“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – I came across this quote recently and for some reason it stuck. Considering the amount I tend to read on a daily basis, that’s saying something, but perhaps it was the nature of the quote that got my attention. Goals, drive, determination – the ability and desire to succeed. I’m not sure these words tend to apply to the ad-tech world at first glance.

Think about it. Ad-tech isn’t something you can necessarily study at higher education. There isn’t a set pathway to follow for landing your ideal role, just an interest and a spark that leads you to seek something different. In truth, it’s more about mindset than knowledge in the beginning; that comes over time as you work within a team that have varying skills, views and outputs to you.

Those who understand that ad-tech isn’t just programming machines, but about connecting the human and tech element to produce the most efficient and effective offering are the people we want onboard today. We need the rulebreakers and the mavericks who push the limits of what’s possible, who look to identify and shape trends ahead of others, and most of all, have a hunger to succeed.

But, and it’s a big but – this talent isn’t so readily available right now, and it’s a problem we keep coming up against, not just regionally, but on a global scale too. There’s been a lot written about the millennial mindset, about how the generation gap is widening, and with it, the skillset and expectation level, but I think this is just a matter of perspective. In my mind, it works both ways; top talent is attracted to an environment that gives them the opportunity to thrive, where they are encouraged to speak up and make an impact.

As business leaders we don’t settle for anything less than 100% from our teams and prospective candidates should ask for the same bargain. Mediocrity shouldn’t even be a word we use in today’s competitive job market, yet this is what we’re still making do with on all fronts, and it needs to stop before our ad-tech talent ‘problem’ becomes a full-on epidemic.

With this in mind, here’s what I think needs to be done in order to nurture the talent of tomorrow into becoming the ad-tech leaders we both need and deserve…

Mindset Over Skill Set

You can’t underestimate mindset and attitude when it comes to hiring for the jobs of the future. Forget today, today is already in the past. What may have worked before is no longer a guarantee of success, which means we need to change our thinking.

We shouldn’t expect our new ad-tech hires to be purley tech-driven for starters. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the technical aspect of what we do isn’t important, but it isn’t THE most important. The teams of tomorrow need to also have a passion for creation, a dedication to execute and follow-through, and a drive to see results that spur them on to do even greater things. So many times, you see teams flounder when things don’t go as expected or a curveball is thrown at them at the 11th hour. That’s when attitude matters. That’s where grit and determination play just as big a role as planning and optimization. You need to hire innovators who will approach and solve these problems in a new way.

Finding and retaining the right talent, particularly when hiring for ad-tech roles is a challenge that every leader faces. There is a shift coming though and it’s across all industries; experience and attitude now trump skills and accomplishments. It’s not so much what you know, but what you think that matters and this will only get more important as technology continues to advance around us.

Widen The Focus

So often, you find talent pigeonholed into roles where they don’t see beyond their own KPIs and tasks. What good is that in an increasingly borderless world? Those who are still sitting in silos within their organization today won’t be there in the future, because for businesses to thrive, we need to look at things from multiple viewpoints.

As much as we favor our own perspective on life, it’s pointless to strategize solutions on behalf of others when we haven’t considered their outlook and objectives. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, be it the client, stakeholder or partner, is crucial to understanding the whole ecosystem. You can’t rely on your own skewed methodology, there needs to be a broader take on what everyone else is doing too, and by collaborating and sharing this information, we are better informed to create the best possible digital experience. After all, we’re fighting a battle against irrelevancy, so when you can serve solutions that maximise return on investment for brands, that argument grows weaker by the minute.

Keep Learning

The second you take your eyes off the ball, you risk being left behind. There is so much information out there that it can feel overwhelming, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to lag behind the times. I find it easier to stay on track by bookmarking the best industry sources (see my top picks at the end) to read daily and encourage my team to do the same.

Aside from keeping up to date with the latest industry news, networking is still crucial as you never know who you might meet, so don’t discount its value in the age of virtual vs real connections. This is true at all levels as well, not just for the C-Suite; everyone should seek out new people to meet and share ideas regularly, not only to expand your network but to broaden your horizons as well. Events and conferences offer the ideal setting for this, however if soaring costs put you off attending, then there are still webinars and podcasts that offer a cost-effective solution. In short, there’s no excuse to not challenge yourself to stay relevant.

Direction Matters

Here’s where the attention focuses back on you, because if you don’t believe in the vision you are setting, how can you expect your employees to respond? As a leader, you will have set the goal for your business, built the framework and mapped out the strategy needed to reach that target, but you can’t do it alone.

It comes down to organizational commitment from your team that goes beyond just punching in and out each day. Finishing tasks is all very well, but you want employees that are proactive in achieving company goals, coupled with an ambition to succeed away from your business boundaries too. Cracks can start to appear when you hire people who are so process-driven they don’t know how to deal with something out of the ordinary, so they put it off or avoid it altogether. I can’t say it enough how harmful this type of mentality is, both to the internal process and affected output, as it leaves management frustrated and clients untrusting. We don’t need any more doubt entering the ecosystem as to our place in it, which is why it is so important to mentor the next generation to be bold yes, but also be consistent.

At the end of the day, there are two types of people in life. People who are here to just make their rent, or here to go places. There is no in between, but it’s a two-way street that starts with employee mentality and ends with employer direction and management.

The future of the ad-tech world is dependent on us to change and thrive, to achieve our goals without compromise and embolden this new age of talent to help us do that. Whatever naivety we held as children surrounding the nature of wish fulfilment is long gone – today, you don’t get anything for nothing. While procrastination may be a tempting diversion in life, failure to act when it matters puts the whole ecosystem in jeopardy. Wishing is the easy part, follow-through on the other hand, well, that takes a different kind of mentality all together.

Get Bookmarking – Marketing Land, Media Post, AdExchanger, Business Insider, The Drum, Ad Week and Advertising Age are great for both overview and in-depth commentary on the issues of the day.

Written by Nader Bitar,
Deputy General Manager