Romy Newman is on a mission to improve the workplace for women by creating greater transparency. She is the Co-Founder and President of Fairygodboss, the largest community for career-minded women. Prior to founding Fairygodboss, Romy spent over ten years at The Wall Street Journal, Google, and Estee Lauder, where she held various leadership roles.

Romy is a frequent speaker, media personality, and contributor for Fortune, Huffington Post, and Inc. She has been featured in dozens of publications including Forbes, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, CNBC, and USA Today. Romy earned her BA from Yale University and her MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She is a proud mother of two, wife to a very supportive husband, devoted yogi, and lover of crossword puzzles.

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In an exclusive interview with Devathon, Fairygodboss Co-Founder and President Romy Newman traces her journey so far and her plans for the years ahead.

When did you first discover your entrepreneurial spirit and how is your entrepreneurial career developing so far?

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!

Founding and 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 are, it’s PRETTY terrifying.

What has been the biggest success and biggest failure stories you went through?

The biggest success for me has been Fairygodboss! When we first started the company, it was literally me and my co-founder Georgene working by ourselves in our apartments. We now have a team of over 40 and are continuing to grow. Millions of women turn to Fairygodboss for a sense of community and to connect with other women and every day we’re continuing to grow which is incredibly exciting.

I think my greatest failure was this: My former employer, The Wall Street Journal, graciously accommodated me after my second child by allowing me to go down to a 3-day a week schedule. I was able to keep my (very) senior title and all my scope of responsibilities, and was supported by strong deputies who were able to keep the trains moving even when I was not in the office on Thursdays and Fridays. I wanted this arrangement to work so much because it would have been an opportunity to show the whole world that mothers of young children can continue to be an important asset in the workplace without having to sacrifice time and commitment to their families.

I’m sad to say though, I was not able to make it work after all. I felt like I wasn’t giving my all at home OR at work and I wasn’t living up to my own high standards. AND, I felt harshly judged by those around me. (I even heard whispering in the halls, “Romy is never here anymore…”)
But the part of the arrangement that troubled me the most was the inequity of it: there were plenty of people in my reporting structure who also had small children at home and would have liked to be working on a flex schedule, yet they had not received the same permission as I had. So I felt terribly hypocritical to be expecting them to be coming to work and spending time away from their families to help facilitate my flex arrangement.

In the future, I know that there must be a way to make flex arrangements work — particularly given the fact that we are all giving more to our jobs than ever before, and that technology has brought the full scope of our jobs into our homes. I wish I had used the podium I was given to challenge the status quo and make change for more people — instead of feeling overwhelmed and throwing in the towel.

How did you come up with the idea for Fairygodboss and how did it all start?

Fairygodboss was founded after Georgene Huang – who was then my colleague at The Wall Street Journal – was suddenly fired from her executive role during a management shake-up and found herself unexpectedly looking for a job while two months pregnant. While interviewing, Georgene wanted to ask certain questions — like, is work-life balance enabled at this company? Are women paid and promoted fairly? What’s the maternity leave policy? — but feared being stigmatized. She wanted to hear directly from other women about their experiences and how they overcame similar challenges. So she had the idea to create a community through which women could share advice and experiences, and so Fairygodboss was born.

I had faced similar challenges at work as a senior level executive and having two small children, so when Georgene approached me about being her co-founder on Fairygodboss, it was an easy decision. I’ve been exhilarated by the experience of entrepreneurship, and this situation has enabled me to deliver more consistently on both my professional and personal goals.

What are your growth plans for the near future?

We recently announced a $10M Series A investment and in the last two years, we’ve seen 30x the growth among our users and currently work with more than 100 corporate customers. We expect to grow our corporate customer base to 350 by the end of the year. We’ve also grown our staff and plan to double our team size between now and the end of 2019.

Looking back, what did you learn and what would you have done differently?

I’ve been very fortunate throughout this journey, and I genuinely don’t have any regrets. I was so lucky to find an extraordinary partner in Georgene — and we’ve complemented each other very well throughout the journey. Our challenges and roles have changed constantly, but it’s been thrilling and reassuring to work through it together.

In your opinion, what are the hurdles that keep people away from starting an entrepreneurial career? What advice would you give to the new entrepreneurs?

For entrepreneurs, and especially female entrepreneurs, it’s extremely difficult to get others to believe in your idea and get funding. Recent data has shown that female founders only received 2.2% of venture funding in 2018 which is certainly something that can discourage entrepreneurs from pursuing their business ideas.

My advice to all new entrepreneurs is always the same: Build your story, sell it and believe it. Make sure your articulate it clearly, and sell the vision. And most importantly, do NOT be dissuaded. I always say that being an entrepreneur has forced me to be ruthlessly self-promotional — and there is just no other way to succeed.

Also, get a GREAT co-founder who you really trust – because otherwise, the journey can be very lonely.

Are you an entrepreneur looking for your MVP built? Get in touch with us at hello@devathon.com

Devathon has built software for companies backed by the world’s leading investors like Betaworks, Greylock, Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, KPCB, Lightspeed and many more.


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