If, when I signed up to be the only VivaKi Nerve Center employee and founder of Audience On demand in Europe, I had asked for a nice clean career plan from Curt Hecht, the then chief executive of VivaKi, he would have struck me off there and then.
Curt wanted an Intrapreneur. An individual capable of replicating the same drive and passion as an entrepreneur, with the same abilities to navigate new territories, but with support from within a larger group.
Having now employed people at varying levels into programmatic media over the past five years, I recently found myself looking for the common thread that links them all together. Is it a passion for digital? For programmatic? An innate curiosity and wish to get under the bonnet of the digital ecosystem? Perhaps they are just following the latest trends?
The likely answer is a combination of all those characteristics and more besides.
So why not all flock to the raft of start-ups around, bounce around a few and maybe get lucky. There is definitely a type that follow that road. There are many, however, that also want the sensation of building something and being part of an exciting growing business but within the confines of a larger organisation. These people are intrapreneurs. Not salary men, they still take risks.
Anyone who moved into digital in 1999/2000 or earlier were all seen as signing up to lose their jobs. The calls from the TV department of “will you come and fix my screen” still echo to this day. The tables have turned and most are now working in digital, but they took a long time to make the leap. To me this makes them too cautious and not the intrapreneurs of the agency network.
So where does that leave the people we employ right now in programmatic? The business has evolved at such a pace, it has taken even the most forward thinking people by surprise. I already think it sounds strange when I hear the words “programmatic is growing”. It sounds so disconnected from the fact our whole business is going to be programmatic in a few short years.
As any large employer of expertise in this area will tell you, we are dealing with a new scenario. One where it becomes very difficult to answer the question “what does my career path look like?” My answer to this, and one I believe in fully, is that I don’t have an answer. I believe that when you join a digital business today, things are going to change and keep changing.
Career opportunities are all around, but these won’t be found in a timeline for the next 48 months laid out by your manager. As I explain to new starters, I can’t predict exactly how things will develop but I assure them that they are in one of the hottest businesses in town. One which enables learning and developing skills that will open so many doors, to the extent that I have to admit they will eventually move on.
As has been written about significantly this business of ours, has been turned upside down. Revolution not evolution is the name of the game and continues to be so every day. Anyone who wants to come in and have a nice well lit path to the chief exectuive’s job is going to be unhappy. Whether it is Europe or the US, if you work in the programmatic media, you are at the centre of the biggest thing going on in digital and will be set up for a great future – what you do now to make the most of it is important.
When I joined Zenith Media in 1996, the plan was clear, get to be chief executive as quickly as possible, there was a path I could follow, others had. Now we have a world that is being rewritten and there is no clear path and opportunities and threats lie all around.
Today’s successful candidates have to be open minded, they have to be flexible and adaptable. Get into the right type of business, be passionate, care about what you do and then all good things will come to you. If you want a nice secure line of sight then don’t come to programmatic because this is the fastest, most exciting ride I have been on in my career.
I will end by saying to the true entrepreneurs amongst you, or even just those who want to keep taking risks and jumping to find a sale or IPO – keep doing it. There is no right or wrong answer in this amazing business of ours.
Marco Bertozzi (@m_bertozzi) is president of Publicis-owned VivaKi’s addressable arm Audience On Demand, EMEA and NA Client Services.