Sarah: Please tell me more about your work at Conversant. What does your team do and what type of skills are involved?
The Campaign Operations Managers (COMs) are primarily responsible for implementing clients’ campaigns in our ad-serving platform by receiving the cross-team deliverables (creative, media settings, etc.) and configuring the components into personalized ad units that are served across the web.
In addition to executing campaigns, the COM team works with internal cross-teams to provide knowledge of
Skills involved in this role include collaboration, technical knowledge of ad-serving formats and tracking methodologies, along with effective troubleshooting and communication skills.
Sarah: How did you get into technology and what do you enjoy most about working in the field?
Sherrlle: I got into technology because my alma mater DePaul University cared enough to speak to women about career opportunities in technology. I bought my technology ticket on the first day of orientation and earned my bachelor's degree in Information Technology four years later.
Prior to joining Conversant in 2011, I worked as a Product Manager with two other companies. In these positions, I took requirements from clients and turned them into features and enhancements for the applications they used to post their open job requisitions online and sell home and auto warranties.
What I enjoy most about working in the field is that technology shapes our lives every day. From the way we communicate and organize our lives using a smartphone, to how we make our purchases online for everything from household items to vacations, it’s all influenced by technology. Conversant capitalized on this realization early on and understood the value in having a personalized conversation with individual consumers based on their interests, purchase history and other known factors.
Sarah: What are the most important skills to learn when starting a career in tech?
Sherrlle: You must understand the specific industry you are interested in pursuing. A career in technology has an array of opportunities but you become a more marketable professional when you find a niche and become a subject matter expert.
Technology is evolving daily. To remain relevant, companies, as well as individuals, must stay abreast of the latest trends. Communication is a key skill needed because oftentimes, complex details must be communicated to clients in a way that allows them to become empowered by the value of the business solution. Networking is one of the most invaluable skills to be developed because this skill can lead to career prospects, business partnerships
Sarah: What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned from your experience working in tech?
Sherrlle: The biggest lesson I have learned is to “have a seat at the table.” Great ideas and depth of knowledge do not require a certain title or helping hand to get noticed. Yes, leadership positions in technology companies are dominated by men but I personally see smart women who are firmly seated at the leadership table and are highly respected at Conversant.
You must be willing to set aside your personal views and define the type of impact that you want to have on the culture, project, team or company, and dedicate yourself to producing meaningful results, no matter how small and no matter how long it takes to achieve your goals. If an organization is truly dedicated to employing highly talented associates and allowing them to drive the success of the business, then you grow a family and not a group of employees.
Sarah: What can the industry do to encourage more women to pursue a career in tech?
Sherrlle: The industry can encourage more women to pursue careers in tech my simply marketing to them specifically. Create a personalized campaign that speaks to the interests of women and the opportunities that are available. As a woman I want to feel informed before I make any decision. I make career decisions the same way that I decide on the best pediatrician for my daughter, with a variety of detailed information. Employers can also make a stronger commitment to fill roles with female leaders that are highly qualified.
Sarah: You’ve been very successful. What advice would you give to other women in tech to help them advance in the field?
Look at your current role and assess what opportunities are available to you that will move you another step closer to the next level. It could be as simple as requesting participation in a specific project or volunteering to assist. Insert yourself into the conversations where you can by providing unsolicited suggestions.
Sarah: What has been your favorite project or accomplishment at Conversant?
I quickly recognized that I had no meaningful reason to decline so I began planning instantly and committed to one very specific goal where all COMs would be cross-trained to execute campaigns in all platforms for both ValueClick and Dotomi. The goal was simple: level the playing field, increase knowledge and empower everyone on the team to speak up. There was resistance among some team members, so I approached it as if I were a new hire who was learning the role.
My willingness to go back to the grassroots level and learn how the team carried out their daily tasks allowed me to gain insight into not only what worked well but also which processes were inefficient and where better communication could be established. The process took longer than originally thought but I can say that we achieved our goal and continue to cross-train so we can effortlessly meet the workload demands of the business.
From this project I took away three meaningful objectives that continue to define my role:
- My team has more confidence in my ability to lead them because they know I truly understand the processes and tasks they carry out on a daily basis.
- My title is never too important that I can’t stop and learn the root cause of the problem so it can effectively be resolved.
- Having my team’s back does not just entail listening and responding to an issue but being committed to pushing back and finding alternative ways to get them what they need.
Sarah: Tell me something about yourself that people don’t know.