I was in my early 20s when I was first labeled a "tech girl," and I might have been the last person out of all of my team members to know this would be my role. I've thought a lot about the thread that connects that experience with where I stand today as Chief Marketing Officer of a technology company like Rubicon Project. What did I learn while coming into my own as an "ad girl" turned "ad tech girl"?
The Call: Discovering My Tech Prowess On the Job
I was working at a top advertising agency early on in my career when three factors started me down the technology path. First, our CPG client tasked us with building their very first consumer website. Second, there was barely any knowledge within the team about website development at the time. And third, I had exhibited what my higher-ups deemed "technical aptitude" -- meaning I had a cell phone and used a computer rather than a pen and paper.
That was about all it took to be a tech guru in an ad agency at that time, and at that very early stage in my career I decided to step into that role and take on a million-dollar project for a multinational consumer packaged goods company. The project required us to figure out how to make the client's website appealing and relatable to women, who were the client's key demographic. I tracked down the woman who had pioneered the testing and research for a similar initiative years back and worked with her to build the research best practices and usability testing for the project.
I executed it successfully, and our client was happy. It was an early win that gave me the confidence to double down on my newfound "tech girl" status, and the experience taught me that I love discovery, technology and specifically the intersection between technology and the ad business.
The Power of Showing Up as Yourself
That project taught me the power of "yes." When I was singled out as having unique skills and handed a huge opportunity, I decided to take the project on and figure it out. I learned then that the best opportunities will require you to step up to the plate and out of your comfort zone, to not overthink things and accept that you'll need to take a leap of faith in yourself.
But I also learned that saying "yes" will yield the best results if you understand what unique skills you bring to the table. For me, that meant recognizing that my skill wasn't simply tech -- it was adtech.
I know plenty of incredible women and men who can take apart computers and put them back together again, write code and design processing systems to aggregate data and information. Within my career, building and fixing technology isn't actually what I do. My tech "superpower" is grasping technology trends and understanding how they can be applied both to the advertising business and to everyday experiences.
Realizing that this is my particular tech skill greatly focused my work and lit exciting pathways in my career.
When I landed at a huge multinational technology company years later at a time when it was clear that consumers were beginning to change their media habits, this skill helped me understand new possibilities for advertising for display, mobile, gaming, branded content and social advertising.
It was obvious to me that there were digital advertising opportunities hiding in some of the toughest media conundrums. Advertisers were complaining about having a hard time getting in front of men who were opting to sit in front of gaming consoles for hours and hours a day. Flip phones were quickly being replaced by smartphones. Recast as opportunities instead of as problems, it became clear that these technologies could actually be advertising channels that could command the very thing advertisers covet most: attention.
I embraced my role as the type of "tech girl" whose gift was asking the right technology questions and empowering people with knowledge about emerging technologies and innovations. Throughout my career, I've worked with my colleagues in the industry to understand and leverage those types of opportunities.
The Power of Learning
In all this, I discovered that learning is essential because change never stops, especially within technology. I wake up to new roles and responsibilities just as readily now as I did in my 20s.
Right now, technology is enabling almost every facet of business. This is exciting for me as CMO of a company that is pioneering the automation of the advertising industry. Technology and marketing have merged, and that has put marketing right in the middle of the most important conversations and decisions companies make. Some people fear technology because they think it will automate them out of a job. I have seen firsthand how technology and automation can create more opportunity for us all.
I started my journey with websites. I moved into display, mobile and social ads. Now I'm having discussions about geolocation, inline video, vertical ad units and even Pokémon GO (which is a perfect trifecta of mapping meets gaming meets virtual reality).
It's an exciting time to be in this business, and being comfortable with change instead of shrinking from it has empowered me to make better decisions and be an even more essential player on my team, within my company and, I hope, within our industry.
Tech: A Set of Skills and a State of Mind
Being in technology for me has been less like a fixed status and more like a compass. It's helped me navigate my career by focusing on the ways technology intersects with consumers and creates exciting opportunities in business.
Technology has offered me an approach to the world that keeps my thinking fresh. Because of technology, I have a framework for staying open-minded to new ideas and receptive to new approaches. I know the value of trying a new strategy, of never resting on my laurels and of continually evolving with the ever-changing industry.
For me, technology is as much a mindset as it is a skillset, and I'm glad I've been given the opportunity to apply my unique skills and interests to this fascinating business.
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