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 or 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 carer 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 to be honest. I always noticed the ads on the websites I would view 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 increase in 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 take electronics GCSE as it was seen as more of a boys subject (luckily I am extremely stubborn so completely ignored them). I am 28 and those attitudes had not changed whilst I was at school, it will take some time but I like to hope 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?
To be honest I am very lucky that Coull allow me flexibility. I know many friends who are less 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 options 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 more 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 3rd party verifications used, or simply not having the 3rd 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?
Honestly 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 one another 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.
If you enjoyed this blog, read the stories from our women in tech series here: