Last month, MediaMath redefined the values that we hold ourselves to for our clients, partners, and employees. In this series, Mathletes reflect on each of the values that MediaMath has adopted.
Success in this world is not a net-zero game, but finding ways to grow your business by offering advertisers ways to improve the return on their spend can translate to better value for publishers as well. In the most basic formulation, win/win wins.
We take the same approach to how we work with each other within our teams – it is very difficult to coerce anyone to do something they do not want to do. Rather than expending the extra effort to get someone to do something against their interest, find a way to make them benefit from your desired course of action. What works for business relationships works for interpersonal relationships, too. People are happy to help you win when it helps them win.
Have you ever been caught looking for work at work? I have. My boss always assumes I’m casually on the hunt for a new job. After all, born post-1980, I’m a millennial and the stigma of our professional restlessness is well documented. To be clear, I’m not looking for a new job. And analysis by FiveThirtyEight and researchers at the University of Southern California help debunk the notion that ours is a particularly transient generation. Yes, millennials are more likely to have more jobs than the previous generation, but the same was true when comparing our parents to their parents.
The challenge for me and my peers is we are endlessly presented with new professional opportunities. With the ubiquity of job sites like LinkedIn, Opportunity and The Muse, the greener grass is just a click away.
Having hopped jobs four times before age 30, I have developed a methodology for knowing when to make the move. The system is based on the five ideal elements of any job. Of course, no job is perfect. But the goal is to check off four out of five. If you can only answer yes to three or fewer of these questions, it may be time to update your LinkedIn profile.
Are you learning something new? You’ll be most engaged at work when you are challenged. By challenged I do not mean having to endure exhausting hours, a micromanaging boss or an insurmountable project. Instead, does your job challenge the way you think? Are you regularly learning something new to stay current with new technologies, theories, or developments? In my job, I am surrounded by smart people who are changing the way the advertising industry works from the inside out. Spend enough time with visionary people who challenge the status quo and you will start to think differently too. It’s exhilarating.
Do you like the people you work with? The people you work with can be the most important factor in any job. They do not have to be your best friends, but your boss(es), peers and employees should respect your work, respect your personal life and push you to be your best self in the office. When you wake up and think about going into work, your mood is influenced by the people you imagine interacting with at the office. Even if you are focused on a specific project, it is the people who condition your environment and make an easy task loathsome and a tough task gratifying.
Are you good at your job? Holding a sense of pride in your work product is vital. As you advance in your career, you will settle into your skill set and begin to develop a clear sense of your strengths. There is always more to learn and no task is ever perfectly complete. For me, moving from consulting to in-house communications work came with a steep learning curve. I suddenly had to represent myself as the single expert in my company, whereas I had previously been one of many at a large firm. At one point, my boss exclaimed, “You’re the expert. Stop telling us what you think we should do and just do it!” The process forced me to take real ownership over my expertise.
Are you compensated well? This one seems obvious and in many ways it is. Salary, bonus, stock and other financial incentives are the most objective, quantifiable measures we have to determine our value in the workplace. Compensation can also come in other forms, such as work-life balance. If it’s important for you to spend time with your family, keep up hobbies or dedicate time to travel, you may place high value on a more flexible schedule. You may also value being recognized for a job well done. That’s an important piece of “compensation” for me. But to be clear, particularly if you are thinking about starting a family or paying off student loans, the financial compensation can be a deciding factor.
Are you making a difference? One of these things is not like the other. The previous four are all about you and what you derive from your job. But the ability to have a positive impact on your world, however defined, should be a consideration. Your purpose could be narrow but lasting, like a teacher. Or you might work in government with the hopes of effecting broad change for millions of people. Too often, the ability to make a difference is at odds with compensation. It was true for me when I worked in the U.S. Senate and I see it with many of my friends who have opted to work in journalism or educate students in low-income cities.
These five questions make up the foundation for the methodology of whether or not you should look for a new job. Implementing this strategy is another challenge all together. Everyone needs to decide for themselves how these factors stack up against one another. And of course, is four the magic number for you? Some people may be willing to sacrifice more to advance at a dream job.
For me, I examine these criteria every six months. Do it more often than that and you’ll constantly be distracted at your current job. That’s not to say I wouldn’t consider a terrific opportunity if it presented itself. But I’m hitting four out of five, so I’m not looking for it.
In college, Erika Dean knew she wanted to work in a fast-paced industry where she could always learn and be challenged. Law seemed to fit the bill, so she enrolled in law school at the University of North Carolina. But between her second and third year, she realized she didn’t want to practice.
“I had done everything in law school you’re supposed to do. Clerkship. Law journal. Summer associate gigs,” said the Greensboro, North Carolina native. “But I realized my heart really wasn’t in it.”
After graduating from Carolina Law, Dean decided to try New York City since she had previously interned at the Legal Aid Society and had family in the area. She wound up at Indeed.com, the job search engine, on the Client Services Operations team. What attracted her to a job in the internet industry was that it combined her strategic acumen—a skill she’d honed in law school—with an interest in operations. Dean also got to leverage her Spanish major through working with global teams, helping them instill best practices, knowledge share and become more efficient.
“Í really found a lot of pleasure and value in helping bring those teams together and make the team more efficient,” she said.
She worked there for two years before MediaMath recruited her—funnily enough, off the very job site where she worked, which had asked all employees to upload their resumes to the system. She joined MediaMath as the first New York City-based manager in operations for the Global Agency Practice in January 2015.
“Since I was new to the industry, everything was a blur to me. But what I really liked was that my skills were transferrable,” Dean said.
Dean supports all of the major global holding companies with which MediaMath works, in addition to direct brands and their account leads, helping them wade through challenges and figure out how to work better. She has also evolved into the team subject matter expert for data analytics and reporting, leveraging the data to drive revenue and adoption across MediaMath’s top clients. Erika specializes in diving deep into complex data sets, identifying unique trends and clarifying information in a way that empowers leadership to make data-driven decisions for top accounts.
When Dean started, her team on the shared services branch of the Global Agency Practice had only two people; six weeks after she was arrived, her London counterpart (and a tenured MediaMath employee) announced he was transitioning to a new external role. Dean’s time at Indeed prepared her to spring into action in a new role on a small team by quickly identifying what she needed to learn and who she needed to talk to.
“One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about working here is that everyone is so passionate,” Dean said. “It’s very fast-paced, which can be a bit daunting, or very daunting, at first, but it’s really easy to pick up because everyone is very encouraging, everyone’s incredibly smart and driven. So you can’t help but get caught up in that when you join the team.”
Outside of work, Dean has cultivated a fulfilling volunteer community. She volunteers as a New York Cares team leader, spends time at Barc, an animal rescue shelter in Williamsburg, and does overnights at The Friends Shelter, a homeless shelter in Gramercy Park. Her passion project is volunteering at Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries, a food pantry in Hell’s Kitchen—Dean’s grandmother started one of the first food pantries in Charlotte.
“That’s something I like to do outside of MediaMath because it helps keep things in perspective,” Dean said. “It helps keep me centered and it helps me be grateful for what we do have here.”
Geoffrey King, our VP of platform solutions in APAC, was profiled last month in AdNews’s “Industry Profile” series, which interviews those working in advertising, ad tech, marketing and media in Australia. Below is an excerpt from the interview.
Duration in current role/time at the company:
Two years employed at MediaMath and another two and half years working as a MediaMath partner .
In one sentence, how would you describe what the company does?
Helping marketers connect with their best customers and prospects across all touch points, at scale, fuelled by data, powered by machines, driving business outcomes.
In one sentence, what does your role involve?
Driving this evolution of marketing both internally and externally whilst empowering my team to achieve big.
Within the last six months/year, what stands out as the company’s major milestones?
Released a real-time data management platform that challenges the preconceived notion of how data aggregation, analysis and application should work. I am constantly humbled by what our product and engineering teams are able to put out to solve industry challenges.
Best thing about the industry you work in:
Helping to realise real-world business outcomes that drive every industry in the world from selling burgers to driving awareness of policies.
Previous industry related (ad land/ad tech) companies you have worked at:
I was cofounder of a business called Kinected, worked at Sizmek both in APAC and the US, and Macquarie Radio Network prior to that.
Career-wise, where do you see yourself in three years’ time?
With good planning and execution I hope to still be doing what I love with great people around me – a dramatically evolved product and service offering helping marketers to be more successful.
What is the elephant in the room? The thing that no one is talking about – but they should be.
Despite the amazing technology and innovation of this space, we are not adequately incentivising staff to implement change. We should encourage and motivate people to innovate and drive change and recognise that a little bit of effort to try new things can pay off in the long run.
The New Marketing Institute recognizes that there is a large talent and education gap in the digital marketing industry. This shortage exists for both genders, but we also acknowledge that women in particular have struggled to enter STEM fields and often don’t have enough support and encouragement along the way. NMI has committed to resolving the gender gap in tech through a number of initiatives, the most recent of which is the launch of our NMI Advisory Board. It was important to me and the team that the Board was diverse in gender (four out of the 13 members are women), industry and experience. We want to lead by example and show that NMI is doing its part to increase diversity within the adtech space as well as elevate the conversation around diversity as a whole.
The below infographic highlights the challenges facing women aspiring to enter technology jobs around the globe and also includes some of the ways we can change the status quo. Feel free to share it, comment on it and use it as a visual tool when talking to the women in your work and in your life who want to pursue a career in technology. To download the infographic in full, click here.
Owein Reese, who manages a group of engineers in MediaMath’s Creatives Management Tribe, took an unusual route to a career in software development. Owein’s mother was a programmer at IBM back in the days of punch-card programming (well… the 80’s) but punch cards failed to interest him in programming as a child. It wasn’t until he got to college that he began to write code to solve mathematical problems and still later on in his career that software became the focus.
Owein entered the University of Rochester with degrees in optical engineering and math at the peak of the dotcom boom. While still an undergraduate he rebuffed job offers to leave school and take over entire production lines at optical fabrication labs; a side-effect of the hyper competitive, anything is fundable environment which characterized the birth of the internet.
As Owein describes, “They would just call up and ask: what are you studying? What classes have you taken? Your GPA is what? And then offer me a job leading production at a factory or in a company for some mind-blowing salary …and two years later, they were all unemployed.”
After Rochester, he finished a Masters degree in Industrial Mathematics at Worchester Polytechnic Institute. There his research in the Physics department on how phonons (vibrations at a quantum level) induce different behaviors at an optical level yielded two papers: one in Physics Review B and the other in Nano Letters. Following graduation, he continued to pursue an academic bent, spending time as an adjunction professor teaching statistics and math for liberal arts before deciding to join the work force.
His first job out of academia was in defense, working on modeling and simulations of infrared countermeasures. From defense he moved to NASA weather satellite systems and joined a team of software developers under the mentorship of a wise old programmer. Suddenly code was more interesting than the science and his interests took him into functional programming at a financial startup. After a very brief stint at JPMorgan he joined MediaMath.
Today, Owein oversees engineers distributed around the country focusing on validating, classifying and serving creative assets at MediaMath. He loves working with distributed teams and adventurous developers—he is a pilot and wind surfs for fun. He also is a big believer in open source software, an active contributor to the Scala community, and has created a number of libraries and plugins. He’ll be speaking at Scala by the Bay on Sunday, November 13th.
The language of adtech is rife with acronyms and highly technical terminology that seem to change almost daily. If you’re in the trenches with me, watch the reaction next time you explain to someone outside the industry what you do. Their eyes will get a far-off look that betrays they’re pondering what’s for lunch and not the inner workings of a demand-side platform.
We talk in my industry about how there’s still a need for the humans behind the machines, to understand emotion and the nuance of client needs. That personal touch is also necessary in how we communicate—to clients, partners and colleagues up and down the org chart. Speaking in jargon, in ways that only our inner business confidantes understand, strips away the genuine essence of our message.
So how do you move away from a stiff, technical communication style and towards an approach that will better resonate with an audience? There’s a technique I began employing years ago, and I think it can work regardless of your industry or audience. I believe there are always three things to communicate when you’re presenting ideas, whether it’s to a board meeting or a room full of first-graders. In the 10 years I was at McKinsey before I came to MediaMath, the three things technique evolved into the set of structures and habitual ways to share ideas with people that I return to time and time again. It is helpful in formulating my message and conveying it over time.
Why three things? Two allows you to share a contrast, but three allows you to resolve it. When I’m presented with a nuanced question, even before I know what my POV is, I am confident that I can express it in three parts: general thought, qualification and resolution. And for each, there are tactics for getting your point across eloquently:
1.) General thought:
Do rehearse your open. The hardest part is getting started. Know how you’re going to start at the very least. What are you going to say and how are you going to say it? Rehearse that, and then trust the structure to carry you through the rest.
Do have enthusiasm. If you are nervous and feeling too constrained in your exposition, that’s when it comes out stilted—too technical and too dry. One tactic is to express and develop your enthusiasm by using analogies.
Don’t worry about the third thing. Don’t be afraid to improvise or ad lib. If you have figured out the majors in advance, you will naturally come to the third point you want to make.
Don’t fill the air. Don’t over-talk what you’re trying to convey. Silence is a powerful tool. The worst thing you can do is undermine that silence by filling it with “ums.” People use those words to buy themselves time to think about what to say next—while the audience would just as happily use that time to process what has been said and prepare for what’s coming next.
Don’t try to be someone else. Don’t try to give someone else’s speech in someone else’s style. There are lots of different ways to be effective, memorable and motivating. Be thoughtful and confident in your personal source of credibility, which includes your own experience both in life and work.
Close the deal. Once you’re done telling them, tell them WHAT you’ve told them. Close with a summary and repetition of the overall message.
Speaking of which, here’s mine: The three things technique can help you break down a talk in a way that’s both easier for you to communicate and for your audience to grasp. By having an exposition, a complication and a resolution, it will sound like you’re telling a narrative instead of talking at a crowd. And who doesn’t love a good story?
If you look at any job description, it’s likely that a variety of soft skills will be listed as a “required qualification.” From “excellent communication skills,” to being a “strong team player,” soft skills are integral to just about every job. In a 2015 Pew Research Center Report, American adults were asked which skills were valuable for children to develop both in life and work – 90 percent said communication skills were most important for children to get ahead in the world today. That said, soft skills often play second fiddle to hard skills. While both are critical to success, we often hire and promote based on hard skills (e.g. what you can do) and consider soft skills a bonus (e.g. how you do it). Our hard skills may be the engine that powers the car, but our soft skills are the steering wheel, allowing us to navigate an often complicated work environment.
For many organizations and teams, it can be difficult to develop and incorporate soft skills into an employee training program. Where do you find the time? How do you develop training without a dedicated training team? How do you make the content stick given everyone’s busy schedules? And most importantly, how do you make people care about soft skills? These are all valid challenges. However, developing these skills within your team or organization doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some ways to weave soft skills development into your organization:
Find expertise across your organization
Training doesn’t have to come from one individual, or even one team. Leveraging the unique skill set of your employees will allow you to offer a breadth of courses. You may find that the product team can lead a session on project management, or your account team can teach a session on presentation skills. You may also find a willingness amongst employees to find new ways to get involved outside of their current role. Find influencers within your organization and tap them to get involved.
Involve your leadership team
Change comes from the top down. If leaders support a new organizational initiative, it’s likely others will too. Employees want to hear from leadership and leaders have a lot of experiences to share. But when will they have time to lead a training session? The answer is, they wouldn’t have to. At MediaMath, we ask leaders to participate in 30 minute discussions following a training session (e.g. effective feedback, motivating employees). This allows people to learn from our leaders’ breadth of knowledge, but with minimal preparation and time commitment.
Integrate and align it with hard skills
Adult learners learn best when they understand the purpose behind what they’re learning and how they can apply it. To ensure that soft skills stick, align it with hard skills that are critical to their role. If your team will be giving product pitches to clients, include a presentation skills training that improves public speaking; if your company is going through performance reviews, put together an effective feedback session to develop their ability to constructively assess peers and direct reports. When these topics are delivered as standalone sessions, it is often hard to fill seats and participants don’t see the connection to their day-to-day work. However, if you can make it relevant, you can increase attendance and retention.
Utilize existing communication channels to deliver content
You don’t need a facilitator-led session to deliver soft skills training. Find ways to reinforce it through existing work channels. Review a new soft skills topic each week in your team meeting; make it a recurring agenda item in your 1:1’s; encourage discussion via group chats & other social tools. These are easy wins that make learning accessible and digestable for employees.
Get yourself involved
People follow leaders, so lead by example! Teach a topic to your team that you’re passionate about. If they know these skills matter to you, they are more likely to make learning them a priority. It will also allow you to make better connections with your team and foster more open communication around these topics.
If every team makes learning a priority, your organization can become a true learning organization.
Training is a critical piece of the success of any organization because improved skills and knowledge at all levels increases competency and productivity. Training can improve skills and subject matter content knowledge, and offers relevant information to appropriate audiences.
New Marketing Institute (NMI) has committed to training our industry to increase growth and preparation of individuals and organizations as a whole. Our solution to the setting up our learner for success is our train-the-trainer approach to programming, where we expand the talent pipeline beyond our own enterprise’s growth by training others in ways that enable them to become trainers. Our ambition is to scale our training and certification programs and facilitate the development of professionals in all facets of digital marketing. With this model in mind, we are expanding our operations on a global scale.
In an article posted in April 2016 via TD Magazine we outlined our solutions and best practices for addressing globalization in training and talent development. We’ve outlined some of its key point here.
Challenges of Global Learning
Globalization and transformative scale brings with it some snags:
Localization of content
Localization of language and translation
Reaching learners at multiple knowledge and skill levels
Learners have multiple learning styles
Adopt a blended learning approach. Treat blended learning like the fully integrated program it is rather than a solution that happens to have a little bit of one thing or another. NMI’s blended learning approaches include facilitator-led live sessions, e-learning, self-directed videos, games, and workbooks; for customized training we offer Q&A sessions and more.
Documentation. A robust offering of documentation is essential to ensuring successful global expansion of programs. This documentation should support all of the functions with a specific audience in mind, while taking into account the characteristics of processes and documentation in different locations.
Trusted advisers. We recommend cultivating local subject matter experts through a train-the-trainer program that trains and identifies local partners and trusted advisers. You can’t do it alone—and you shouldn’t either.
A robust set of resources. Adult learners must be involved in the planning and evaluation of their own instruction and training. Providing relevant and timely materials to accompany training enables learners to be in control. Additionally, updating workbooks and class resources on a regular basis will keep material fresh and training programs current.
NMI’s mantra is to “meet the learner where they are.” That mantra speaks to all of the challenges by keeping in mind that all learners bring different backgrounds, expertise, experiences, and preferences; and encouraging planners and facilitators to think about all those levels in their implementation of programs. Just as MediaMath, promises advertisers “outcomes, transparency, and control” in their digital marketing efforts, NMI also subscribes to that promise when designing instructional programs.
Outcomes. We design with outcomes in mind, setting measurable goals and planning instruction that will meet those objectives. Keeping outcomes in mind will drive the direction of the program as well as drive the way a program is evaluated. In our opinion, measurable, data-driven outcomes are essential in scaling success globally.
Transparency. Learners should take an active part in expected outcomes and evaluation. Without transparency into results and evaluation, it is hard for professionals to improve and optimize in their work. Professional development and growth of individuals happens by receiving feedback at multiple points in learning and through subsequent self-reflection.
Control. We invite learners to take the reins of their own growth, development, and learning. Learning programs are designed with the resources, structure, and flexibility to allow learners to be in control of their progress. This control puts learners in the driver’s seat and empowers them to see the value of their development on their own.
“I think I was lucky when I came out of school at a very exciting time when the internet was really nascent and the “Gold Rush” was just about to begin,” said Jen Gold, Director of Product Strategy for Helix at MediaMath. “It was about the geeking out of it and the passion and the excitement of getting on the internet for the first time and thinking, this is like a wild west of information and content!”
From joining the digital tech space in its infancy to witnessing the dot-com bust and everything in-between, Gold didn’t step foot on the tech turf until after graduation.
She jokingly said she started in a very high tech field — majoring in intellectual history at the University of Pennsylvania. “It was a combination of history, philosophy, political science and literature, as well as art. Not high tech at all! I initially really wanted to get into some form of media and advertising but really, digital wasn’t a big thing back then.”
Gold’s first job out of school was with the New York Times, working in the advertising division on sales planning.
“I stayed there for a year and a half and it really wasn’t a tech job but I was put on a task force to figure out what to do with the content online.”
Here, Gold got to work on what content should be put out on AOL, CompuServe or the actual world wide web, which was starting to become a content rich place.
“The second I got on the internet I was like this is what I want to be doing, I’ve got to get out of this old school media place and into digital, so I left and joined a very small 18-person website development company startup and have been in that realm for most of my career since then.”
The boom was really happening around this time in the late 90s – Netscape went public among others and companies could do no wrong. But even when the bubble burst, Gold stayed in tech.
“I joined a travel guide book company called Rough Guides where I managed all their digital strategy. I’ve always been really into travel and totally fascinated by traveling around the world.”
Watch the video below!
This led to her next adventure.
In 2004, Gold and her partner decided to make a huge leap of faith and leave New York City for a tiny island in the Caribbean called Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico. They bought property there and spent a lot of time on renovation, turning it into a guest house. Gold was fortunate enough to keep her job with Rough Guides, working remotely while learning about the hospitality business. It was during this time she inadvertently became a marketer.
“It wasn’t on my radar but in marketing my own hospitality business, I found that I really liked it. I got into SEO, SEM, some paid display and started experimenting with a little mobile and social and I was hooked!”
Gold still owns the business, but moved back to the States working on product and marketing with TripAdvisor for a few years, where she then made her way to MediaMath. Throughout her interview process, Gold says she was excited about the opportunities here and the growth of programmatic, working on product strategy for MediaMath’s proprietary shared data asset.
“I synthesize what our product teams are building in to something that’s packaged and digestible, which our client services organization and engagement teams can easily take to market and explain to clients what it is we have and why they need it. I find that really rewarding.”
Reflecting back on her career thus far, what would Gold tell her younger self?
“I love the fact that I was able to get right into digital pretty quickly. I guess if I was to say anything to my recently college graduated self, I would just say buckle in, get ready for the ride and be ready for lots of change!”