Ask Digiday Careers: The non-technical skills that ad tech companies look for in candidates
Ad tech sits in the middle of the creative and technical realms of the industry. We asked top advertising technology firms what few key pieces of industry knowledge a candidate should have when considering their company and what technical and non-technical skills they look for in candidates
Jenna Griffith, svp, head of professional services, MediaMath
At MediaMath, specifically at entry-level positions, the skills that we are looking for are not tremendously different than other industries. First and foremost, we look for people who are smart, passionate, and nice. There is no ‘ad tech knowledge’ mention in there purposefully. I often find bringing people in with expertise in other industries to be helpful — different perspectives can add a tremendous amount of value when focusing on client service. Yes, employees need to learn the technology in order to understand how best to apply it. But the technical aspect is much easier to learn than learning how to creatively approach a client problem and return a solution. One of my favorite interview questions is asking a candidate to teach me something, anything, about which they are passionate. I have learned about rugby, quantum dots and electronic music — each of these people had little adtech experience at the point of hire, but are now some of our most highly valued employees given their passion, creative mindset, and attention to detail.
Brandon Atkinson, chief people officer, AppNexus
At AppNexus, we are guided by a few key principles to ensure we hire the best: (1) Values First, (2) Hire for Potential, (3) Seek Diversity and (4) Be Inspired. Because we recognize that looking at previous experience is not nearly as important as looking at capabilities, passions and values, many open roles do not require previous ad tech experience. Our teams are made up of individuals who have different styles, perspectives, experience, backgrounds, skills and personalities. When assessing new hires, we focus heavily on the idea of “culture-add” and consider how potential candidates will diversify our team’s backgrounds and perspectives. Common among all AppNexians is a desire to learn and teach, to make greatness happen despite obstacles and failure, to see and improve the whole system and to empower the success of others.
For certain roles, such as engineering roles, we do require a degree of skill and expertise with particular technologies. For roles in the business our focus is mainly on intrinsics rather than specific skills, but doing your research to be well prepared and demonstrate your interest in our company and ad tech is always a big plus. Regardless of what part of the company you join, you will encounter complex challenges every day, so we look for candidates who are able to think through those challenges with excitement and creativity – and a drive to find innovative solutions.
Nathaniel Zenou, CEO, Browsi
Candidates should posses not only a grasp of industry trends and ways technology facilitates or inhibits certain ideas, but also the creative energy to navigate those challenges effectively and bring those ideas to fruition. The more a business development professional understands how technology can accommodate client needs, the more successful she/he and the entire team can be in aligning and communicating our platform. In turn, the more a technologist understands the business applications for their work, the more impact she/he and the entire team can affect.
There is always something to learn in the industry, and experts remain experts due to continuous self-education. We make a concerted effort to maintain constant contact between departments to ensure not only self-educators can benefit, but that cross-departmental learnings are shared company wide to advance the team together. With a foundational understanding of tech trends and market needs not only in our space but in peripheral markets as well, bringing that balance of creativity and tech savvy with a healthy dose of drive will position candidates for opportunity at our company.
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