the first [dozen or so] page results fit the “successful business man” archetype.

But now if you Google the word Mogul, we’re that number one search. Therefore [we’re] helping to redefine that word for the next generation of girls, so they know that they too can be moguls, and they realize that it’s a word that can be attributed to them too.

Your question’s pretty timely, actually, because we’ve just launched a new campaign to help redefine the word “mogul” forever.

Please tell us about the #IAmAMogul Campaign.

For the month of March, in celebration of Women’s history month, we’ve launched the #IAmAMogul campaign. [It’s] enabling us to be working in partnership with dozens of amazing, trailblazing women like Melissa Etheridge, Rosario Dawson, and Kelly Osbourne.

All these amazing women are coming together to share each day of March why they are a Mogul, and why they feel all women around the world should be Moguls as well.

The goal of the campaign is to really, truly redefine the word “mogul” so every woman knows that she too can be a mogul.

Check out all of the incredibly inspiring stories that have come from the  #IAmAMogul Campaign.

How do you feel about the current situation in regards to women in the tech/science/media/entrepreneurship industries, and how do you think we can improve it?

The lack of women in these fields is typically because there’s been a lack of support around them if they move up [in their positions]. Girls don’t realize that they can be something that they can’t see. Like, if they don’t see people at the highest level [that] they can identify with, then they won’t feel that support as they try to climb up themselves.

There needs to be some structure in place that enables that support and enable[s] them to be able to climb up to the top while feeling like they won’t be judged or discriminated against.

For that reason, [there are a couple of ways] in which we’re working to solve the issues women face within the various areas that you just named. One of which is through a platform addressing girls education. We created Mogul Courses, which is essentially an educational tool consisting of different courses every Mogul subscriber can access. These courses cover subject matters women are passionate about, including both the softer and harder skill sets like finance, entrepreneurship, engineering, and career education.

All of these subjects are part of the “norm” on the Mogul platform. We want our subscribers to realize it’s okay to be passionate about all these subject matters. We’re normalizing them so that all women can take part in them.

Mogul is an international platform, and you’re currently reaching women and girls all across the world – but is there a specific region that you think needs the most help or that you’re getting the most feedback from?

Absolutely. I think one of the very first letters I ever received was from Pakistan, and it read something like, “Hi, I just wanted to say that where I live, a girl’s life is all about marriage. I’m just sixteen years old, but Mogul helps me out by pointing out that I can be more than what others say. I’m a feminist now and I love your platform.”

It was one of the sweetest letters I have ever received.

Many of the letters we receive at Mogul speak to how girls from Pakistan, India, and the Middle East are learning to be more than what their societies dictate. They’re learning that their rights are just as valuable as others – that they can overstep the boundaries society has put up for them – boundaries they might not have even noticed before.

Is there a certain age you think you’re speaking to the most?

I believe age 18-34 is truly the demographic that feels especially empowered by our platform. At that age range especially, you have girls who are entering and exiting school, entering their careers, and finally moving up. It’s the Mogul platform that’s giving them the courage to speak up and to realize that their insights are just as powerful, given the leverage they find themselves having while being contributors to the site.

What else have you seen Mogul do?Tiffany5

We’re creating economic opportunity for our users. What’s happening organically is that they’re placing their products and jobs on the internet for our audience to enjoy and interact with. They’re uploading their own products from Etsy, Ebay, and Kickstarter – thereby generating free traffic back to their stores, increasing their sales, and bringing economic opportunity. Forbes even named us among one of the top three sites for marketing your company online in 2015.

In terms of job creation – what’s naturally transpiring is that our users (be it the United Nations, Prudential, etc.) are posting job opportunities in search for female millennial talent – and are finding them at a much faster rate. We’re hoping this will accelerate the rate at which women are put into the workforce and higher-up positions. [It’s also] helping us to reach parity with men and improve current rate. At the current rate, it’ll take us until 2085 to get an equal footing.

Do you mind giving me an example of a businesses that one of your users advertised on the site and ultimately found success with?

Absolutely. I already have so many anecdotes floating in my head, but I can point to one particular woman. She baked cakes in jars, sold them from Etsy onto Mogul, and started spreading the word amongst her community on Etsy because she was getting so much traffic from our site. She ultimately more than doubled her sales.

On the Kickstarter front, I remember a woman in her 30s writing to us who was trying to get a second career going. She’d invented a new eyelash curler, and had put it on Kickstarter. After putting it on Mogul, it became the #1 trending item and brought in thousands of dollars for her campaign.

Make sure you check out Mogul for groundbreaking, exclusive content, produced by women like you and me.

Tiffany Pham can be found on Twitter at @tifftpham and on her Facebook page. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.