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So You Want My Job? Verizon Media’s Rico Chan on reimagining (and monetizing) storytelling

Rico Chan, head of APAC sales at Verizon Media

Welcome to So You Want My Job? Each week we ask the people working in some of the industry’s coolest jobs about how they got where they are. Along the way, we dig into their philosophies, inspirations, processes and experiences. Hopefully, our interviewees can inspire you to pursue (or create) a job that’s just as exciting. This week we caught up with Rico Chan, head of APAC sales at Verizon Media.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Does your job now resemble that in any way?

I wanted to be a tour guide; I thought it would be a great way to share my passion for discovering new things and experiences with people and also bring them some fun.

My work today is all about helping people stay connected to their passions, using technology to power transformative experiences that help them communicate and transact as they stay informed and entertained. I have the privilege of being at the cusp of cutting-edge technology that drives the adtech industry forward.

I am excited about the ceaseless pipeline of new discoveries and technologies that supercharge new and existing experiences for consumers – fom AR and VR to innovative, immersive experiences that not only reimagine storytelling but also allow people to discover and try new experiences alone and with those around them.

How did you get your job? Tell us the full story.

I previously ran a startup, which was acquired after a year of being in business. While I was tempted, I decided retirement wasn’t an option for me (much to my better half’s relief), so I set out looking for my next big adventure.

I’ve always been captivated by internet-based companies and how these companies generate revenue. In 2009, I came across an opportunity with Yahoo (now Verizon Media), which was building up its presence and team in Hong Kong. I felt this was a really good way to learn more about the inner workings of the industry; the local role was also a bonus as I had my fair share of extensive travel when running the startup. Fast-forward 12 years, I’m really glad I made the move.

Ironically, as my role in Verizon Media expanded to a more regional remit, I ended up traveling quite a lot. Perhaps the travels around the world will set me up to be a tour guide after my retirement – taking me on a full circle back. Also, thinking about it, maybe I should have invested in properties across the region considering how much time I’ve spent in these places – they would make great holiday homes when I retire.

OK, so what do you actually do? How would you explain your job to a taxi driver?

I work for Verizon Media, which is a technology and media company with a focus on content, experiences, commerce and advertising. At Verizon Media, I head the APAC market where I am responsible for business growth across key and diverse markets like Hong Kong, Japan, India, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

If I had to offer someone outside our industry a relatable explanation on my job, this would be it: I work for the company that owns Yahoo. Our company also owns other popular online brands – sites like TechCrunch and Engadget – that people around the world visit to catch up on the things they love and are passionate about. So they come to these sites for the latest world news, tech news, to follow sports or track the stock market, for example.

Alongside this, we have another business that helps companies in various ways to reach people online and advertise to them online. We use technology to make sure our clients see big benefits from these solutions. This is our ‘adtech’ business, and my work is mainly in this area. As head of APAC, I am responsible for growing this business in the countries I lead. A big part of my job is also to support our teams across these regions, so they can succeed at what they do. This involves making sure they have the skills, resources and a good work environment, so they can work efficiently and grow both personally and professionally.

Do your parents/family understand what it is that you do?

My family may not know the technicalities of my job, especially in the B2B world – though I’m sure they have heard me at some point mentioning terms such as ‘programmatic’, ‘DSP’ and ‘DOOH’. But yes, they are definitely more familiar with the consumer side of our business.

Yahoo is a much-loved internet brand and a leading e-commerce player in Hong Kong, where I live. My family across generations, from my parents to my children, are great supporters of Yahoo, and it is a source of pride for them that I am employed here, especially since they don’t have to explain to friends and family where I work.

What do you love most about your job?

I love that I am part of a company that is constantly evolving. We are in the midst of a transformation, and over the past two quarters have proven that we are a growth company. Digital advertising has been one of the major revenue drivers for us, with our ad platform advertiser revenue contributing to this growth story. We are innovating to create a unique and fully-connected ecosystem. We connect consumers with their passions, while driving revenue and engagement for our partners, and with our ad solutions suite we help advertisers and publishers unlock the full value of their marketing and content.

Another part of my job that I love is working with an incredible, diverse team. The different perspectives and ideas they bring to the table make us think and execute more powerfully as a team.

How would someone entering the industry go about getting your job now? What would be their route?

The way careers are evolving today, there is no longer a single or linear path to a job, so each person’s journey will be unique in the future. Having said that, I would suggest building both breadth and depth of knowledge from the start. Invest your time in understanding the industry, and stay on top of how ad technology is changing and how it can be applied in our field. Keep updating your skills and constantly learning. Finally, be prepared to work hard – that’s something that hasn’t changed from when I entered the industry.

What advice would you offer to others entering the advertising industry, especially at this weird time?

It is actually a great time to be part of the adtech industry, with the explosion in all things digital, e-commerce booming and the entire world moving online due to the pandemic.

With more streaming, CTV consumption is accelerating. There are growing opportunities for digital and omnichannel buying. DOOH is set to grow due to pent-up demand from both consumers and advertisers as regions reopen and more people step out of their homes. And with the spectacular rise in e-commerce, there’s an urgency to create more ease, efficiency and effectiveness in this omnichannel universe.

This moment in time has brought plenty of opportunities to stand out and be noticed. Think about how you can use your skills and ideas to solve new problems or identify new opportunities that have cropped up in a post-Covid world that can benefit your company and clients. Be proactive and stay alert to spot opportunity areas in the field that you can advance in.

What would you say is the trait that best suits you for your role?

Curiosity. In my role, where things are constantly changing – be it regulations, consumer preferences and behaviors, or new technologies that constantly refresh the way the industry works – I think being curious is the most important.

For me, curiosity comes naturally as I am always inquisitive about the way things work and new things that I come across. It drives me to learn new things and challenges me to explore different ways to make things possible.

Who should those who want your job read or listen to?

My advice for anyone who wants my job would be to spend 15 minutes each day on the internet learning about what’s new, what’s trending and what’s on the horizon.

Also, a lot can be learned from speaking and listening to people from all walks of life and of different ages – making sure that the work we do truly reflects the needs, wants and progress of society. Particularly, I would encourage you to speak and listen to teenagers – their fresh new ideas, idealism for a better world and passion for important issues offers insight into how we can use technology to shape genuine and engaging consumer experiences that touch their minds, hearts and souls.

Lastly, install and explore as many apps as you can on your mobile and spend some time considering how you would make those experiences more engaging if given the opportunity.

Last week we spoke to Laurent Simon, the chief creative officer of VMLY&R.

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