Our Infectious Media ‘Pathways’ series of interviews aims to highlight working life in the Business, as well as the the career options available to our staff. Here, Jessica Man, Technical Product Manager in our London office, tells us about her journey at Infectious Media and how she thinks more women can be encouraged to work in the tech industry.
What did you do before you began working for Infectious Media?
Shortly before joining, I was attending my graduation ceremony. Having just completed my degree in mathematics, I was busy worrying about finding a job related to my degree to start building a career and paying off all of that student debt.
Prior to that, I worked a few hours on the weekends whilst studying during the weekdays, tutoring groups of primary school children between the ages of 4 and 6 English and Maths.
It seemed logical to me that since I had a maths degree, I would eventually go into finance, accounting or teaching. But it had never occurred to me to entertain the idea of branching outside of these traditional career paths into programmatic advertising - particularly since I had never heard of it before and therefore didn't even know it existed.
Tell us about your Infectious Media career journey, where did it begin, and how did you make your way to Technical Product Manager?
I started in an entry level role as an Operations Analyst which was a hybrid role involving Advertising Operations and Technical Operations. At this point I had no practical experience of working in digital advertising so I was walking into the unknown armed with sheer grit and was trained from the ground up with the support of an incredible team, working with internal teams and joining calls with clients.
After just over a year, the team expanded and in light of performance, I was promoted to Senior Operations Analyst. Working at a start-up means you are exposed to more responsibilities and larger projects that would otherwise be managed by more senior members in larger companies. Consequently the opportunity for progression is fairly high provided you have an open mind and a willingness to learn.
Throughout this time it became increasingly apparent to me that I was more interested in improving efficiencies from a technical perspective than progressing upwards into a people management role and I wanted to develop my technical skills further. I discussed this with the team lead who then queried if I had ever considered moving into Product.
I hadn't. But a few months later, I was approached with the opportunity to interview internally and successfully made a lateral move into the Technical Product team as a Junior Product Manager where I began to work much more closely with the data team and developers. In just under a year, after working on a number of larger projects, I was promoted to Technical Product Manager where I now manage a myriad of different projects both collaboratively and independently whilst working with teams across the entire business. This entire whirlwind of a journey happened in the space of about two and a half years.
Describe a typical working day.
As cliché as it sounds, there really isn’t a” typical working day”. Our company has the benefit of “flexitime”, so even the start and end times of any given day can vary.
In a rapidly growing company, in an ever evolving industry, working in product means you are responsible for managing multiple projects of different sizes and complexities simultaneously which makes every day unique. You could be in back to back meetings with internal teams one day, then working with teams based in New York and Russia to ship a new product from start to finish the next.
However, a “typical week” would consist of a lot of coffee, meetings, troubleshooting problems, running tests, working with internal teams and developers to scope out, release and test new features, writing documentation and managing improvements to our existing technology, to name a few.
Essentially, each day and week you are “typically” working towards ensuring the product is both competitive and at the forefront of innovation in the industry, to ensure the company is providing best service possible for clients.
It is International Women’s’ Day today - how do you think we can encourage more women into Tech?
I think there needs to be an honest evaluation of the gender diversity and equality within businesses from entry level roles through to higher management roles.
We have a collective duty, particularly as women, in the tech industry to be role models by sharing our experiences and making career opportunities in tech more accessible to women. Whether that's speaking to family members, working with schools to participate in mentoring schemes, hosting company open days, giving presentations at schools or providing work experience, internships or setting up graduate schemes. The next generation is paramount to the future of tech and gender diversity is pivotal to its growth and success.
For a lot of women, whether graduates or established professionals with a successful career, or anyone in between looking to start a career or transition into tech, it can be quite daunting if they do not have any previous relevant work experience. This was certainly the case for me as a graduate. Even the skills attained through studying or previous jobs, it may not be immediately apparent that those skills are relevant to building a successful career in tech. The key here is to encourage any woman interested, excited or passionate about tech to simply try and apply for the tech roles. Even if you have little to no experience, tech companies will usually provide training, especially for entry level roles.
For young girls there is an increasing number of opportunities and initiatives to allow them to start coding at a young age. The earlier parents expose their daughters to this, the more likely they are to consider a career in tech in the future.
There is also a notion for some that you have to be “really technical” in order to start or have a successful career in tech. However, understanding technology or being “technical” is not binary and even if it were, non-technical skills are also essential to a successfully functioning tech company.
Ultimately the best thing we can do to encourage more women into tech is to start the conversation and share the passion and experience we have in technology with others.