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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.