The wonderful world of adtech is our domain this week, as we catch up with John Tyler Grant, Principal Sales Engineer at OpenX.
Here’s what John had to say about his role, the industry, and what adtech wannabes need to do to succeed…
(Before we get down to it, remember if you’re looking for a new role yourself to check out the Econsultancy jobs board.)
Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
John Tyler Grant: As the Principal Sales Engineer at OpenX I work hand in hand with our sales and business development teams to uncover and recommend advertising solutions to prominent publishers and brands worldwide.
My role as the technical advisor involves leading proof of concept technical integrations for clients to achieve positive results, such as increased revenue or efficiency. In a day to day capacity I develop and deliver presentations and demonstrations to show the value of OpenX’s product suite.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
JTG: The sales engineering team at OpenX reports to our Chief Customer Officer within the Partner Services organisation, separate from the sales department. I report to our Global Director of Solutions Engineering and Customers Operations, which provides a direct link to the C-Suite.
As a technical expert I serve as the “connective tissue” between several major business units: product, sales, account management and solutions architects.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
JTG: To be a product expert it’s absolutely necessary to have a solid grip on the technical possibilities as well as the skills to transform these into tangible ideas for new product features and real-world applications. Excellence in this role requires an analytical inclination too. Whether it is analysing new opportunities or balancing customer needs, having that mindset is very helpful.
Communication also plays a prominent role in determining success. Sales engineers are a key point of contact for clients, and provide guidance before and after a deal is signed. You’ll liaise regularly with other members of the sales team and colleagues from a range of departments, so the ability to cascade cross-functionally and vertically within the organisation and with external partners is extremely important.
While people respect knowledge, in the end they want to work with the people they trust and can get along with, so interpersonal skills are vital.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
JTG: Due to the broadness of the department, I often spend my time wearing multiple hats. Depending on the context of the conversation, I could be a technical integration specialist for my morning meeting and a sales evangelist in the afternoon.
On Monday, I could be in an RFP (request for proposal) war room for an entire day brainstorming strategy, then on Tuesday I’m presenting a new product concept to an executive team in Wichita, Kansas, followed by a team dinner at the Magic Castle in Hollywood on Friday. Another week I might be at a Digiday publishers conference, which leads into a client meeting where we deep dive into ad stacks and offer recommendations on header bidding optimisations. One thing is for sure – no two days are ever the same!
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
JTG: I love the travel aspect of my job. It has taken me all around the world from London to Austin and from Tokyo to Boston. For me, being able to connect with a client from the U.S. or further afield to hear their stories and help them solve problems is immensely rewarding.
However, this is also a double edged sword. Although I love travelling the world for my job, anything longer than two weeks away from home can become quite gruelling. After too many days of pulling 14+ hour days away from home, all I want to do is to go back to my *own* bed.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
JTG: I see goal setting as a “choose your own adventure” kind of endeavor; it’s a combination of what you are skilled at and how you intend to grow. While my team’s goals are linked to OpenX’s growth and success, such as successful product launches and client wins, success runs deeper than that.
Developing the attributes important to you is a key marker of success. For me, these are: good character, spark, drive and effective team playing. These qualities run through the heart of OpenX – it’s great to be at a workplace so in tune with my own values.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
JTG: I’m an ‘Apple’ guy through and through – my iPhone is never more than six feet away from me and I’m a fan of the AirPods. When I’m traveling I always bring my Shure In-Ear Monitors to block out noise.
On the tech side, I use various programs like Chrome developer tools and Charles to debug client pages, and internal tools to validate ORTB parameters. I also use Xcode and Sublime Text 2 for coding. On the business end, since I work cross-functionally with different teams, the Google suite (Docs, Sheets, etc.) is incredibly useful. To cut down on email I connect with the global OpenX team via HipChat.
On top of all of that, my whole life is organised on Evernote. From recipes to work notes, I wouldn’t be without it.
E: How did you get into ad tech, and where might you go from here?
JTG: I began my career in ad tech back in 2006 working for an aftermarket automotive car shop – think Fast and Furious – and launched their e-commerce initiative. I developed their online presence via AdWords and banner buys on global automotive web forums and the rest is history.
It might sound a little odd but I really do love ad tech. Looking forward, I’d like to start pushing the barriers and move the industry into emerging advertising mediums such as internet of things (IoT), digital out of home (DOOH), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
E: Who is using media well at the moment?
JTG: I think Netflix is using media really well – they always stay ahead of the curve and definitely know how to engage their audience. Brands could definitely learn a thing or two from their user experience focus. From a programmatic standpoint, it’s been really interesting seeing what they’ve been able to accomplish in-house and I’m interested to see how they push the envelope creatively as they up their marketing spend.
E: Do you have any advice for people who fancy a career in advertising?
JTG: First and foremost, find a medium that you’re really passionate about – is it online publishing? Advertising? Social media? Maybe even online vlogs? Once you have figured that out, everything else will become a lot easier.
An advertising company will be looking for someone who is an expert in their craft, as well as in the field they’re applying to. So if you’re not already keeping up with industry reading, researching who is pushing the edges of advertising in new mediums like IOT and regularly checking out what competitors are doing, I’d recommend you start now!
Want training in programmatic advertising? See Econsultancy’s training course.