Xandr SVP Christina Beaumier: “Create value to the customer”

Being on the bleeding edge means that sometimes you get wounded. For me, learning how to observe my mistakes and learn from them has been an acquired skill versus internalizing them and telling myself stories about how I’m no good. My mistakes and failures are what led me here and I’m grateful for them — even though […]

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Being on the bleeding edge means that sometimes you get wounded. For me, learning how to observe my mistakes and learn from them has been an acquired skill versus internalizing them and telling myself stories about how I’m no good. My mistakes and failures are what led me here and I’m grateful for them — even though they may have been painful in the moment.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewingChristina Beaumier.

Whether as a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso West Africa, as a mom managing the operations of her young, busy family, or as SVP of product at Xandr, Christina Beaumier carries out her mission with purpose and bravery, navigating a path to solutions to the toughest problems. She is an energizing leader who has catalyzed transformation in the dynamic industry of digital video and television advertising for the last ten years at large companies such as AT&T, Google and WPP.

Her combined studies across continents and industries have made her into one of the most fluent translators in ad tech: “Within ad tech, nothing is a silo! There’s always a business development angle, a client angle, a technology angle, a media angle, a product angle… so being able to speak different languages and relate to different stakeholders is a powerful tool to help bridge gaps and bring people together.”

Christina now brings her encyclopedic experience and comprehensive understanding of the industry to her role as SVP Product, TV Platform at Xandr. She considers this to be the perfect place to bring everything together: the rigor of analytics and the stories of brands, finally translated into a message that people care to hear. The future at AT&T is exciting and not without uncertainty, but Christina finds herself comfortable in imbalance. She believes that the essence of business and life is a commitment to always correcting those imbalances, and finding the best way forward.

She is a recognized industry thought leader and was awarded NYC Television Week’s 40 under 40 award in 2018 and the Changing the Game Award by SheRunsIt in 2016.

Christina has an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management. She lives with her husband and their two young children in Brooklyn, NY.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I never expected to end up in ad tech! When I was in my late twenties starting an MBA program, I literally still had dirt in the creases of my feet after living in a West African village for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. My experience in the Peace Corps was humbling, heart breaking and at times, frustrating. One of my biggest takeaways was how to drive transformation amid a complex blend of cultures and power structures. Simply setting up a grassroots educational program about malaria prevention required rounds of discussions with local religious leaders, educational leaders, government leaders, traditional leaders like the village chief, and health care officials. Ensuring each group had an opportunity to understand, influence, show support and acceptance of the effort was critical for the overall program success. It is unexpected how much this experience has influenced how I now go about driving transformation in the context of television advertising today.

I ended up in ad tech by chance after the 2008–09 recession. I had lived through the Lehman Brothers implosion as a new Associate in 2008 and then layoffs in 2009 at a marketing consulting company, so I was looking for something that was growing and would be resilient even in the midst of the economic contraction. I knew nothing about ad tech but I was very impressed by the bright, inspiring people I met who were focused on solving really tough technical and business challenges. I was also excited by the strong growth the industry was experiencing. In the early 2010s the advertising technology space was exploding with new technical and data driven innovation. VC dollars were flowing in to fund point solutions that were soon acquired and integrated into larger technology stacks. I was able to quickly become a niche expert in digital audience-based advertising and after a few years started to wonder about the next frontier of television and what it would take to bring innovation to this space.

That is the beginning of the latest chapter of my story, and how I came to be where I am now, which is leading the development of a transformative platform that connects buyers and sellers of TV advertising to more seamlessly transact through data and technology. TV content is no longer only delivered via a cable subscription on a set top box, but rather is now consumable in lots of different formats and screens. However, the way that TV advertising is valued, measured and executed has not kept pace with this changing consumer behavior and new expectations of media. Attempts to leverage digital advertising toolsets to disrupt TV advertising have largely failed. The last six years of my career have been focused on trying to crack this nut and bring innovation that will work for the TV advertising space and help it evolve over time to the new world we are living in. Doing this has meant needing to understand the different groups of influence — the marketers, the TV buyers, the TV sellers, the digital buyers, the data and measurement companies, the technical context, and most importantly the consumers. My team and I have come to understand that while technology innovation has helped define the path forward, technological challenges are the easiest ones to address. We have very talented engineers and can build great software! The business challenges are the biggest nut to crack and that takes a lot of understanding, inventing new ways of doing business and getting different stakeholders comfortable with new models.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Coming back to work as a new mom has been my most “interesting” career story. The first time I came back after 3 months of leave — I was already grateful for that time since friends and family members had even less time before needing to go back to work full time. I took to heart what I had read about attachment parenting, the importance of breastfeeding for at least one year (if not longer), along with the internalized pressure to “Lean In” at work after coming back so I would not be bucketed into what has been commonly referred to as the “mommy track”. My expectations of myself were sky high. So when I returned and my blessed little baby didn’t sleep at night, I was going on 3–5 hours of broken sleep, was running to pump breastmilk every 3 hours — it was a tough reality. I was back traveling, at times internationally, with my infant and mother in tow so I could continue to breastfeed — all on my dime. It’s upsetting to me that new parents in the workplace still suffer through these stresses and demands, all while keeping up their professional demeanor. My own experience changed my perspective on the reality of how hard it is to make the transition. As I moved up in seniority, I not only started to notice that my peer set was predominantly male, but that many were able to live in a household where one partner stayed home. It was a very demoralizing realization and one that mobilized me into action.

Since that moment, I have been focused on advocating for women in the workplace. I am the executive sponsor of my company’s Women’s Network, where an important effort we focus on is influencing how our company considers policies and support for new parents. We have had a lot of success that I’m proud of.

And we are having a new reckoning in the post-COVID reality. Full-time working mothers often shoulder the emotional labor of managing the home along with their work responsibilities and do so by standing up elaborate outsourcing systems where possible and budget permitting — grocery delivery, childcare, extracurricular classes, cleaning services, etc. With COVID, these systems all came crashing down and many working mothers are still in crisis — and this crisis is even more severe for lower income or single parent families. In fact, now would be a good time to call your friend or family member who is a single mom and see if you can help in any way!

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

In addition to what is mentioned above… we are building a two-sided marketplace where TV buyers and sellers connect. The trick with two-sided marketplaces is that it has to create value for multiple constituents, sometimes with their own revenue interests. Navigating and solving for this value exchange can at times feel like walking on the bleeding edge. What one side desires may be off the table for the other side, and vice versa with guidelines and restrictions in place to protect business rules. If this were easy, the collective industry would have already figured it out! So a lot of what our product team does is figure out how to build bridges that address the unique needs of buyers and sellers, and create value on each side not just for today, but also that will be relevant in the future as the media landscape continues to evolve.

How do you think this might change the world?

My hope is that our platform will help make the content experience even better for consumers. The promise is to connect the viewer with compelling and relevant brand stories that are shared at the right moment and in the right context, to ultimately improve the experience. In doing so, I believe this will allow advertisers to measure the results that demonstrate the value of the TV advertising they are purchasing. Ultimately this should translate back into favorable economic terms for the TV content owners that supports further investment into their amazing, professionally produced content. So we are going for a win for consumers, for advertisers and for content owners.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Anyone working in the advertising space knows the value and importance of meeting and exceeding privacy standards, particularly when it comes to targeted advertising. Consumer data is not for compromise — and I feel fortunate to work for a company that thinks about privacy by design and embeds that ethos into everything we do. In terms of drawbacks, I really view our technology developments as innovative. But any time you’re innovating, it’s not always easy to change the status quo, or the way a business has been conducted for decades. So I would say, rather than a drawback — I see it as a challenge, consideration and opportunity.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

When building a two-sided platform for advanced television, there are technical challenges and there are business challenges. The transformation of the TV advertising business had not been held back by technical challenges alone — the bigger issues are business related. On the business side, one of the key needs is for scale. If it is a marketplace with only one seller, it’s not really a marketplace, it’s a portal. So as a technology, we needed to get critical mass in a few key steps. The tipping point for this technology platform came when Xandr acquired a technology startup out of Boston called clypd, which is a data-driven linear ad platform. In one step, we gained an existing book of business with some of the most major content owners, deep and necessary integrations into linear technology stacks and a team of talent focused on solving the same problem. Immediately after the deal closed, we got to work on integrating the technology and six months later, we announced the new product line with a set of partners that represented a critical mass of sellers.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need to be solving an unmet need that is a priority for our customers and do so better than alternative solutions. For advertisers this means giving them insights they have never had in a platform that will allow them to connect with valuable audiences and navigate TV and video advertising campaigns faster and more efficiently than they can today. For sellers, this means giving them tools to be able to package and sell their valuable TV advertising space in a way that gives them control and maintains their relationships with their advertiser customers. And we have to do so at scale.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

I was fortunate to partner with many different teams to build toward this launch, including groups like technology and engineering, strategy, legal, marketing and communications. We all cross-collaborated to work with the necessary stakeholders across our platform partner companies, many of which are large corporations in and of themselves, to bring this launch to life. I defer to our PR team on the publicity efforts, but we garnered a significant number of impressions and coverage in publications like the Wall Street Journal and Reuters around the story of our platform launch. We continued to tell the story about our platform innovation through multimedia content like podcasts and ongoing thought leadership.

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?

I feel very fortunate to have Helen Appleby as an executive coach! She is focused on women leaders and helps me understand my blind spots. She has helped me find my leadership style in a way that is true to my authentic self. She also opened my eyes to the necessity of “putting my own oxygen mask” first so that I can be available to help others. For me, this means prioritizing my own mental and physical health and well being through sleep and meditation, creating, communicating and sticking to boundaries and also, brutally prioritizing my investment of energy.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think it goes back to my past experience in the Peace Corps and advocating for women through initiatives like the Women’s Network. It’s also how I approach my day-to-day work life, and how I balance my professional persona with my personal — being a mom. I think having a diverse background and trying new experiences, whether you’re uniquely qualified for them or not — on paper — make you a more empathetic leader.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Create boundaries for when you are working and when you are not — then stick to them unapologetically. Recognize that long hours have diminishing returns of value — timebox your work when you are most productive.
  2. Acknowledge that there are more demands on your time than there is time available. Have a strategy for managing your calendar — it is not first-come, first serve. Wishing for ‘more time in the day’ is futile. If your calendar is insane you need work on these three skills: 1) Delegate more 2) Deprioritize and push it out to a later date 3) Say ‘no’ and don’t do it because it is not a priority.
  3. Align yourself close to a company’s core strategic purpose, value prop and generation of that value for the company.
  4. It’s not enough to be an ally — you need to be actively dismantling internalized and unconscious bias and holding yourself and others accountable.
  5. Create value to the customer. There are a lot of great ideas and things we could do and problems to solve for. It is important to really understand what your core customers’ unmet needs are and how you can generate value while delighting the customer.

You are a person of great 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. 🙂

Inspiring people to have a daily gratitude practice. A practice of gratitude is free, accessible, uncomplicated and is proven to increase mental health, well being and happiness.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Grace means that all your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame” — Brené Brown

Being on the bleeding edge means that sometimes you get wounded. For me, learning how to observe my mistakes and learn from them has been an acquired skill versus internalizing them and telling myself stories about how I’m no good. My mistakes and failures are what led me here and I’m grateful for them — even though they may have been painful in the moment.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

That’s a tough one! I would argue that what we have built at Xandr, formerly AT&T advertising and analytics, was a bit like pitching a new business plan and startup to one of the largest, most prolific telecommunications companies in the world with more than 143 years of experience, as it embraced the vision of becoming a modern media company. So it’s hard for me to top that!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIn or on Twitter @cboomerang.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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