So You Want My Job? Integral Ad Science chief Lisa Utzschneider on ‘going where the growth is’
Welcome to So You Want My Job? Each week we ask the people working in some of the industry’s coolest roles 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 Lisa Utzschneider, chief executive of digital ad verification company Integral Ad Science.
How did you get your job?
More than 20 years, I built my career at Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo, where I was part of the massive growth of digital advertising. After three years at Yahoo and an exciting role as chief revenue officer, I took time to explore what I wanted to do next in my career.
Lisa Utzschneider, chief executive of digital ad verification company Integral Ad Science
A few things were very clear to me. I wanted to lead a global technology company and I wanted to leverage my years of expertise in digital advertising. Additionally, after many years of traveling between the east and west coasts, I wanted to work for a company headquartered in NYC and trade that travel time for more time with my family. I quickly realized that I needed to explore beyond my existing network and meet with VC and private equity firms, along with other executives who successfully navigated the transition from CRO to CEO positions.
I received lots of support throughout my search, but I also tuned out a few skeptics who recommended that I stick to CRO roles. It’s not easy to tune out skepticism, but I’ve become very skilled at this over time and it’s important when forging your own career path. Right before I interviewed with IAS, I had lunch with a former Yahoo colleague and friend. My friend had just accepted a job reporting to a female CEO and encouraged me by saying: “You have what it takes to be CEO. I’ve seen what you can accomplish. Don’t go for those other roles. This is your moment.”
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Words of encouragement can go a long way at pivotal moments in your career. I try to support other leaders who are going through similar decisions to have the confidence to step up, take on their next big challenge and make their mark.
OK, so what do you actually do? How would you explain your job to a taxi driver?
As the CEO of IAS, I lead a team of over 600 employees worldwide and we’re focused on providing digital ad verification for advertisers, publishers and platforms. Marketers waste billions of dollars every year by paying for fraudulent ads and IAS is here to solve that massive industry problem. To put it simply, our technology verifies when a digital ad is viewed by a human and runs alongside content that is safe and suitable for the brand. Thousands of customers globally turn to us to measure and verify their digital ad investments. When it comes to my day-to-day role, I like to say that I’m a builder at heart. I focus on building our business, delivering for our customers and growing our talented team at IAS.
Do your parents understand what it is that you do?
Yes and, what’s more, the last year has brought this into even greater focus for them. Following the US election, recent civil unrest and widely reported ad fraud schemes, these events have created greater awareness of issues related to digital content, such as hate speech and misinformation, as well as ad fraud across the internet. These topics are no longer specific to the ad industry, because they have become part of mainstream discussions and conversation.
What do you love most about your job?
It’s a long list. I love that IAS is making the internet a better place by focusing on media quality and trust. It’s also incredibly important to me that our customers know and tell us that we are in the business of trust. After all, they depend on the accuracy of our technology to fuel their businesses. I also love that we have deep expertise in technology and data across our global team, which continues to put us in a strong position for growth. Finally, it’s our team here at IAS. They live out our values every day around innovation, accountability and customer obsession.
How would someone entering the industry now go about getting your job?
While there’s not a single route to the CEO role, the experience of working for a large technology platform or a high-growth digital startup is very valuable today. As IAS continues to grow, my years spent scaling global businesses earlier in my career has never been more relevant.
What advice would you offer to anyone entering the advertising industry at this weird time?
I encourage anyone considering a career in the advertising industry to go where the growth is.
There are incredible opportunities within media quality and verification, connected TV (CTV), programmatic, social platforms and more. My advice is to find a company that is innovating and growing exponentially and a role where you can have a seat at the table to help push these major growth drivers forward.
What trait best suits you to your role?
I stay calm under pressure. This trait has been critical throughout my career while managing business transformation and growth, especially during the past 14+ months of accelerated change and uncertainty of the global pandemic. Successful leaders can navigate high-pressure projects and decisions calmly and thoughtfully. In my experience, it’s most important to focus on making the tough decisions that benefit the company and your team, even if initially unpopular. Strong teams have decisive leaders that they can count on when it matters most.
Who should those who want your job be reading or listening to?
Lately, I’ve been listening to the Pivot podcast featuring Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher, as well as The Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead podcasts from Brene Brown. I would recommend them for anyone who is interested in understanding major shifts and developments across the tech industry, as well as what it really means to build a business, lead, parent and live in our digital first world. I’m always curious to listen to the stories of other changemakers. Plus, these days, podcasts are a great way to tune in while I’m getting in my steps during our IAS Fitbit Challenges that help balance wellness with the work, encouraging our team to find fun ways to stay active right now.