Parenthood is a never-ending learning experience. As the father of a 7-year-old boy, I’m constantly learning new methods and approaches to the madness that is being a dad. What I’ve found is the cliché ‘you learn something new every day’ applies as much to my work life as it does to fatherhood. Just as I find it far from easy to keep up with my son’s developing personality, interests and needs, I’m also learning about new products, technological developments and the latest industry jargon as a professional within the advertising technology ecosystem.
With Father’s Day fast approaching, I’ve started reflecting on the past seven years and have concluded I would not be the professional I am today without the lessons I’ve learned, and challenges I’ve overcome, in parenthood. Thus, while my son continues to keep me on my toes forcing me to find new ways to communicate, lead by example and perfect certain skills, these skills have also enabled me to grow as an ad tech professional.
1) Communicate Openly and Often
Before my son was born, I was not an effective communicator. I did what I wanted and answered to no one. The past seven years, however, have taught me how crucial open communication is to a child’s development. My son shuffles back and forth between my house and his mom’s. Communicating clearly to him which days correspond with which parent is extremely important for his comfort and, ultimately, to ensure that we’re all working together positively.
This kind of ongoing transparency is equally important to the development of a business, particularly in the ad tech industry. Constantly keeping our brand and agency clients in the know and involved is, after all, critical to the future of our business relationships.
Part of the key to transparent, ongoing communication is finding common ground. My son is quite the eager young boy, with countless interests that are not always feasible. Thus, in raising him, I’ve learned the powerful tool of negotiation – what are you willing to do to earn an extra 30 minutes on the Xbox? He doesn’t win every debate, but he has learned the importance of talking through things he wants.
Working with clients across many verticals, I’ve faced many similar instances where I had to find a common ground that would lead our business and clients to the right goal. There may sometimes be limitations to what we can do, but we work with our clients to figure out the issues and how to overcome them. For example, on one occasion a client needed metrics for in-app impressions (viewability), which was extremely difficult – particularly in this specific case. However, we were able to talk through the limitations and educate the client on alternative options that would accomplish the same goals. Both sides had to give a little to get a little, which was well worth it in the end.
2) Strong Leadership is Crucial to Success
Beyond negotiation, what you come to know even more as a parent is the importance of being a strong leader. As a parent, you play a key role in the success of shaping a child’s future and the same applies to a workforce.
Kids are sponges, soaking in everything they hear and bound to repeat it all later. Consequently, the words we use and the actions we take have a huge impact on our children’s behavior. Leadership in a household is critical and fatherhood has taught me that we teach through action. In the same way, when at work and collaborating with my team, I’ve become far more conscious of my delivery and actions. As a manager, I like to encourage my team members to do the right thing, self-reflect when problems arise and build on their leadership skills. Whether it’s your child or a junior team member, you’re ultimately a model for those looking up to you.
3) Progress Comes with Practice and Patience
There are certainly parallels between setting a child and a business up for success. My son has already hit key milestones in his life (first steps, first day of school, etc.) that have made him who he is today. When he was a toddler, he loved sitting on skateboards and pushing himself around versus crawling. That habit has now translated into a passion. He has a collection of homemade long boards, Penny boards and what he calls ‘trick boards’ which are all a testament to his outdoor passion from birth. He’s still learning the ins and outs of the sport and he doesn’t always succeed on the skatepark ramps, but he makes progress every time.
This is a great comparison to the early stages of a business finding its market niche over time. Executives in startups can pull from their background and prior experiences to build their business up. From changes in the marketplace to new technologies, companies’ offerings can change over time and mature into more sophisticated, developed services. The evolution of technology will dictate who in the industry stays ahead of the curve and who falls behind. Progress can be made with a little bit of patience and a whole lot of practice, which is responsible for so many successful acquisitions in the ad tech space. And who knows? One day, with a little more progress, my son could turn out to be the next Tony Hawk.