girls who code - Women in tech

Women in tech are pretty awesome

We’re continuing the women in tech series this week, featuring three inspiring ladies: Michelle from Coull and Alex and Sophia from IAB UK.

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Last week we spoke about the lack of women in tech and introduced Liv Franzen, a developer at Coull. We want to open a dialogue and help encourage more women to join the industry.

We’re continuing the #womenintech series this week, featuring three inspiring ladies.

Michelle Bommer, Head of ad ops at Coull, tells us how she found herself waking up at the crack of dawn to work on video ad campaigns with her UK colleagues.

We’ll also find out from Alex Kolzoff and Sophia Amin from IAB UK, what they do to promote equality and professional growth for women in tech.

Let’s kick things off with Coull’s queen of ad ops – 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 ad tech. Five years later, she moved to San Francisco and joined Coull. Since then she’s earned her place as Head of ad ops, leading a talented team of account managers. Michelle is respected by colleagues and clients and always has a positive, upbeat attitude, ensuring her team feel motivated.

Despite these personal achievements, when we scan the ad tech 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. This is 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 in 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 in senior roles.

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

Michelle, Coull's Head of Adops - Women in tech

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 coordinate the daily operations of our supply and demand accounts. From the technical onboarding to monitoring traffic quality and daily management of partners, we ensure that everything is running smoothly.

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

I started out as an intern at a small company 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 monetised 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’m a social person who enjoys a challenge, so having a job in the dynamic tech space with daily interactions with different people is wonderful.

What are your biggest challenges?

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

Is the gender gap in ad tech something you notice?

Having been in the ad tech 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 the very few women there. I’ve seen that change over the last few years and organizations are starting to address the issues. For example, events are trying to have 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) didn’t exist when I was in school and similar programs weren’t exactly encouraging girls to join. Though, I’m still hopeful as there’s 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.

girls who code - Women in tech

From: Girls Who Code

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

I can’t say I’ve 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’ve taken the first step in becoming aware of the issue and vocalizing it. Now it’s a matter of making it possible for women to step into senior roles and succeed. I believe organizations, tech or otherwise, have a lot to gain by having more women in 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. I’m inspired most by the people around me especially my close girlfriends, who are kicking butt in life and are always there to support me.

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

Alex and Sophia, IAB UK - Women in tech

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 the future.

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

Sophia:

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. Whether it’s tuning into Ada’s list or helping to promote 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, so if boards continue to be male-dominated, there’s a real danger that our industry will 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 this 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 seemed more like 20-30%. It’s fantastic to see such a rapid change, which I hope continues long into the future.

What are you doing at the IAB right now to encourage more women in tech to step up?

Sophia:

At the IAB, we’re keen to get female thought leadership for our industry-wide comms, as we want to represent an evolving and balanced industry.

The fact that the IAB employs more men than women and have me and Alex as directors, helps to celebrate women in tech. I have two young children and have taken some time out, yet this has only been made possible by an employer who understands my need for flexibility and support from time to time. For me, it’s largely been senior men who have supported this, they’re also parents so they ‘get it’. 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 becoming 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 the creative agency world – over a decade of account managing blue-chip brands. I was lucky to have many brilliant, supportive female bosses – role models, I guess. I vividly remember one of my worst people management experiences when I was in my mid-twenties, I had to manage someone who was 8 years my senior. He didn’t listen or 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.

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. 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, which has been important for my career. This flexibility is key for the next generation in the workforce and should help female talent (and men too hopefully!) progress.


There you have it! Some powerful messages from three 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.

If you enjoyed this blog, read the rest of our women in tech series here:

Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech series: it’s about a balance

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Posted by simonholliday