Mandy Ansari is a digital marketer, brand strategist, and mental health advocate. In her range of roles, she works with businesses from startups to Fortune 500 companies to increase their reach and build their digital footprint, through creative marketing. Beyond leading Community Marketing initiatives at Bumble–a dream job in and of itself–Mandy is also the lifestyle blogger behind Girl & The Bay, and has cultivated a community of 270k+ followers on Instagram. To sum up her passion, Mandy is “obsessed with the internet’s ability to make the world a smaller and more connected place” and is focused on helping her followers “chase happiness in their everyday lives.” How did Mandy get into both marketing and social media? She breaks down her fascinating journey to her coveted roles below. 

What was your first job out of college? How did you get it? Did you have a connection?

While I was in college, I began nannying for a family that had two children working through dyslexia and Asperger’s syndrome. Through this, I developed a passion for children, psychology, education, and behavioral science. I began working part-time at a school as a substitute teacher, receptionist, assistant director, and then finally the principal of the school upon completing my undergraduate program. The progression came from wearing many hats, always jumping in to help as needed–anything from organizing the school carnival to plunging a toilet. The more I rolled up my sleeves and immersed myself in every aspect of the organization, the sooner I was recognized for new roles. I immediately transitioned to graduate school while leading the school. It was a wild ride for someone my age and I constantly struggled with imposter syndrome (I actually would try to do things to disguise myself as a little older than I was to gain the respect of the parents), but I learned so much about myself, children, parenthood and leading a group of 28 strong-willed, smart employees.

What was your college major? Did you feel like your major was necessary for the field you wanted to work in?

I have always had a love for Journalism and Media. My major was Journalism with an emphasis in Marketing & Advertising. At the end of my freshman year, I added a double major of Child and Adolescent Psychology. I eventually gained a master’s degree in Behavioral Sciences and a few years later completed an MBA program. It was a lot of school, but I graduated high school at 16 and had a lot of time to kill.

More than anything, I believe my education and various majors helped me learn how to multi-task and prioritize and gave me a sense of discipline I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

I have successful, bright peers who have PhDs, law degrees, some who are in jobs that have nothing to do with their college major and others who are extremely entrepreneurial and skipped higher education altogether. While there is no right or wrong path to a professional destination; I am grateful for the diverse experiences that shaped me and show up to work with me every single day.

What internships did you do prior to your first job?

I interned at a Bay Area News Group in college and was even able to convince them to publish a few of my columns in the San Francisco Chronicle, Santa Cruz Weekly, Oakland Tribune, and San Jose Mercury News. Since I’ve always had interests across a plethora of fields, I wanted to make sure I could explore those early in my career. Knowing I wouldn’t qualify for certain positions, I took the route of volunteering my skills and time to organizations that would welcome help. Some of my favorite career-building moments came from building websites and apps, content marketing, and graphic design for non-profit organizations. This gave me the 360-degree experience I needed to qualify for roles later down the road, as well as start my own companies.

How did you land your current job? What were the steps you took? 

I have been working with startups to multi-billion dollar brands for over a decade, helping them share their stories to connect with their target audiences. Through this, I organically built a community online. I had toyed with the idea of building a space online to better connect with them, but it wasn’t until my best friend lost her battle with lifelong depression and took her own life that I made a move. She loved the Internet—whether it was a hilarious meme, career advice, blogs, inspirational quotes or self-help—it provided her with joy and inspiration to persevere through the daily. The thing we don’t often realize about depression is that the people struggling with mental illness chase happiness harder than anyone else. I wanted to turn the intense pain and grief I was experiencing without her into a legacy that could live on, but also help others feel less alone and more understood on their journey of chasing happiness. It’s important to me that I share the good, great, bad, and ugly moments online. The more I did this, the more my digital footprint grew, and I suddenly found myself needing to leave my 9-5 (leading digital marketing at a skincare company I still love) to dedicate all my time to making this community thrive. I want to normalize this conversation because I believe the single most common cause of depression is feeling alone and misunderstood. It’s important that every single thing I post helps someone feel more confident, a little lighter, less alone, and a bit more understood. This could mean taking that dream trip you never thought you could afford or gathering the guts to ask for time off from your intimidating boss…or simply wearing a rainbow sequin jacket because you’re feeling a little grey inside, but using the power of fashion to inspire the mood you’re hoping to attain that day. 

What was the best/worst piece of advice you ever received?

While I don’t know Oprah IRL, she is the original Virtual BFF. Did you know the queen didn’t miss a day of work in 25 years while running the highest-rated daytime talk show?! 4,561 episodes and she never missed one! I love what she says about finding fulfillment in work––“Your job is not always going to fulfill you. There will be some days that you just might be bored. Other days, you may not feel like going to work at all–go anyway…the number one lesson I can offer you is…to become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do that your talent cannot be dismissed.” The point? Be so good that you can’t be ignored. She’s not telling us to strive for perfection, but she encourages us to have enough passion, motivation, and dedication to something that we excel. In the long run, that is what you can control in your quest to land that job, promotion, or the recognition you’re seeking.

Is there any part of your role that our readers would be surprised to know?

Accolades and great press mentions are awesome, but have you ever had someone slide into your DMs asking for honest advice? I have to say, for me, there has been nothing more rewarding than some of the raw conversations that go down in the DM about depression, anxiety, suicide, and mental health. It’s in those moments that I’m most proud that a person can look past the posts about polka dots + rainbow pantsuits to know what I stand for and that I am building a community where we can candidly talk about the things that matter.