I joined MediaMath in 2012 and shortly after, helped launch the New Marketing Institute. The NMI serves as the educational arm of our company, providing training and certification for clients, employees and university students who are looking to transition into the ad tech world. I deeply and passionately believe in the power of learning and development to help people fulfill their potential and in turn, drive their firms and teams forward.
The NMI was created to tackle the education and talent gaps in our company. The purpose of education and training is to bridge the distance between people’s talent and what they need to know to exercise that talent. Since launch, we’ve trained over 20,000 people globally and have been recognized for our efforts by many leading educational groups and industry associations, including IAB.
I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made, and I’m encouraged by the impact we’ve had inside and outside our industry. I receive emails regularly from people wanting to know how to start an educational practice centered around digital marketing and technology at their own enterprise. I give everyone the same advice – creating a digital marketing education hub begins with acknowledging that every individual has room for improvement.
Whether you are a seasoned industry professional or new to the industry, we can all agree that the need to continue learning never stops. With technology — and ad tech specifically — we’re constantly realizing what we still don’t know. We may be experts in specific practices, but we can’t stay experts without training and education.
If you are tasked with bringing Learning & Development (L&D) to the forefront of your company, or you are looking to learn more about what it is like to do so, here are six tips based on my experience:
1. Create a Safe Space
You’ll be surprised what people reveal when you create a space to have honest conversations about their gaps in understanding. Everyone, even the CEO, knows they have blind spots in their knowledge. They all understand that uncomfortable feeling of having those blind spots exposed. If you can create an environment of safety and comfort, you will help more people embrace the function of education.
2. Be Bold and Courageous
This can happen in many different ways, like initiating a conversation about a best practice, a technology, or an unconventional way of thinking. It’s about having the courage to stand up and put ideas out there. Constructing new solutions to both old and new challenges is one of the really cool things about our industry, but having the training to underpin that construction is key to success. Complex subjects like algorithms and artificial intelligence may intimidate some people, but they are not intimidated by education. Professional development is seen as a way to level set knowledge and an investment in themselves.
3. Meet Each Learner Where They Are
Adults have different learning styles. They want relevant information delivered in a timely way, with a hands-on approach, which requires a culture of learning. Creating this culture begins with identifying and accepting what areas individuals need help in. All employees bring their education and experiences to their roles, but they have to have an ongoing, sustainable source of knowledge that they can easily tap into in order to thrive. We cannot afford to wait for a perfect moment to implement learning practices because, moving at the speed we do, there never is a perfect moment.
4. Look for Teachable Moments
Knowing where you and your colleagues have knowledge gaps is an important first step, but finding teachable moments outside of the classroom is just as important. We often forget formal training is a quick fix. We identify a gap, jump into a training room, and when we come out the problem is “fixed,” but the application of new concepts needs support to reinforce learning. There are teachable moments that happen throughout the day. Managers and leaders have to learn to identify those moments to close those gaps in real time.
5. Find Your Educational Opportunities
I encourage you to connect with people and organizations facing the same challenges. Seek out educational opportunities of your own by attending events where you can tap into people, hear thought leaders and participate in of-the-moment discussions about learning. IAB, for one, is a great place to find these opportunities – from their L&D programs to their conference events.
Recently, MediaMath won IAB’s Excellence In Education Award. It was an honor to be recognized as leaders in the space, but we got so much more out of it. The award acted as a springboard to enable conversations towards our goal: helping companies focus on education and the changing role of education in our industry.
6. Find Partners and Champions
Startups, or for that matter, many established companies, do not have a scalable L&D program or a specific person in place to meet their educational needs. Therein lies your opportunity to become that trusted advisor for your team. In my seven years as the leader of the New Marketing Institute, I was fortunate to have a CEO, senior leadership team, internal stakeholders and industry colleagues who were truly committed to education and understood the role that it plays for our employees, clients and the broader ecosystem.
This work has now also allowed me to create a new role at MediaMath as our first-ever Head of Multicultural Marketing & Inclusion. I can tell you that, based on my experience, when you become a champion of education, you will find some of the biggest and most important opportunities of your career.