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How my high school journalism teacher taught me to run a billion dollar company

September 1, 2015, 5:00 PM UTC
Sandra Coan Photography

Fortune Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Why is it important to have a mentor? is written by Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow Group.

I credit my high school newspaper advisor, Kathy Neumeyer, with not only teaching me journalism, but more importantly, the management skills required to be successful in business. I initially joined the staff of my high school newspaper because my brother had been editor-in-chief a few years earlier. I didn’t know much about journalism — or why I’d want to learn about it — but I knew that I wasn’t going to let my older brother outshine me. So I started out as a reporter, then an editor and eventually became editor-in-chief myself.

Because of the incredible experience that Ms. Neumeyer helped create, I ended up with three journalism internships in college — including my first internship at Bloomberg News followed by others at FOX Broadcasting and NBC News. It’s clear she taught me how to be a journalist and the importance of the media. But what really stuck with me were the underlying skills that it takes to run a business: lead by example, work with intensity, act with integrity and pay attention to detail.

Ms. Neumeyer stressed the importance of a good manager, one who focused on clearing the roadblocks for employees and then empowering them to solve their own problems. Managers in the workplace, like editors at a high school newspaper, exist to help their direct reports be more successful, not to boss them around.

My experience as editor-in-chief also sparked my interest in evolving media platforms. We used cutting edge technology to run the newspaper back in 1992 — we were one of the first high school papers in the country to use Pagemaker on a Mac. Today, the technologies have changed, but my desire to seek new methods to tell stories and influence people have not.

Finally, Ms. Neumeyer helped me realize the importance of gender equality — demonstrating the impact that a strong female leader can have. Ms. Neumeyer was a great mentor to both me and to my female Co-Editor-in-Chief, Teri Stein. In fact, sharing a leadership position with a peer was another formative experience, which prepared me to lead Zillow’s consensus-oriented meritocracy. I don’t think Ms. Neumeyer or I realized it at the time, but she definitely was my mentor, helping to shape me into the business leader I am today. Thank you, Ms. Neumeyer.

Read all answers to the Fortune Insider question: Why is it important to have a mentor?

Why this CEO believes in multiple mentors by Carolyn Rodz, CEO of Market Mentor.

Why young workers make the best mentors by Kim Getty, president of Deutsch.

5 things to know before becoming a mentor by Debby Hopkins, CEO at Citi Ventures.

Here’s one reason why you don’t need a mentor by Shiza Shahid, co-founder and ambassador of Malala Fund.

The do’s and don’ts of an effective mentor by Shannon Schuyler, leader of corporate responsibility at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Why you’re never too old to have a mentor by Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, national managing partner of corporate responsibility at KPMG.

How men can step up and help women get ahead at work by Gloria Cordes Larson, president of Bentley University.

When it comes to mentors, the more the merrier by Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Are you qualified to be a mentor? by Sarah Watson, chief strategy officer of BBH N.Y.

Is mentoring necessary for career advancement? by Teresa Briggs, vice chairman and west region managing partner at Deloitte.

Do all employees benefit from having a mentor? by Dawn Zier, president and CEO of Nutrisystem.

4 things your boss won’t tell you (but a mentor will) by Penny Herscher CEO of FirstRain.

What qualities make a good (and bad) mentor? by Karen Tegan Padir, president of application development at Progress Software.

Why mentoring is unlike any other professional relationshipby Jenni Luke, CEO of Step Up.

Why you don’t need a mentor to be successful by Beth Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young.

What qualities should you look for in a mentor? by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.

4 things to consider before choosing a mentor by Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership.

The most important quality a mentor should have by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

Why women are more likely to be mentors by Alyse Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership.

3 reasons every employee needs a mentor by Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Why this AOL executive chooses her mentors — wisely by Allie Kline, CMO of AOL, Inc.