Women in tech

Women in tech – it’s about balance

This is the last post in our women in tech series, but it’s just the beginning of the conversation.

In this post I speak to Coull’s compliance manager, Nicola Woodford, and demand side account manager, Laura Matthews.

We’ve already covered the issue of education, to an extent, and the steps that need to be taken to encourage more women to get into tech. This time, we’re going to talk about the work/life balance, because it’s a realistic concern for many women and something companies need to understand and support.

Both Nicola and Laura have made a significant contribution to Coull’s business strengths. They both have very specialist skills, unique to the industry and unique to Coull. I was eager to find out how the work/family balance is managed in an industry filled predominantly with men and if they’ve gained career confidence, working in a relatively new industry, where their experience and knowledge is in such high demand.

Nicola Woodford – Coull Compliance Manager

Nicola is Coull’s compliance manager, a role created specifically around her skill set, something the industry is in need of. She helps ensure Coull’s inventory is comprised of valid and viewable traffic, that’s brand safe, human and trustworthy. Whilst cyber security vendors use machine learning and algorithms to detect fraudulent traffic or traffic that’s not viewable, Nicola combines the methods of using specific technologies, and her own eyes, to spot invalid traffic before it has a chance to enter the market.

How did you get started working in programmatic ad tech?

Before working at Coull, programmatic ad tech was not something that I even really knew existed. I always noticed the ads on the websites I viewed, but it wasn’t something I really even considered. After university, I gained an internship at Coull, which really opened my eyes to online advertising and programmatics. Throughout my time at Coull, and with help from the people here, I have gained extensive knowledge in the industry.

Do you think there is enough emphasis on developing the kind of skills needed to keep digital advertising clean – and therefore, content free?

Over the last year in particular, there have been some really positive moves forward pushing the digital advertising industry to be more clean. With the increased use of ad-blockers, I think the importance of ensuring clean, good, non-intrusive advertising is becoming ever more apparent.

Do you feel there is a gender bias when it comes to women in ad tech, or just that there aren’t enough women out there applying for these roles?

There does seem to be a gender bias, especially in that there are more males in senior roles within the industry than women, I am finding that over recent years, that is slowly changing. It is only fairly recently that women have been slightly more encouraged to pursue these types of roles and I really think that starts with education. For example, I remember my teachers trying to discourage me from taking electronics as a GCSE as it was seen as more of a boys subject (luckily, I am extremely stubborn so I completely ignored them). I am 28 and those attitudes haven’t changed since I was at school, it will take some time but I like to think the balance is changing.

You have a young family, do you feel there is good enough support for you to keep a work/family balance?

I am very lucky that Coull allow me flexibility. I know many friends who aren’t so lucky in that respect. With the rising cost of childcare and living expenses, for some women it is just not possible to return to work after maternity – whether they would like to or not. Unfortunately, this means we are losing many skilled women from the workplace. My hope is that women have more support and encouragement to return to work.

Do you think working in tech allows you to manage work and family life – could this be a positive drawcard, especially for mums?

As mentioned, I am very lucky to have flexible working and I would say that is something which is much more prevalent in the tech and emerging media industries. Working from home (and other flexible working) is possible due the nature of the industry being online.

Compliance teams in programmatic are a fairly new idea, do you find partners value your input and what you’re doing to ensure the industry works better for everyone?

Most partners value the input. Many are not aware that certain inventory is invalid and there could be differences in the third party verification used, or simply not having the third party verification in the first place. Often, it is possible tell the validity of a partner by how they react to the compliance emails. I aim to educate partners in understanding and spotting invalid traffic rather than being accusatory. That way we can work more efficiently as partners and I hope, make the industry cleaner and more transparent.

How do you explain your job to your family?

I have sort of given up explaining/trying to explain it to them. After extensive explanations people usually come to the conclusion that I work in IT. Though, I was at a family get together the other week and I heard my partner explaining to his brother that my job was to look at porn sites! (That is not what I do!)

Laura Matthews – Senior Account Manager (Demand)

Laura is one of the youngest in Coull’s adops team, yet, also one of the most experienced in managing demand relationships.

What is the most enjoyable part of your day to day work?

I would have to say the people I work with make my job very enjoyable. Coull have a great team here and I can honestly say that they are all my friends. We’re able to get all the work done but also be able to laugh throughout the day and help each other out. I also get to speak to a wide range of people in the industry, which is really great. I tend to be able to talk for England, so being able to use that skill is awesome.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most difficult part of my job is when you find yourself spending a lot of time getting an account or campaign up and running and it doesn’t quite pan out to create the results you were expecting.

In your experience as an account manager, do you find you often speak with a mixture of men and women or that it’s skewed one way?

I would say, from the past four years I have worked at Coull, there has definitely been an increase of women working in the industry. The balance is still not 50/50, however, I do find I am being introduced to more women account managers every month so it is great to see that number growing.

What sort of skills have you learned from working in tech that you didn’t have before you started?

I studied a degree in History and Politics so my technical knowledge was very limited. My strength when I joined Coull, was my people skills, rather than technical ones. However I have picked up so many technical skills over the past couple of years including creating VAST/VPAID tags, production releases within our SSP and putting demand campaigns live. Don’t get me wrong, I often don’t understand what our dev team are talking about when it comes to coding but I will hopefully get there.

Do you find any clients are surprised to find their account manager for programmatic optimization is a woman?

No, I don’t think I have found this with any of the accounts I’ve worked with.

Working regular office hours in an industry where some of your clients are waking up when you’d normally be winding down must be difficult, is it hard not to take work home with you?

Absolutely. I went through a period of being online from 7am in the morning to 11pm at night and checking my emails throughout the night, which makes it very difficult to have time to yourself. I’ve learned through experience that most emails you receive after you leave work can be dealt with in the morning.

Do you feel there is enough support for young women in tech roles or do you think more could be done in terms of training, groups, conferences to build more interest and educate on emerging programmatic trends?

The digital industry is changing constantly so we often have to be quick on our feet to pick new things up. I do believe it would benefit a lot of people if there was more training groups for these emerging trends in order to keep up with the pace of things.

Would you normally describe yourself as a techie or is this something that’s really just developed because of the nature of the work you do for Coull?

I wouldn’t describe myself as a techie, that part of my personality has definitely grown throughout my time at Coull. Luckily my role as an account manager mainly focuses on relationship building, speaking to different people on a daily basis and spending time analysing reports, which are my favourite things to do. I’m lucky enough to have a great tech/dev team and Coull who are able to assist with any technical setups.

This brings our women in tech series to a close, but we hope these insights into real women, in developer, senior management, marketing, programmatic compliance and programmatic account management will encourage more discussion, and more interest in employment.

The gender gap is wide and women in tech roles often find they’re not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. The trend is slowly changing, this has been reflected by all the women I’ve spoken with, and in the work being done by industry bodies to put more women front and centre in tech and to encourage young women and girls, to adopt an interest, and a passion for tech industries.

#womenintech

If you enjoyed this blog, read the stories from our women in tech series here:

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Women in tech are pretty awesome

Women in tech are pretty awesome

Last week we spoke about the lack of women in tech roles and introduced Liv Franzen, Developer at Coull. We wanted to open a dialogue and help encourage more women to join the industry, and be confident to apply for senior roles.

We’re continuing the #womenintech series this week and are lucky to have 3 inspiring ladies featured in this blog.

Michelle Bommer, head of adops at Coull tells us how a sweet American girl from Southern California, found herself waking up at the crack of dawn to work on innovative video ad campaigns with her colleagues across the ocean, in the UK.

We’ll also find out from Alex Kolzoff and Sophia Amin of the IAB UK, what they’re doing to encourage and promote equality and professional growth for women within the technology space.

Let’s kick things off with Coull’s queen of adops – Michelle Bommer.

Michelle grew up in the High Desert of Southern California, after attending UCSB she moved to LA and found herself in the world of adtech. Five years later, she moved to San Francisco, and joined Coull. Since then she’s earned her place as head of adops, leading a talented team of technical campaign account managers. Michelle is respected by colleagues and clients and always has a positive, upbeat attitude, ensuring her team feel motivated and our partners enjoy the benefits.

Despite these personal achievements, when we scan the adtech horizon for examples of similar stories, we find them few and far between. The fact is, Michelle is in the company of predominantly male peers, it’s not something that particularly bothers her, but from an industry perspective – it’s a trend we need to change.

Women have every chance to be successful and make a difference to the trajectory of digital advertising and technology.  The skills, technical knowledge, application and determination to be leaders is becoming more apparent but that’s not necessarily translating into more women, with leadership roles.

I spoke to Michelle about how she sees her role in ad tech and her perception of the industry.

Michelle and Coull’s favourite dog – Gaucho.

Tell us a bit about your role as head of Ad Ops at Coull?

I head up a great team of people who work to coordinate the daily operations of our supply and demand accounts.  Through the technical onboarding, to monitoring of traffic quality and brand safety, to the daily management of partners, we ensure that everything is running as smoothly as possible, and at the end of the day our partners are happy.

How did you get into adtech? I’m assuming you didn’t always dream of running digital ad campaigns as a child lol?

I started out as an intern at a small company in Hermosa Beach that generated financial leads through affiliate and performance based marketing. I joined full time and worked there for several years managing affiliates and network relationships. I ran CPC campaigns and monetized our internal data, among other things.  It’s funny when you think back because the industry really didn’t exist when I was a kid – I would have really been before my time if I was dreaming of running digital ad campaigns.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working with people in a space that is exciting and always changing.  I’ve always been a social person and someone who enjoys a good challenge, having a job in the dynamic tech space that allows me to interact with people every day, is wonderful.

What are your biggest challenges?

Starting my work day at 6 a.m. – just kidding.  Really, I am very fortunate to work with such a great group of people, they make my challenges few and far between – which is key since I am 8 times zones away from the rest of the company.

Is the gender gap in ad tech something you notice?

Having been in the adtech space for nearly a decade, it’s hard to not notice the imbalance.  I remember going to my first trade show and being one of very few women there, besides the “booth babes” hired to lure people in.  I have seen that change over the last few years though, as organizations move to address the issue and those behind the events are making a point of having more diverse panels.

Why do you think it is that there’s a lack of women in tech?

I can’t help but think early education is partially to blame, STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and math) did not exist when I was in school and similar programs weren’t exactly encouraging girls to join.  I’m hopeful though as we are seeing more of an outreach to girls today with great programs, like Girls Who Code.  I think the future generations are going to blow us out of the water.

From: Girls Who Code

Have you noticed more women being represented in either the USA or the UK?

I can’t say I have noticed a difference between the US and the UK, I think a lot of parallels can be drawn between us as more women are joining tech, and awareness around equality is made.

How can the industry help improve the ratio of men to women in ad tech/martech?

I think they have taken the first step in becoming aware of the issue and vocalizing it, and now it’s really just a matter of making it possible for women to step into these roles and succeed.  I believe organizations, tech or otherwise have a lot to gain by having more women, particularly in more senior positions.

Who inspires you?

Where do I begin?  Honestly, there are so many people out there, true trailblazers, who are doing really cool things, and you can’t forget all those who came before us. At the end of the day I’m inspired most by the people around me, my close girlfriends, who are kicking butt in life and in their respected fields, and are always there to lend support and guidance.

Women kicking butt in life is probably a great segway to move us on to talk about the IAB UK.

I spoke with the IAB UK’s Director of PR and Communications Sophia Amin (left), and Director of Marketing and Industry Engagement, Alex Kolzoff (right) to learn how they see they future.

From the IABs perspective, how do you see the future of women in ad tech? What does that future look like and what will it achieve?

Sophia:

The future of women could be utterly shattered right now with crazy politics further afield, which is a tragedy of economic proportion. Our industry is definitely not the most progressive for female representation but it is (or should be) acutely aware of what needs to be done, and a great swathe of industry have been doing a great deal about it for some time. Whether it’s tuning into adas list or helping to promote coding and tech opportunities to young women, the future of tech will only be better for the balance of gender. We know men and women hire, work and process things differently (not to say we all work the same way if we’re women) and if boards continue to be all male, there’s a very real danger that our industry will slip behind and never reach its potential.

Alex:

It’s great that diversity is such a hot topic at the moment in our industry. Being aware, and having conversations about women in ad tech can only help the long term opportunities for women in what has traditionally been a male dominated industry. I’m already noticing changes, for example six years ago at Mobile World Congress there might have been 1-5% women, but last year looking around the halls it seems more like 20-30% now. Fantastic to see such rapid change, which I hope continues long into the future.

What are you doing at the IAB right now to encourage more women to step up into senior positions in tech companies and to speak at conferences etc?

Sophia:

Alex has already touched on the focus of balancing the speakers at our conference – more on this here https://iabuk.net/blog/striking-a-balance-engage-2016 .

At the IAB, we are also just as keen to get thought leadership in any form for our industry wide comms, as we want to represent an evolving and balanced industry.

I would also hope that somehow the fact that at the IAB we employ more men than women and have myself and Alex as directors, helps to celebrate that. For me, with two young children, having taken some time out, this has only been made possible by an employer who understands my need for flexibility and having a bit of support from time to time. For me, it’s largely been senior men who have supported this, they also happen to be dads, and so they ‘get it’. So it’s not just about having women at the top to pave the way, men are equally able to make this work.

Alex:

We aim to have at least a third female speakers at our conferences. To be totally honest, this can often be challenging, but it’s really important and our members are really supportive of this initiative.

What was your experience like coming up through the ranks to be Directors at the IAB and how do we ensure the next generation of ladies start to fill dev, tech and martech positions?

Sophia:

I started my career in creative agency world – over a decade of account managing various blue chip brands in their digital marketing. I was lucky to have many brilliant, supportive women bosses, role models I guess. I vividly remember one of my worst people management experiences when I was in my mid-twenties, line managing someone who was 8 years my senior. Didn’t listen, didn’t respect me, he didn’t last long in the end but it really made me think about how you treat your boss. Whoever they are, wherever they come from, and whatever gender you both are, you need to respect them or you might as well pack up. And that’s the advice I’d give to industry. Don’t just employ and empower women, your culture needs to reshape to support this much overdue change, and defiants should be goners.

Alex:

I started my career at a media agency, followed by a few years at (was then called) Orange before I started at the IAB six years ago. At the IAB I’ve had a few different roles, starting in the Mobile department, then moving through to Marketing & Communications to now looking after Marketing & Industry Engagement. The IAB has a really unique and flexible culture that allows both women and men to grow and try new things which has been really important for my career. I think this flexibility is key for the next generation in the workforce, and should help to help female talent (and men too hopefully!) progress.

Some powerful messages from 3 successful, intelligent and truly inspiring women. If you can, take second to pass this on, let’s make sure we nurture this change and amplify the voices of women in tech.

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Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech are a real problem. They’re a problem because they’re not there, not in the same numbers as their male counterparts. They’ve been absent from the conversation. But this is changing – we’re seeing and hearing from talented women in tech roles who are reaching out, starting conversations and shining their beacon on an industry that can, and needs to do better at facilitating equality. We’re seeing more women represented on ad tech panels and their insights are both meaningful and challenging.

It’s time to not only open the doors of technical roles to women, but to encourage them to step through. We need more women in tech, to give them the opportunity to influence a new generation of creative, skilled and driven tech leaders, with disparate experiences, ideas and opinions.

Slowly we’re starting to see an emergence of female driven content, and startups being chaired by women. And, we’re beginning to hear a dialogue between women who are supporting each other, rather than taking a purely competitive stance in the workplace.

All that said – when we take a look at the number of women in tech roles globally – we start to worry considerably.

According to Forbes ‘Apple has 20% of women employees  in technology; Google has 17% of women in its workforce, while Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have 16.6%, 15% and 10% respectively.

I encourage you to read the full Forbes article which goes on to provide a long list of disheartening stats about women in tech companies, especially those in leadership positions.

The technology sector has become such a huge growth machine and it will impact future generations in such a powerful way. We need women to be part of that influence, we need their ideas, their leadership, their skills and their communication. We need women in tech to be seen and heard to inspire the next generation of female techies – and we need tech giants like Google and Apple to lead the charge by changing the way they recruit.

At Coull, we’re very proud of having the best people in development and we are keen to grow our female to male ratio of employees. Liv Franzén is currently representing women in tech as a developer at Coull – so who better to fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of why so few women are in her position. I spoke to her to find out exactly what her experience has been:

 What made you get into tech in the first place, what was so appealing about it?

I was fascinated by computers as a child and had a natural talent for math, logic & problem-solving. I also knew I wanted to do something creative and development is all about making things. I didn’t have much exposure to tech in school – the computer programming classes were truly dreadful, perfectly uninspiring.

What was the process like for becoming a developer?

After some Film Studies, I did a Graphic Design / New Media course, where I got hands on with coding, which sparked the geek inside me, and I decided that I wanted to take computer programming further.  So I went on to study a Computer Science major with Digital Arts minor degree, after which I went straight into a job developing multimedia science software.

Did you find there were many females studying with you and do you know many other women who are developers?

There were many women on my university course, but strangely hardly any in the workspace. I’ve seen a pattern that women with tech background take on more administrative / project management type jobs. I know some lady developers socially, but my work colleagues throughout my career have been almost exclusively male. It’s a shame that women techies are so scarce, but then the general lack of diversity – not just the gender polarisation – is a limitation for this industry.

What are your biggest challenges?

The speed of innovation and rapid change in the development world, I think most [front end] developers struggle with this to some degree. It’s been specifically noticeable after taking time out after having kids – it is a quite a mountain to climb to get back after taking a year or so out.

 For those playing at home that do know a bit about dev work and are pondering the different areas they might get into – what sort of work do you find the most interesting?

I enjoy the visual side of front-end programming – 3D / WebGL, generative art and data visualisation. There are loads of inspiring projects out there – much of which is open source.

Do you ever feel the pressure of being outnumbered by men in your industry or do you see it more of an opportunity?

I honestly never felt that being a female in the tech industry has been a problem. People in generally are positively surprised if anything.

Why do you think men dominate this industry to the extent they currently do?

Not sure. It’s possible that young girls don’t get inspired to explore if they have the aptitude for this industry. Maybe it is cooler for boys to be geeky than for girls? There is definitely a perception problem with tech not being a woman’s domain…

What advice do you have for women who want to get into tech, as you have?

It’s not all that easy to figure out what you should do with your life, regardless of gender. If anything, I would advise any young person to not be afraid to go against the grain, if that’s what’s needed to follow your path.

You have two lovely daughters; would you encourage them into a profession as a techie if they showed an interest or aptitude for it?

Yes, absolutely. They should follow their interests whatever they may be. Right now, the older wants to be an artist and the younger one wants to be a ladybird.

Do you find your colleagues and peers in development supportive of you and has this always been the case?

Yes, I find people that work in the digital industry and the wider tech community to be a friendly, supportive and progressive lot.

We want to actively encourage more women to join the tech sector. The success of women in tech roles at Coull has directly impacted the successes of our business and providing opportunities for women to take on senior roles is something we strive to provide.

‘“If companies start early with diversity and inclusion, they don’t have to bolt it on later, which is much harder,” Erica Baker, Build and Release Engineer at Slack Technologies via The Times.

If all the women’s demonstration marches in the US and around the world this week haven’t got you feeling inspired to get behind them and provide those opportunities, maybe the success stories of women in ad tech will.

Next week we chat to Michelle Bommer, head of ad ops at Coull and hear from two female directors at the IAB UK. Then we’ll be interviewing Coull Compliance manager Nicola Woodford and demand side account manager Laura Matthews.

Be want you want to be – if that’s a ladybird, then be that ladybird!

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