Dallas-headquartered Match Group is a pioneer in the dating game. The company boasts the largest global portfolio of popular online dating services like Tinder, Match, Meetic, OkCupid, Hinge, Pairs, PlentyOfFish, and OurTime. Behind it all is Chief Executive Officer Shar Dubey—but her journey to the top was anything but easy.
Since joining Match Group in 2006, Dubey has been a key driver of its organic and M&A growth, along with revenue and product strategy.
Before taking the helm, Dubey served as Match Group’s president and chief operating officer of Tinder. In that role, she launched Tinder Gold, a subscription product that helped Tinder earn its title as the highest-grossing non-gaming app in the world.
But at Dallas Startup Week, Dubey revealed that she faced challenges getting to her eventual CEO role. As a woman entering a male-dominated industry, she encourages women to go out and chase their perfect careers. That’s what she did.
And here’s how.
It’s OK to stand out
Born and raised in India, Dubey’s love for innovation was sparked by her father, who was a mechanical engineering professor. Dubey says she always had a desire to mimic her highly ambitious parents and was determined to get a solid education. She applied to the Indian Institute of Technology, and sure enough, was included in the program’s one percent acceptance rate.
“When I went to IIT back in the late ’80s or early ’90s, I was the only girl in my class for most of the years that I was there,” Dubey says. “It was hard to be the only girl in a class of 80 to 100 boys. There was no women’s bathroom in the school building where I went to study, so every time I needed to use the restroom, I had to run a mile and a half to the dorm. There was only one dorm for girls, and that was the only place I could go.”
Dubey also faced a lack of support.
She candidly shared that no one would sit next to her in class—even her lab partner would not show up for projects because he was uncomfortable that she was a girl. She thought about quitting just about every day for about a month.
“I remember another girl who was two years senior to me,” Dubey says. “And she said, ‘If you quit, you’re the only one that’s going to lose. So grit it up.'”
And she did.
She graduated from IIT and worked for around two years to save up enough money to buy a plane ticket and pay the application fees for grad school in America. With big dreams and $800 in her pocket, Dubey took her first flight to Columbus, ready to take Ohio State by storm.
While there were still barely any women in her engineering program, Dubey says she wasn’t fazed. In fact, she was able to stand out: It brought more attention to her accomplishments, she says.
Hard work pays off
After grad school, Dubey landed a job at an aerospace company in Philadelphia, where she was the first female engineer they had ever hired. She was also the company’s first employee from out of the country.
“At an aerospace company that’s been around for a long time, the supervisor of the shop floor called all the shots. But then you have this newly graduated woman with an accent trying to come in and tell you how to do your job. That was one of the most challenging parts of my career,” Dubey says.
Dubey decided to “outwork everybody.”
Because, she says, “If nothing else, I was going to win him over. Even to this day—being the CEO of a $45 billion company—nothing compares to me winning him over.”
Then Dubey headed to Dallas to work for Texas Instruments, along with her husband.
During that time, Dubey connected with Mandy Ginsberg, who a few years later joined Match Group and became the GM of a new brand that was being launched.
Founded in Silicon Valley in 1995, Match moved its headquarters to Dallas in 2000. In 2006, Ginsberg was looking to fill the company’s product engineering role, and she remembered Dubey’s knowledge and work ethic.
But initially, Dubey rejected the offer, as she was comfortable working in her B2B supply chain software role. It was a world apart from online dating.
That didn’t last long.
“I called [Mandy] back and said, ‘I’ll do it,’ and that was it,” Dubey says. “That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that Mandy and I shared for many years. We worked well together—we had a very, very productive business partnership.”
Eventually, Dubey would go on to succeed Ginsberg in the role of CEO of Match Group.
Over the course of her first 15 years at Match Group, Dubey wore many hats, held a number of titles, and juggled a variety of responsibilities. Coworkers recall that she has a reputation for being a humble leader who prizes values, trust, empathy, and transparency.
“Society constantly thinks that the CEO has to have all the answers and that we have to be able to tell people what to do,” Dubey says. “I totally disagree with that premise.”
To Dubey, good leadership is about the power of influence. You should know how to mobilize a group of people to come together around one idea, vision, or mission—and execute to completion.
“When I get asked, ‘What is your secret about managing people?’ I always say, ‘I don’t manage people. I manage the problem. I manage the process. I never manage people,” Dubey says.
As CEO, Dubey has to put a massive amount of fires. She knows she asks a lot from her team. Though, she says, “never without humanity and respect.” She may be busy building her own success story, but she’s also passionate about helping others build their own.
By working hard and staying humble, Dubey has shattered stereotypes and glass ceilings. She has every intention of continuing to do so.
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