Love where you’re at: I spent a lot of time working towards the next thing because at the next thing I knew I would be happy **spoiler alert** the next thing doesn’t make you happy. Enjoying the moment you’re in, makes you happy, and the more you enjoy and gain fulfill from the moment, the more successful you’ll feel. When you equate success to getting to the next level, then you’re in a constant race of always wanting more and never feeling success, but when you can appreciate what the day or next hour holds for you, you get to be regularly fulfilled.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lizzie Chapman, VP of Business Development, NextRoll Platform Services.
Lizzie Chapman is the VP of Business Development for NextRoll Platform Services. She’s worked in advertising technology for over a decade, mainly in business development and product strategy roles, building platform businesses from the ground up and continuing to innovate across them. Her leadership roles have focused on building teams and investing in people in order to produce the best business outcomes and fulfilling work environments. She attended Northeastern University, where she studied Organizational Communications and played hockey. She now spends a lot of her time outside of work skiing, traveling and being a dog mom.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Istarted my career 11 years ago as a campaign manager at an ad network in Boston called Burst Media. While at Burst, programmatic media started to emerge and I took on DSP partnerships moving into a business development role where I began to see just how big programmatic could be. From Burst, I moved on to OpenX and to New York where I continued to manage DSP partnerships and saw the programmatic world shifting towards video. When I got the opportunity to lead a brand-new programmatic offering for Teads, an outstream video provider, I was very excited to build their platform from the ground up with a new innovative format. Teads is where I honed in on developing business and GTM strategies. Then I took a little detour away from ad tech to the agency side at Vayner Media, where I had the opportunity to oversee a wonderful 30 person media team and recognized the enjoyment and fulfillment in helping individuals develop and grow.
Now, I’m responsible for leading the NextRoll Platform Service business unit, which empowers ambitious companies to grow beyond their core offering by providing developer tools that enable monetization, automation and activation of their data, inventory and other rich assets. NextRoll has a great product offering, but my main reason for joining was due to their passion in developing and growing people.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
The most interesting event, I would assume for everyone this year, has to be the Covid-19 and the downstream effects to both the macro-economy and micro-events in our daily lives. Being somewhat new in this role, I really wasn’t sure how it would affect the Platform Service business, but we had a call early on with a customer and I realized there might be some silver linings in all the darkness around it. The customers’ inventory was down because the isolation period was affecting their core services and business, but their advertisers’ budgets were not down as much as their inventory. Suddenly, I realized that their Platform Service integration with NextRoll was going to allow them to continue to deliver their campaigns and make revenue. They also quickly invested in a program that primarily ran through our integration. It was a relief to see that our offering could be a life raft for our customers as they wade through this uncertain time and I’m hopeful that it will continue to be for our current and future customers. There’s so little we can individually do during Covid-19, we can stay in-house, support our local businesses, help our neighbors and friends, but it was inspiring to know that NextRoll can help business’ sustain and even develop new programs and made me feel good for the things to come with Platform Services.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I tend to only remember the unfun mistakes that I learned from. One of the funniest realizations for me was what media optimization and yield management meant in the ad network days. We would sell campaigns on a CPA and then have to go find cheap enough inventory on a CPM, which meant that I had to bargain and haggle with my supply lead, Jenny, on a daily basis to find $0.10 CPMs. It was a realization that we, the humans, were the optimization tools, wheeling and dealing to find a way to make CPAs work. Soon after, RTB swept onto the scene and we were quick to build an SSP and let the DSPs do the heavy lifting of the yield management, but there are so many realizations when we get into any new business of how things really work and it’s crazy to see how far the industry has come.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
A few players have dictated the mar-tech industry narrative in recent years and with impending changes to cookies there are a lot of open questions on what marketing will look like. NextRoll Platform Services empowers companies to build their own marketing technology and in doing so allows them to be the narrator of their story during these unclear times in the industry. Our biggest opportunity is to step in and help our customers efficiently build performance centric platforms at scale to allow them to remain competitive, provide alternative marketing solutions to brands and even grow as the industry rapidly evolves. We stand out because we provide the blueprint for companies to build new revenue generating business with the rich assets they already have, which allow them to continue to invest and focus on their core offerings.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Since the business was launched less than a year ago, the majority of things we’re doing are new, whether it’s building out an integration to expand our current customers, onboarding new customers, finding ways to expand our APIs into new inventory sources like video or building a team. My role combines my two biggest professional passions of bringing a new offering to the market and building and developing a team. I’m excited to grow relationships with our customers through education, tools and products that truly allow them to have a competitive mar-tech platform to scale their business and deliver value to their customers. I’m even more excited to develop a team environment that allows for authenticity, resilience and growth — individually and collectively. Platform Services is going to change the game for a lot of companies trying to stand up their own mar-tech solution and the NextRoll team is going to have fun delivering on that.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
Women are getting more opportunities in the STEM field than they have in the past, which is good, but there is still work to be done. When I think about diversity, I not only think about what people look like, but how they solve problems and generate ideas or in other words the diversity of thinking, which is key in driving any field forward. So the more opportunities we give to everyone who’s qualified the better diversity of thought we’re going to have.
There are two important things that can continue to change the status quo of women in STEM. The first one is how we develop interest in STEM careers with young women and girls. We need to introduce these careers at an early age whether it be elementary school, high school or college and show the next generation that it’s not only an option for them, but women are already pursuing these careers successfully. There are many ways to do this, but highlighting women like Gwynne Shotwell, President & COO of SpaceX, Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe, and the countless other female leaders in STEM to young women will show that this is a path they can pursue. More importantly, education on how STEM careers can help them advocate for the things they care about, whether it’s creating a data analytics platform for healthcare, building the next generation of devices or solving climate change. We can accomplish this through school curriculums, organizations like Girls Who Code, female leaders investing time to visit local schools, YouTube series, really there are countless options to educate in this day and age. Ultimately, building passion and showing the path for STEM careers to women at a young age is the first piece of the puzzle we need to solve.
Once interested in STEM, organizations and individuals need to provide opportunities, but even more so they need to invest in preparing women for those opportunities. Leaders need to provide feedback to women the same as they do to men about what they need to work on to continue to grow. Leaders also need to provide connections to build the right network and they need to get them into the right rooms and conversations. Some organizations are wonderful at providing the foundations for anyone who is ambitious to grow, but some aren’t. I would like to see those that don’t provide the foundation — at least change their mindset. From a pure business standpoint, it’s less expensive to grow and retain talent and that investment leads to an outsized return in work from those employees you invest in. Alternatively, when looking for a new job, it’s important to ask questions and do research before joining an organization to understand the way the company views and provides growth opportunities because joining a company who is going to help you grow should be the number one priority on your list.
When women finally get the opportunities, it is up to them to be impactful and utilize all the resources they can to do so. Women deserve to be in these roles, if they’ve proven they’re capable, and they should know and believe that. The one thing that I do hope women in leadership roles do is show other young men and women what it looks like to be a leader and share their experiences to have a net positive effect on our future leaders.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
I touched on this in the last question, but the two biggest challenges I’ve seen is getting feedback and gaining access to networks.
Feedback is the best way we can grow, and I’ve found it difficult to get feedback from leaders throughout my career. There is data that shows leaders don’t provide the same feedback to women as they do to men, whether it’s because they don’t want to hurt their feelings or make them cry or whatever it may be. The bottom line is you are doing a disservice to your employee if you’re not providing thoughtful feedback because without it they may not know where they need to grow.
On the networking side, there are formal (i.e. events and work outings) and informal networks (i.e. lunch groups, drinks, golfing). In my experience women are more often left out of the informal networking, whether it’s because a male supervisor is uncomfortable asking their female report to go to drinks or because they don’t golf, or whatever it may be. These informal networks provide such amazing growth opportunities whether it be building trust with your manager or company leaders, meeting people outside your organization for future job opportunities or partnerships, learning more information about other initiatives at the company, etc. Organizations have to find safe and trusting ways to build these informal networks across all employees. It could be through mentorship programs with both men and women, lunch roulettes to have random people go out for lunches or more team outings that create a relaxed environment. And also, to all of the men…women can play golf too!
Women gaining access to more leadership roles will help address these challenges, as it provides them the opportunity to thoughtfully manage both our male and female future leaders. There are countless reasons why having a female leader in your career can be beneficial, such as seeing ways to appropriate ways to build informal networking relationships across genders. I’ve actually seen a lot of value in female leaders managing men. In my experience, it provides men an opportunity to gain a different perspective on ways they can manage and allows them to get more comfortable providing feedback and even discussing feelings at work. If a young man has a female leader they respect, learn and grow from they will be much more likely to build a future team around them that includes women leaders and know how to support them on the road there both from experience and having a female mentor to turn to for guidance.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?
“Women need to act like men to successfully lead.” No you don’t, acting like you is what you should do to lead. Women, in many ways, are better team builders and collaborative operators than men in my experience. Build your team and organization with the skills you already know and don’t try to change yourself to find your confidence and power. Your power comes from being you and knowing you’re already more than enough and deserve to be leading that team as you are.
“She just got the role because she’s a woman.” I’ve seen this “myth” play out in two unpleasant ways. The first way is when a woman is hired simply because they need to even out their diversity, but she isn’t the best fit for the role. Please note, I believe there are many men who are also not the right fit for their role, but it particularly bothers me when it’s a woman because at those same organizations when another women does deserve and receives a leadership role, she is often looked at like it was handed to her because she’s a women. It essentially devalues leadership roles for women in those particular organizations. The alternative is that a woman is hired for a leadership role and most certainly does deserve it, but the other male leaders decide she only received the role because she’s a woman. This often results in exclusion and very limited support making it difficult for the female leader to be successful. This is the classic case of a “boy’s club”. Open up opportunities to everyone who could be a fit, give women roles when they are the best fit for the role, support them the same way you would a male in that role and find a healthy way to part ways when anyone is not the right fit for a role.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be You: Don’t try to be someone else, just be you. It’s easy to try to be like another leader and I would suggest watching, learning and evolving in your own way from the ones you think are high quality, but what you bring to the table is so unique and covering any of that up is a disservice to others and mostly to yourself. I had a boss tell me once that I should dress differently if I wanted to be noticed in a room, not because I wasn’t professional, but because who knows what he expected me to wear. I didn’t change what I wore and I found a way to be noticed just fine through my knowledge. Take feedback and use it in a way that feels right to you. We each have so many wonderful gifts to provide exactly as we are today.
- Find your superpower: Spend time recognizing the things you wish you could default to differently and work towards leveraging those defaults into your superpower. It could be your type-A organization, your outlandish creativity or your anxiety that you can turn into your superpower. One of my superpowers is compartmentalization. It’s a poor skill to utilize for long-term situations, but man does it help me handle crisis situations with a calming ease in the moment. We all have countless superpowers just waiting to be unleashed in little and big ways. Take a look closer at your “imperfections”, they’re your hidden superpowers!
- Learn, learn, learn: If you learn from every win and every loss, everything is a win. Take the moments of struggle and mistakes and find underlying learnings in them. Listen to others, watch reactions, watch others’ speaking to other people, listen to tones and body language and delivery and intentions, break down macro events into micro moments and truly try to understand them, what went well, what didn’t and shape them into learnings. And learn by doing… try things even if you aren’t 100% sure it will work, because if you aren’t trying, you aren’t learning anything, you’re just making predictions about things that never happened. Also, give space for others to learn and teach them the lessons you’ve learned. When you hand off responsibilities to your team, you not only give them new things to learn, but you free up your time to own new things to learn from.
- Love where you’re at: I spent a lot of time working towards the next thing because at the next thing I knew I would be happy **spoiler alert** the next thing doesn’t make you happy. Enjoying the moment you’re in, makes you happy, and the more you enjoy and gain fulfill from the moment, the more successful you’ll feel. When you equate success to getting to the next level, then you’re in a constant race of always wanting more and never feeling success, but when you can appreciate what the day or next hour holds for you, you get to be regularly fulfilled.
- Be Resilient: For a long time, I’ve been able to tolerate discomfort in challenging situations with a calm and collected fashion whether it’s a bad interaction, a work crisis or a personal loss, but what I’ve really been able to tap into over the last few years is the underlying vulnerability that true resilience requires. Opposite to withstanding discomfort through pure logical reactions, I’ve become a lot more curious about my emotions and behaviors throughout the process. I’m able to be vulnerable in the way I feel about something or put an idea out there that might not be popular even when I know I may not get the reaction I’d like. This allows me to make difficult decisions, challenge others’ and be honest about my behaviors even when they are wrong and at the end of the day, month or year being this vulnerable not only allows me to be my true self, but always leads me to my most fulfilling moments. Know that you’re worthy as exactly who you are and that being vulnerable and making mistakes not only are survivable and have no impact on your value, but actually make you stronger. Being able to get up when you get knocked down is the only way to make it because life and work throw curveballs at us no matter how we navigate the world. And showing vulnerability and resilience helps those around you develop that muscle as well, it makes you human…keep reminding everyone you’re just a human too.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Support and guide your team to do all the things I mentioned you should do yourself. The goal of leadership is to multiply or reproduce a diverse set of leaders on your team. Let them be themselves and help them find their own superpowers and passions. Teach them the lessons you’ve learned, allow them to watch you learn and get out of their way so they can learn on their own. Build an environment that provides space to find fulfillment or be resilient wherever the team is at every day. Model what resilience looks like, let them see you be vulnerable and survive so they know this is an environment where they can dip their toe into that very risky, unknown vulnerability pool and survive.
Lastly, always protect the team! As a leader, you have more protection in your position. The team will work harder for you and be willing to take risks that will result in more innovation and results, if they know you’ll have their back when they make a mistake, or a crisis occurs. That doesn’t mean letting them avoid the consequences of mistakes, but it means supporting them through it and taking on the consequences and solutions alongside them, remember you’re a team. If you don’t feel like you can trust a team member to always protect them, you either need to provide feedback about why you can’t, find a new role or part way so they can find a role that’s a better fit for them. Ultimately, if it happens on your team…. it’s your mistake in some fashion, so own it, own your hiring decision, your retention decisions, your culture decisions and build something special, so you can always protect your team.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Be yourself. I often see women step into leadership roles and feel as though they need to act in a different way or worse act like male leaders do. The reason women are great leaders is because they are women and whatever their core assets and skill sets are led them to that position, so keep doing that. Women can accomplish the same as men in a leadership role, but they are going to do it in a different fashion, just as I would do it in a different way than another female leader might. I find as a female leader, and probably even more so just being Lizzie, that both women and men are more likely to talk about their feelings. We carry emotions with us every day, all the time, whether we like it or not and being able to speak about or be vulnerable about those emotions at work is something that in my experience male leaders are not as innately attuned to doing. Giving this space to your team really unlocks a lot of value, it allows them to know they can bring their full selves to work, it gives me insight into how they operate and what gets them excited vs. what their fears are, which is key information to know in coaching and it shows them a roadmap for how they can accomplish the same as leaders. When I finally started just being Lizzie at work, I not only started to love going to work every day but realized how much more respect being me gained than trying to be what I thought a leader should be. Find the thing that makes you passionate to go to work every day and whatever it is that you bring to the table, do it, lean into it, grow that muscle and the rest will flow out from there.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Many people have helped me along the way by giving me chances in roles and supporting me through various journeys. The person who helped me start to believe I could lead was one of my first managers, Liz Hegarty at Burst Media. She promoted me into my first business development role and I really didn’t believe I could do sales, but she gave me an alternative roadmap. She wasn’t a hard seller, she just knew the tech extremely well and built relationships and trust with our customers and I was like “oh, I can do that”. She helped open up a whole new career path for me because at the time, I thought I was going to continue in operation management roles but being able to combine my operational mindset with a business development relationship was an advantage. To go into a room and not just be able to sell the product but know how to operate and build it was the advantage I needed to take up space in the room. As a 5’2” women often surrounded by rooms full of men in the tech world, it’s difficult to find a way to own the room when you need to sell something and watching Liz own it with her knowledge showed me the roadmap to how I could be successful. The first thing I do at any job is learn the product’s ins and outs to deeply understand our offering. That knowledge gives me power and confidence in any room, and I’m extremely grateful to Liz for showing me that valuable asset.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Trying to bring goodness into the world is the reason I’m excited to go to work every day. I spent many years dreading waking up on Monday mornings. I was going to work to develop a product or to hit the revenue goals for that month and quite frankly it was fun for the first 6 months and quickly was no longer motivating. Something clicked for me when I was at my sole agency job, where I didn’t have a tech product or revenue target to focus all my time and energy on, the people are your product at an agency. So I started to invest in them and the benefit from investing in people is that the fulfillment is 1000 times greater than any product launch or commission could ever deliver. I get excited to go to work every day now because my main goal is to show up for my team, to build a place where people feel like they can be themselves and to achieve both personal and business fulfillment while there and that’s how I bring goodness to the world each day.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The “Space for Feelings at Work” movement. If I saw this movement 5 years ago, I would have thought it was insane, but I really can’t begin to describe how powerful giving space to all the feelings is to business results including revenue, retention and relationships. We’re much better at giving space to positive emotions than we are at negative emotions. We want people to be excited, passionate and joyful, but those emotions don’t come free of sadness, anger and fear most of the time. I’ve seen a few companies/teams successfully give space to the hard feelings internally and it sometimes resonates through partnerships too. Although, we often have to hide how we’re feeling with customers. I particularly saw this on the agency side, where customers could be nasty and as an agency you have to be the bigger person and not let it affect you.
At a minimum, we should provide space for feelings internally, but I would love to see the space for feelings externally to produce the best working relationships. When you have a healthy relationship that provides space to honestly say how you feel, the work produced is exponentially better due to the communication and trust that the space allows for. A client, manager, teammate, etc. should not only want, but demand honesty. It’d be interesting to see this language of “Space for Feelings” built into contracts, working agreements, pitch decks, offer letters and/or company values, but mostly I’d love to see leaders provide this space and bring their own feelings to work wherever they can because it’s contagious in the best way possible.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Love everywhere I’m at.” Gratitude and patience can sometimes be a struggle for me, but when I find ways to appreciate the moment even when I really have to work for it, I gain patience and often even enjoy that moment or learn a valuable lesson.
“Imperfections can be hidden superpowers.” As an overachiever, I can become frustrated when I don’t perceive myself as “perfect” or notice a “fault” I feel is ingrained in who I am. What I’ve learned over time is that these imperfections or faults can become my superpowers if I get curious about them. I tend to be a caregiver/codependent, which can often lead me to not pay attention to my own needs or get wrapped up unnecessarily in others’ needs, but it also gives me empathy for others and when I balance taking care of myself and finding the right moments to lean into empathy, I can foster an environment at work where people feel comfortable being themselves or making mistakes and growing from it. Another example is that I tend to be obsessive, which is easy to see the downfalls in, but my logical obsessions can lead me to think about a solution to a problem as I spin it through my head over and over again. I’m constantly striving to be curious about my default emotions and actions and in that curiosity, I can discover and find the balance of these imperfections to unleash the superpowers they create for me and others around me. Some days I succeed and other days I don’t, but each day I get the opportunity to try again. I also love helping others recognize how wonderful and powerful their “imperfections” are and have the potential to be.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Brené Brown, hands down. Listening to her talks and reading her books allowed me to get comfy with vulnerability, see the uselessness in shame and helped me become more resilient in all aspects of life. The way she tells stories about emotions opened up a new way for me to talk about feelings. It showed me that if I bring my full self to the table, the other person is going to be much more willing to do the same. I would love to chat with her about it all or maybe even the “Space for Feelings at Work” movement. 😉