Georgia Rittenberg is CEO and owner of ComputerCare, an IT service provider, and certified Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Woman Owned Business that specializes in unconventionally thoughtful repair and logistic services specifically tailored to unique needs of each organization. With a background in Community Studies and women’s health, Georgia took an extremely unconventional path that landed her at ComputerCare, first as a part-time customer service representative. Georgia loves to travel, spend time with her community, and complete 1000-piece puzzles every week. She lives in California with her husband, Alan (the previous owner of ComputerCare), and daughter, Penny. Georgia has been a C200 member since July 2023.

Eva Glassman: Can you please introduce yourself and describe what you do?

Georgia Rittenberg: I’m the CEO and owner of ComputerCare. We’re an IT hardware services provider, so we do repair and IT logistics, which consists of warehousing, onboarding, and offboarding on a global scale. We’re based in the US, Ireland, Singapore, and India.

The company was founded in 2004; I joined in 2012 as a part-time customer service rep. One of my favorite stories about my experience with the company is that my now-husband, Alan, was the head of ComputerCare when I had first applied, and he conducted my interview (he was not my husband at the time). He asked me where I saw myself in five years, to which my reply was, “Not working here!” [laughs] At the time, I was going back to school to get my master’s degree in public health—my background is in women’s healthcare policy. Almost five years later, my husband stepped down and I took over running the company… so the exact opposite of what I had told him in my interview!

The privilege of running a privately held company is the major impact you can make as an employer in communities. That’s what drives me day after day: to grow the company, to know that the more people we hire, the more global reach we have, and the more that we can do for the communities that support our growth.

EG: Tell me more about your career journey! I heard that you studied “Community Studies” in college. What is a Community Studies degree, and how did you use your background to get to where you are today?

GR: I got to where I am now by taking the most unusual path! Community Studies is a program at UC Santa Cruz that isn’t around anymore. It was focused on community activism, so a lot of the people who joined that program ended up working for government agencies, Planned Parenthood, or legal organizations that work toward creating equity around the United States. I did an internship with Planned Parenthood while in school, and when I graduated in 2005, it was a conservative administration, so I couldn’t find work. Instead, I went down the traditional customer service and sales path. For a while, I worked at Klutz, which was owned by Scholastic, in customer service.

Then, I went through a divorce and decided to go back to school for my master’s in public health, because I realized that I wanted to make an impact on the world and make it a better place. My daughter was two years old at the time, so I thought that was an important thing to do.

I wanted to work while I was in school, so I went on Craigslist—because I’ve always had a job since I was thirteen—and applied for a job at the company that I now own and run. Back when you applied for jobs on Craigslist, you could set a job radius, and I set mine within 15 miles of home because I had to take care of my daughter.

I started my job and my master’s program, the latter of which I quickly realized wasn’t a good fit. Meanwhile, at ComputerCare, Alan had lost his account manager. So, he asked me if I wanted to join full-time, and I said yes; it felt like the right thing to do. Little did I know all the other things that would happen over the next several years!

Alan and I got married a year and nine months after I joined the company—a quick romance, but we figured out really quickly how connected we were. When we got married, we lived together—obviously—but we also commuted together and shared an office. We were constantly together, 24/7! People always ask me, “How on earth did you do that?” Honestly? I really can’t imagine anything else. Not only that, but I also got this incredible, hands-on lesson in business. I didn’t get my master’s or MBA, but because Alan and I shared an office (our desks touched in an “L” shape), I could always lean over to look at what he was doing, overhear his conversations, and ask him a million questions. I was curious about it all because it was such a big part of our lives.

In 2016, Alan recognized that he was ready to retire, which is when I stepped in. A year into the global pandemic, we realized that the business had changed so much under my leadership; I had grown the business by 250%. Because of that, Alan gave me the opportunity to become majority shareholder. That’s when we became a woman-owned business. Now, Alan is Chairman of the Board and gets financial updates while supporting me and what I want to do with the business, which is just awesome.

I feel incredibly privileged. I always say that running a company, especially a privately held company—and especially where your only other business partner is your husband—is both the biggest privilege and biggest stress of my entire life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a story I love telling, because I think there are these rigid ideas about how to get into the world of running a company that don’t fit everyone’s destiny. So much of life is the willingness to open yourself up to learning and opportunities, and I think my story is a good example of that. My company has nothing to do with public health—where I thought I’d be—but I genuinely believe I have more impact in what I do now than in what I ever would have done in that field.

EG: Of course, your husband has had the most integral role in where you are today, both personally and professionally, which is an incredibly rare situation. I am curious about your female mentors, though, if you had any. Who are the women who inspire you and why?

GR: Sheryl Brunell was the VP of Sales at Klutz when I worked there. She was one of those people who only needed a few seconds to come up with an incredible solution to any issue in her way. I joined Klutz in customer service, but eventually, I was able to move to a sales coordinator role where I reported directly to her. The way that she balanced life, family, and work was really inspiring. She was probably the first person who made me realize you don’t have to make sacrifices to do great things.

Then, when she left Klutz for a privately held company called TableTopics, she told me, “If you ever get the opportunity to work at a privately held company, take it, because it’s a very unique experience.” Two months later, she called to offer me a job, so I went over to TableTopics to work with her for a couple of years before I applied for school. In a roundabout way, she was the reason I found ComputerCare; when I was going back to school, I asked her if I could keep working part-time, but she encouraged me to look for work elsewhere. She said it was important that I wasn’t commuting 90 minutes in a car each way to the office (which is what I was doing at the time) so that I could focus more on school.

To this day, if I am in a difficult situation, I ask myself, “What would Sheryl do?” She always had the answer. I also love that she never made people feel bad for making mistakes. She always looked at mistakes as learning opportunities, and that’s how I like to lead my own team.

EG: That leads well into my next question! How does being a woman in business impact your thinking and the way you lead others?

GR: I feel a lot of responsibility, especially as a woman in tech, to be a good leader. You’re already the minority if you’re a woman in a room of senior leadership, and this is especially true in the tech industry.

The most important thing I feel is gratitude for being a role model for my daughter Penny and her friends. My proudest moment with Penny was when I was watching her and a friend on the playground and I happened to drop my phone. My daughter’s friend said, “I hope you didn’t break it,” and I said, “Well, that’s okay, because I work at a company that can fix it.” Penny, without pause, then said, “My mom doesn’t work there; she runs the whole thing!” I was so proud to see that Penny was insistent on noting that distinction!

EG: The story is so interesting, and I love how she recognized the difference between your response and the reality. I hope the next generation of girls don’t feel as inclined to downplay their work and accomplishments. I catch myself doing it a lot; the instinct is to be modest and not fully own your accomplishments.

GR: I’ve been majority owner of ComputerCare for three years, and we were certified as woman-owned in 2022; this year might be the first year where I really emphasize the “I own and operate” part of myself and my work. The default is that I would walk into a conversation and just say, “the company” instead of “my company,” or, “I work at” instead of “I run,” and you’re right—it is an important narrative to change. We need to take credit for what we’ve earned; we’ve all worked hard for what we have. It’s speaking up and having a voice about it that will encourage future female leaders to continue the charge. It’s something I can be even better at, now that you’ve reminded me!

EG: Glad I could remind you—we all need it sometimes! This leads me to my next question: What is your advice to aspiring female business leaders to advance their own careers?

GR: Life is going to lead you down a path you probably didn’t anticipate, so it’s recognizing the opportunities in every destination you end up at. It’s not about going from A to B in a straight line; you might take some curves to get there, or go right to C! Or, maybe you did end up at B, but it wasn’t the journey you expected or wanted, and it’s okay to pivot from what you thought you loved to a new direction. That doesn’t mean you failed in getting to where you thought you wanted to be; it’s that you recalibrated and reprioritized, and that’s exciting!

To your earlier point, my biggest piece of advice is not to be so hard on yourself. I think we have a hard time acknowledging our accomplishments; women especially are quick to criticize our failures. It’s okay to fail! It’s learning from it that makes you succeed. To be a strong leader means to let go of those failures and move onto the next thing—not to forget them, but to not let them hold so much weight.

EG: The idea of getting comfortable with failure is a theme I’ve seen come up in so many conversations I’ve had with C200 members about this question. We hold ourselves to such a high standard in male-dominated spaces because we have so much to prove as women in them, but that perception comes with very little room for what we consider “failure.” But the reality is that the people we look up to and admire had plenty of fumbles.

GR: Nobody is perfect, that’s for sure. Perfect is boring, anyway.

EG: Outside of work, what do you like to do for fun?

GR: I love traveling. When I was growing up, I made a goal to visit all 7 continents before 25. This year, I got to my sixth, so I’ve officially started planning when I’ll go to Antarctica to hit all 7—I’m determined to do it! It might be before I turn 45 instead, but better late than never!

I love being with our community, our friends. It brings me a lot of joy to do nice things for people that I love and who have encouraged me along the way. Otherwise, if you can’t see what you’re working towards, what’s all the stress for?

I do love puzzles, too; I probably do a 1000-piece puzzle every week. I’ve always loved puzzles, and I discovered during COVID, when there was so much I couldn’t control with the business, that I took a lot of satisfaction in completing them. It’s a scientific fact that the chemicals released in your brain when you put puzzle pieces together is like microdosing on dopamine. Doing puzzles during COVID helped me find rhyme and reason in something when everything else around me felt so out of control. My love of puzzles is even deeper now!

EG: What are you most excited about as a new C200 member?

GR: It was super exciting to attend the Annual Conference in San Diego and meet everyone in person! The thing that feels special to me about C200 is the sense that everyone truly wants to help one another. That is something that I had never experienced before, and it feels very special.

I’m so excited to get even more involved with C200 through Councils. I’ve met a lot of members in the Silicon Valley area where I live, so I’m looking forward to meeting more women who aren’t in my area. So many of them have grown extremely large businesses, so I’m excited to talk about that with them and learn what drives these amazing women! Making more friends who understand the challenges of being a woman CEO or senior executive is a huge perk; we all want and deserve more of a village behind us.