This Introverted Entrepreneur Started a Platform to Help Millions of Women Reach Their Potential
Mogul founder and CEO Tiffany Pham shares the strategies that helped her build strong relationships.
If there is someone you admire, someone whom you want to learn from, especially in an industry that you are new to, Tiffany Pham's advice is: Don't wait.
You never know what opportunity could be waiting for you.
Pham, 32, is the founder and CEO of Mogul, an online platform and app dedicated to helping women expand their community, take ownership of their goals and find meaningful work. Over the last five years, the business has grown from a rudimentary site Pham built herself, after teaching herself to code, to a multi-faceted company whose user base spans more than 30 million women in 196 countries.
It might be surprising that this is the job that a self-professed introvert chose for herself. But Pham says that starting from that point made all the difference.
Pham says that much of what has driven her has been her desire to make her family, especially her late grandmother, proud of the work she was putting out into the world.
“Mogul was initially inspired by my grandmother," Pham told Entrepreneur. "She was this incredible woman to me. A maverick of her time, she was one of the first women to drive a car in Vietnam, and she ran businesses across Asia to provide others in need with information and opportunities.
“I wanted to be just like her growing up. When I was 14 years old, she unexpectedly passed away and I made a promise to her that I would dedicate the rest of my life working towards the same goal and ambition that she had, no matter how hard or challenging.”
Her grandmother wasn’t her only inspiration. Pham grew up in Vietnam, Paris and Plano, Texas, where she moved when she was 10. There, she relied on popular culture to help her learn English and better connect with her new surroundings.
Friends and I Love Lucy were her go-to’s as a child,she says. Later, she leaned toward portrayals of strong women in shows and movies like Gilmore Girls and Legally Blonde. These shows also made her want to be part of the media industry. She says that the fact that she attended Yale and Harvard like the heroines of her favorite stories isn’t a coincidence.
During her time at Harvard, especially, Pham said that her default was to be shy and hang back, but she says that after her first year in her MBA program, she returned to Plano and made herself a promise. “I couldn't let a single moment in my life ever go by again with regret,” said Pham. “I always had to speak up, be a part of the conversation, make sure to raise my hand and share my voice.”
So Pham made a point of consistently reaching out to her role models by asking them a simple question: What is the most boring or mundane task you have to do? "I’ll do it, I want to learn." She said that strategy helped get her a front row seat to how decisions were made on Broadway -- where she was promoted from check-in girl to general manager for the show Volleygirls -- and on broadcast television.
In 2014, after graduating from Harvard and before officially launching Mogul, Pham held a number of jobs to learn all aspects of the media business. She was the director of business development and strategic initiatives and partnerships at CBS, co-founder of the Beijing International Screenwriting Competition and a film producer and investor with NYC Film Productions -- all at the same time.
No surprise then that in 2014, Pham landed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List. Suddenly, she was the one getting cold emails from women who saw her as a role model.
“I started getting a flood of letters from all around the world from young women asking me for help and advice on how to get these jobs, too; how to get promotions; how to get interviews. And I would share the steps I took.
"And they would tell me that my letters changed their life, that they did get an interview or a promotion or opportunity they never thought would be possible. That is what gave me the idea for Mogul,” Pham recalled. “What if we could have a platform where millions of us would be able to share our ideas and opportunities and goals and dreams and ways in which to get there, and realize our full potential?"
Pham got her hands on a Ruby on Rails tutorial and taught herself to code in order to build what she describes as “the very first, very, very ugly,” iteration of Mogul. She sent that version to a couple of thousand women, friends and mentors, but also to the women who wrote to her. That helped the site grow to a million users in the first week, in 2016. This month, Mogul launched its new app worldwide.
Since starting Mogul, Pham has also written two books, You Are a Mogul: How to Do the Impossible, Do It Yourself, and Do It Now and Girl Mogul: Dream It. Do It. Change the World.
And she's expanded her company to partner with powerful female role models like Madeleine Albright, Katie Couric, Rebecca Minkoff, Margaret Cho and Nina Garcia -- whom she's dubbed "Mogul Mentors." Mogul Mentors share their hard-won experiences with the community at events and online.
Mogul, which is on track to grow to a staff of 40 by the end of the year, also licenses software to Fortune 100 companies, including IBM, Ultimate Software, Sitetracker and XPO Logistics to help them attract diverse talent, improve their employee pipelines and work toward a goal of a more equal workforce.
Also offered: a spate of webinars that dive into topics ranging from unconscious bias to remote work to finding your purpose. Then there is the annual Mogul X conference. This coming September, 1,500 women will descend on New York for sessions on managing money and setting goals, with speakers like financial expert Suze Orman, who recently joined Mogul's board of advisors.
The main reason she agreed to join, Orman told Entrepreneur, was how impressed she was with Pham. “I knew her goal was to transform women and their lives, especially young women. And I loved that because that doesn't exist today. Everybody is really all about, 'If we go to women, we'll make money,'" Orman explained. "It's always a woman angle, and this wasn't so much an angle. This was a true desire for her to do something. These 20- and 30-year-olds are our future. So why wouldn't I want to invest in the future of this world?”
Orman added that if the conference attendees take away one lesson from her Mogul X sessions, it will be this: “You have to give to yourself, as much as you give of yourself. It's not enough to make money. You have to have power over the money that you make.”
For any young woman focused on making the connections that will get her into the business world, Pham offered two pieces of advice. First, especially for her fellow introverts nervous about networking, it's important to reframe your thinking, she said. Start by taking the word "networking" out of your vocabulary and throwing away the notion that this activity has to be awkward or transactional.
“I believe at the core of every collaboration there has to friendship,” said Pham. “That is the way to approach any relationship. From that friendship, a partnership will emerge.”
Then there's the challenge in seeking a promotion. Don’t be afraid to ask for it, Pham advised. First, though, work backwards and ask for the promotion six months before you actually need it. Then, even if the answer is no, during that meeting with your supervisor, you can ask about the milestones you have to hit. That way, once that six months elapses, you can point to all you’ve accomplished and get the money you’ve earned.
“A no is a 'not right now' that will turn into a 'yes' with all your hard work, dedication and passion,” Pham said -- “so long as you keep moving forward.”
Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.