Women in Business Q&A: Sandy Rubinstein, CEO, DXagency

Sandy Rubinstein, CEO, DXagency, oversees all DXagency operational divisions as well as marketing strategies and execution. Sandy also oversees staff development and ensures that each member of the team learns, grows and provides the clients with the best possible work product. Sandy came to DXagency in 2009 after 20 years' experience in various senior Marketing, Management and Advertising roles at television networks and consumer brands including: TVLand, SyFy, General Motors R Works, Lifetime Television and Nick at Nite. Sandy graduated from the University of Miami with a double major in Classical Voice & Business and a minor in Marketing & Advertising.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Being the daughter of immigrant parents, I was taught at an early age that failure was not an option and to work hard on achieving my goals. The day I started college I knew what I wanted to do in my career, I was passionate about making people "feel" something. Whether it was when I was singing, acting or presenting an advertising concept, I knew I wanted to engage with people on an emotional level. That's why I encourage my employees and mentees to find out what drives them. What are they passionate about? What do they want to be when they grow up? Once you figure that out, you can be unstoppable.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at DXagency?
I have been blessed with the opportunity to work for some of the best and some of the not so best. You remember fondly those who were good to you, but you learn the most from those who were not. Those experiences defined the type of manager I wanted to become. I had seen firsthand how demoralizing and deflating a manager can be whether by design or by accident. The key is that the perception people around you have is more powerful than your intent. Especially when working in a youthful industry it's important to manage each person in a way that brings out their individual best, encourages creativity and maintains a professional work environment for all.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at DXagency?
The biggest challenge was joining a technology company without having a technology background. As someone for whom 'failure is not an option,' I knew I had to put together an education plan for myself. Fortunately, I had the resources I needed close at hand. I talked to every employee and asked them to teach me about their discipline. I even learned how to write some code. More important, I now know how to provide digital business solutions based on a client needs, and I can align that knowledge with the marketing skills I brought with me.

I think the biggest highlight has been evolving the company from a mom-and-pop shop of 5 people and turning it into an organization of over 40 employees with expansion plans into other markets. We've had wonderful growth over the last 10 years, and it couldn't have happened without formalizing our internal processes - everything from establishing HR, employee benefits, financial controls, job-flow processes, employee training and amazing additional perks including: Year round summer Fridays with early cosing, Free Foodie Fridays with company paid lunch, Monthly themed Pot Luck events, Monthly companywide off-site happy hours. Etc. It's a thrilling ride and we're just getting started.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in marketing?
I would give them the same advice my mother gave me. Do it because you love it, not because you see it as a path to fortune. With anything in life, if your heart isn't in it you won't be successful. More specific to marketing- If you love the challenge of finding that needle in a haystack, that thing that makes people "feel" something, then there's nothing better in the world than marketing.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Be serious about what you do, but be able to laugh at yourself, OFTEN AND ALOT.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
That's always a challenge and took me several years to conquer.

For me, the solution is in scheduling what's most important and sticking to it. NO MATTER WHAT. I have an amazing husband and twin 12 year old sons who are my world. That time is precious and nothing can interfere with that.

I drive my kids to school every day. Sure I would love to sleep later than 6am everyday, but that half hour we spend in the car is amazing. I also try not to schedule client or internal meetings at 3pm. That's when I have a scheduled conference call with my sons. They get board the bus from school and that's our time to chat about the day so far. Finally, in the evenings from the moment I walk in my home until they go to bed, my phone stays at the front door so they understand that family time is a priority.

I make a point of teaching my kids what I do so they understand my passion. They love when I take them to the office and share media plans, or campaign concepts, or I enlisted them to help test websites, they are learning how to code and have even started wire framing their own pro-social website concept. They have even volunteered to handle the advertising campaign for their school winter dance! They understand what I do and they care about my success as I care about theirs.

And let's also not forget to include weekday date nights with the hubby so we get our time as well.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Both job and family can be all-consuming - they don't set limits on how much of your time they want. I think for women it's particularly true that both your job and your family need to feel that they are the most important thing in your life. You have to make difficult decisions about prioritizing your time. You also have to feel secure in yourself to set boundaries so you can serve all your masters well.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
It just takes one person to change your life. I have been lucky in having a mentor who has helped me throughout my career. This has been invaluable and I would not be where I am without their thoughtful insights and perspective.

I have also had the honor of being a professional mentor myself and this relationship has been incredibly rewarding. At DXagency we integrate mentoring and cross-training programs throughout the organization. The technology world is full of creative and energetic young people who are eager to learn and grow professionally. I have also found that mentorship even in earlier years can make a sizable impact; therefore I have become extremely involved in educational work. I have been elected to my local school board, I am on the board of directors of an education foundation which provides STEAM grants to our schools, I am a mentor to university students and I am developing a pro-social initiative where DXagency goes into local public schools and furthers STEAM education.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
My Mother, my maternal Grandmother and my great aunts- the women in my family are quietly extraordinary. My grandmother and great-aunts escaped Nazi Germany with nothing, and knew failure was not an option. They forged beautiful lives, in foreign countries and raised wonderful children. A generation later, my parents came to Miami and had to make their way without speaking the language. My father was off to work and my Mother and I would learn English watching Sesame Street. I asked her "why do we have to learn English" and she said "because you are going to have a great life here and you need to know the language." I believe in self-reliance because the women in my family made it happen for themselves and their families. Again, failure is not an option.

What do you want DXagency to accomplish in the next year?
I want DXagency to be the best place to work. I want people to say 'Wow DX, I would love to work there.' In the late 90's and early 2000 people would fall over each other to work at MTV. This year, I want that place to be DXagency.

That, and Total World Domination. Is that too much to ask?