On International Women’s Day, I highlighted meaningful conversations with several fabulous women from FreeWheel. The heartwarming response to the candor and wisdom these ladies shared was amazing! Building on that momentum we continue celebrating Women’s History Month by expanding the conversation to include five influential leaders across other functions within Comcast’s advanced advertising business. Below, we showcase the inspirations behind their career journey, their definitions of success and the importance of women supporting each other across our expanding global organization.
Who has mentored or inspired your career journey?
Diane Yu, Co-Founder and CTO, FreeWheel
There are many that I have gotten to know and respect across the industry, like Qi Lu from Yahoo and Microsoft, and now to Baidu. He is Chinese and came into the U.S. like me to grow and build his career. He has earned a lot of respect for being very smart and very diligent at what he does. And I must mention my fellow Co-Founders, Jon Heller and Doug Knopper, who are my very good friends and mentors. They provide me with the opportunity and environment to truly be myself– I can freely talk to them about anything. And that mentality extends across the rest of our organization.
Joy Baer, President, Strata
I started my career in computer science at a key turning point for PC-based technology; I never used punch cards and PC software was just starting to accelerate. My first real tech idol was Steve Jobs; I had a crush on him. In fact, I signed up for an Apple programming seminar in Palo Alto, CA during college with the express intent of learning how to program on an Apple computer but also with the hopes of running into him in the Apple parking lot. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were pioneering their businesses at such a formidable time for me. I admired the dedication and passion they both had. In retrospect, I felt like I was waiting there with a catcher’s mitt for their latest innovations, it was remarkable to see how much hope and opportunity they both had for technology.
Justine Gaeta, CFO, Visible World
Both my grandmothers were strong, smart women who gave me the self-confidence to succeed. Since then, I’ve been lucky to have many great managers who led by example. I’ve tried to take away best practices from all of them.
Jeanette Williamson, VP, Client Account Services, Strata
My mother was a working mother who encouraged me to be independent while also structured. I respected how she managed to maintain a family and a successful career. I was also fortunate to have met women such as Joy Baer, Strata’s President, in professional roles. She was a catalyst for my move into the technology world at Strata. Joy’s passion and her conviction to build a robust platform and her commitment to solving problems in this industry has been inspirational. She is an example of how to maintain a solid work life balance– she’s an amazing leader.
Julie Van Ullen, VP, Publisher Development and Account Management – Markets, FreeWheel
So many wonderful people—the likes of Cella Irvine, Sherrill Mane, Jory Des Jardins, Julie Thompson, and many others have all been incredible female role models, fearless in their quest to seek out the truth in what we are looking to solve for in the digital advertising space. It’s a skill to learn to cut through the confusion. Randall Rothenberg, President & CEO of the IAB has also been an incredible example of far-reaching success found through authenticity and education, especially in an industry that is plagued by complexity. The importance of that has never been lost on me.
Megan Baker, VP, Services
James Rooke was one of the first people to take me aside at FreeWheel and encourage me. He has been a great partner and colleague over the past several years.
What’s your definition of success?
Paige Bilins, SVP, Product Management, FreeWheel
Success for me would be getting to a place where I feel like I am crushing it at my job and my family is getting everything they need from me.
Ester Borok, VP, Yield Management and Analytics, AudienceXpress
My definition of success is hard work. The willingness to wake up in the morning and roll with the punches is important. Establish yourself and your work ethic by getting to work early and doing what you have to do to own your role. Understand your team’s responsibilities, and the company’s long and short-term objectives. The ability to balance hard work with happiness in both your professional and personal life is a challenge, but it’s totally worth it once you find that sweet spot.
Emilie Brulebeaux, SVP, Client Services, FreeWheel
Success means being happy and enjoying what I am doing on a day-to-day basis with good, fun and talented people. And even more, I don’t want to be bored at work. It’s important to keep growing with new skills and challenges—to always be learning and reaching for new heights. This makes me happy.
Joanne Miguel, VP Product Strategy & Development, Strata
As a product gal, success for me is developing products that our intended audience uses. It’s developing solutions that help media planners and buyers invest their client’s money in the most efficient way possible, it’s enabling integrations that allow our clients to build their own tech ecosystem, it’s making sure there are financial controls that let the CFO of an agency sleep better at night. And by the way, if the product is successful in the marketplace, then Strata hits its revenue milestones, so it’s a win-win.
Marie Giesbert, VP Marketing, FreeWheel
My personal definition of success is based on 3 main factors. The first is determination– great things do not come from your comfort zone. The most successful people are the ones who do not fear to take risks to reach their goals. It means having a long-term vision because you accept short-term failure. Next is balance. I’m convinced the most successful people are where they are because they have something else in life beyond their work: they find energy in family, friends, hobbies, etc. And finally, there’s joy. Successful people are enthusiastic and share their positive vibes with others– so you can measure their success on how much people want to work with them.
How are women supporting each other in your workplace?
Joy Baer, President, Strata
The formation of StrataWomen, which is now a self-organizing body with company, has a collective goal of supporting and uplifting women in tech (both inside and outside of the organization). It’s a very fostering environment. Strata has high retention rates for our best and brightest – both men and women. We pride ourselves on creating a healthy, nurturing work environment here.
Evan Baldridge, VP, Client Services, Development and Planning, FreeWheel
FreeWheel is home to an impressive group of women who are constantly interacting and supporting one another. I have been lucky enough to be part of the FreeWheel Leadership team, which has helped to further foster and grow my relationships with my female peers. I have found that through the development of these relationships, there is even closer collaboration between teams and department. We have been able to mutually unblock some of the hurdles from the past. As we move from a village to a city, communication, support and collaboration between FreeWheelers is more critical than ever.
Katie Back, VP, Enterprise Sales, FreeWheel
I absolutely see women at FreeWheel supporting one another. And it goes beyond just support– I have good friends here because of the environment we have fostered together. But it’s worth noting that our culture of support isn’t just about women, I find the men I work with to be equally supportive.
Julie Selman, Senior Regional Director, EMEA Demand, FreeWheel
The gender diversity in the Freewheel office in London has improved since I joined (StickyAds.tv) in late 2015. This is a fast growing company, and I am determined not only to hire more talented women, but to also help ensure that we are continuing to build an environment that will keep them engaged over the long-term.
Amy Pisano, VP, Enterprise Development, FreeWheel
FreeWheel is fortunate as we have always had strong women leaders across all our teams. And as “Deeply Caring” is one of our core values, mentorship and support of each other was really part of our DNA and came naturally to a small and tight-knit organization. But since my start here, we have grown from 150 people to roughly 700 so we now have to put more focus on fostering that sense of community. One way we are doing this is launching the FreeWheel Women’s network and working more closely with the National and Local Chapters of Comcast’s TechWomen. These organizations, and a number of initiatives planned for 2017, will provide new avenues for women to connect across our global organization. I see these conversations as key to the success of our company, as people who feel connected, women and men alike, collaborate and perform better.
Though Women’s History Month is coming to a close, these insights and perspectives live on. This group of fifteen dynamic engineers, product experts, sales leaders, services pros and marketers are bound by their passion for our tech industry and the collective impact we have on driving it forward. And in doing so, these difference makers are building a legacy of innovation and empowerment for each other, and the next generation who will join in that vanguard. Stay tuned for future installments where we will continue to spotlight the many innovative contributions of our women in tech.