By: Jessica Berman and Tiffany Lemos
Every single human has experienced some level of change since the pandemic hit in early 2020: changes to our daily routines, changes to holidays and traditions; and perhaps, even changes to our ways of thinking.
Among the many events that were canceled or postponed was the centennial celebration to commemorate the women’s suffrage movement of 1920. While much of the global community recognizes International Women’s Day on March 8 to celebrate notable women and those who came before us, the US has grown the single-day celebration into a month-long event known as Women’s History Month.
As SpotX continues to lean into diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, we are also taking the opportunity to recognize the contributions of women around the world and in our own offices.
Since the fall of 2020, SpotX’s DEI team has hosted a number of Women in Leadership Fireside Chats that focus on topics proposed by employees. The most recent discussion provided guidance on developing leadership qualities and was hosted by Catherine Dale, RVP of Platform, and three panelists: Jessica Berman, Director of Product Management; Akshatha Shetty, Sr. Solutions Engineer; and Tiffany Lemos, RVP of Demand Facilitation.
Each panelist is a leader from a different department within SpotX, and all four women chatted through personal insights and experiences in different areas of leadership over the last year. We also each provided actionable suggestions for colleagues to help them discover their leadership qualities. In addition to the discussion, we shared resources like a list of free online courses, reference materials, and self-assessment tools that allow employees to evaluate their strengths or personality type for further development.
“The pandemic helped me focus on personal development and my manager was very supportive of that. My personal goal was to say YES to things that made me uncomfortable. Voicing my opinions publicly was one of them. When Cate approached me to be a part of the panel, I said yes without heeding to my critical inner voice. I learned that my mind always imagines the worst case and I was impressed at how I did.” – Akshatha Shetty, Sr. Solutions Engineer
One of the most engrossing aspects of a chat like this is the vulnerability it takes to be open and honest about the highs and lows of being a leader, as well as the feelings behind the constant need to adapt. In “Dare to Lead,” Brene Brown states, “Our ability to be daring leaders will never be greater than our capacity for vulnerability.” When women open up about themselves —not only about the true daily challenges and struggles they face, but also the feelings they are wrestling with — it shows others that it is OK to be vulnerable, yet still be seen as an influential leader.
“I opened up about the need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and have ‘emotional check-ins’ with my team, to get a gauge on how they were doing in life, not just at work. 2020 opened my eyes to the need to connect with others on my team at a much more personal level than I had in the past. I like to be seen as an unshakable leader, and try and keep emotions to a minimum, but what I realized was that I needed to get in the ‘emotional weeds’ with my team to help us all pull through the year. It was liberating to share this insight with my colleagues here at SpotX, and share how uncomfortable it made me at first. By opening up about this, I think it gave others permission to do the same.” – Tiffany Lemos, RVP of Demand Facilitation
Forming a women in leadership group is important, and we should all be aware of the challenges that remain for women and the toll the pandemic has taken on women’s progress toward equality. Companies can and should do better as there is immense benefit in developing internal talent, including nurturing female leadership. Who better to lead a team, a business unit, or even a company than someone who has been involved and knows the ins and outs of the organization? Hiring from within sets the tone that says “this company values you and your contributions.”
Being a leader means having the skills AND the desire to lead. Creating a culture that encourages employees to raise their hand for an opportunity is just the beginning. In an article from the Forbes Human Resources Council on how to support business leadership and development, Candice McGlen says, “Leadership is not a title, but a responsibility…When leadership is a foundation versus the mountain top, we can create a culture where employees are given leadership development at every phase of their careers.”
“The notion that leadership is a responsibility has always resonated with my core values. I was really humbled to be nominated as a panelist to provide tips and tricks that have helped me advance this mentality, and share with others. I’m grateful to work at SpotX, where this value is also held in high regard through efforts like the Women in Leadership discussions. Knowing I am a valued employee makes me work harder for the company and strive for success at every turn.” – Jessica Berman, Director of Product Management
If SpotX is nothing else, it is nimble and adapts to change. We are an ad tech company, after all, and that demands adept agility. In addition to the Women in Leadership efforts that provide employees the opportunity to initiate and influence change, the company has kicked off a DEI book club and employee resource groups to support parents and caregivers. All of the endeavors are proof of the value and trust that our company puts into its employees to encourage conversation and influence a stronger future for our community.
This resounded with many women leaders across the company.
“I loved the messages I was reminded of from our talented SpotX women during the fireside chat. Women’s career paths are often crooked, which makes us diverse, adaptable, and willing to accept failure and move on. In a year of not being able to physically see any of my female colleagues, the chat made me incredibly proud to be a part of this strong community. It reminded me to seek out and cultivate relationships in all aspects of my life with women who help hold me up, as I them.” – Sarah Thompson, SVP Systems Operations
The Women in Leadership Fireside Chats are open to all employees, regardless of sex. The SpotX community is meant to be inclusive and open to anyone who is interested in the topics discussed. We value collaboration with each other, and have looked for ways to ensure our culture remains as trusting and supportive as it was pre-pandemic, now that we are all physically distanced.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and proves that women and men alike get value from these conversations.
“Without question, everyone benefits from initiatives like this. Embracing platforms inclusive of all voices, teams, and individuals will broaden perspective, strengthen ideas, and truly incorporate viewpoints from the broadest group of women in our organization.
I have seen the benefit firsthand. Professionally and personally I am surrounded by strong, driven women who have shaped my approach to my career and relationships significantly, which wouldn’t have been possible without their influence.” – Ryan Kenney, VP of Platform
The Women in Leadership forum will continue to host roundtables — enabling various leaders to raise their hand or be nominated by their peers to have a platform to share ideas and insights, and contribute to the greater good of the organization. We are ever-evolving and advancing, not only for our customers, but for the people who make SpotX a desirable place to work.
About the authors
Jessica Berman is a Director on the Product Management team who leads product development efforts with audience data, privacy regulations compliance, and identity. She and her team oversee products such as Audience Management Engine, Audience Lock, and ID integrations. Jessica has been involved in video advertising technology since 2015 and loves building products that enable data targeting in a privacy-compliant way. Jessica is a Colorado native and lives with her husband and two teenage children. She loves camo and big dogs! Together, her family loves to travel and regularly vacations to locales known for scuba diving.
Tiffany Lemos is the Regional Vice President of Mid-Market Sales, Demand Facilitation at SpotX, leading the West and Midwest Mid-Market Sales team. She and her team are responsible for all the mid-market agency and brand relationships in the West and Midwest. Tiffany has been in the world of video since 2009, and loves sharing her experiences in the space and her path to leadership. She lives in Wheat Ridge, Colo. with her husband and two pugs and is a lover of travel, adventures, reading, and all things outdoors.