The Power of Two: Inside the IAB's new mentorship program

Paige Murphy
By Paige Murphy | 17 December 2019

IAB Australia has recently launched a mentorship program spearheaded by the IAB Executive Technology Council.

The program aims to provide a framework for the industry to provide collaborative support to the young and rising digital talent and better equip them for the challenging career path they have embarked upon.

AdNews spoke with Impact managing director APAC Adam Furness and Amobee head of strategic analytics Stefania Accardo on their observations of what it’s like to be part of the program.

Stefania Accardo - IAB Mentee

Stefania Accardo
Why did you sign up as a mentee?
It’s really important when you're in a senior leadership position to have a strong network and having moved from the US to Australia just 18 months ago I was struggling. I mentioned it to my MD Liam Walsh who put me in touch with Gai Le Roy, CEO of the IAB, and encouraged me to apply to the IAB Mentorship Program.

Aside from building network, it's also very important to me to understand the nuances of Australian culture in the workplace which was also a key reason I signed up.

While the people that sign up as mentee are often rising talent, or a graduate, I decided to apply anyway because I feel that in our industry there is always a time to learn. It doesn't matter what level you are, it's always very important.

What are the requirements of you as a mentee?
There’s a six-month commitment, with at least one session a month. You really have to work hard and prioritise to find the time to do this no matter how busy.

What are you hoping to learn through the program?
How to build a network locally. It’s very different here versus in America or Europe where the mindsets are different and is not always easy to spot local industry events.

I also want to learn more about the Australian work culture as I really believe it's very important to know the basic social constraints when you're in different regions and how to approach different personalities from a cultural level.

I am also keen to learn more about establishing a certain leadership style. I have been managing teams when I was living in the United States working for an integrated marketing agency. Here, I am the key point for Amobee Australia when it comes to business strategy and data insights and analytics, there is a lot of data educational work to undergo with internal teams and external stakeholders, so I'm still trying to refine my martech leadership style.

How has being paired with Adam helped you? What have you learned so far?
Adam shared his own mantra with me and it's working very well. It's a list of three action points: stay calm, keep moving and back yourself.

I can get a little bit too anxious sometimes, so this works, as well as to keep moving towards your goals both work and personal life, and then backing yourself is key.

It all comes together with finding your purpose; be that within the company if you're new, or within the industry or your own personal brand.

What are the benefits to the IAB Mentorship Program?
I’m getting more involved in local conferences, am building a network through this program and am really getting involved in the community and getting exposure to some IAB industry events that I wouldn't have known about.

What are some of the big industry issues you think the program can help address and why?
I still feel a bit new to the market so it’s hard for me to give an opinion on many but I can tell you that, as far as diversity goes, this program is helping support a big improvement from what I saw in the United States. In Australia there’s much better diversity - in my company alone there are people from the Philippines, New Zealand, UK, Italy, Finland and more.

Beyond the mentorship program, I think the IAB can really help to fix "siloed thinking" or "the news effect" affecting digital behaviour and having an impact across industry professionals. It’s everywhere and brings a lack of creative and critical thinking. The IAB talks, conferences and mentorship programs break these siloes and really exposes you to different people within the industry, that expands different point of views as well as multi-functional discussions to innovate.

When you started out your career in the digital ad and technology industry, what support do you think was missing?
I have to be completely honest in that I have actually had great support from the beginning of my career, no matter which company I've worked for. Possibly as I have been working in digital and tech, there has been a lot of e-learning opportunities and the sharing of global resources.

Perhaps it worked for me because I'm more of an individual learner and curious by nature. I really believe I had everything and so far, I feel very supported on everything.

Perhaps it’s just the nature of the industry that makes you feel that it's never enough, because it just changes constantly. It's something that you cannot really expect to gain internally, you have to stay up to date on your own.

How can the industry better support rising talent?
It definitely has to be about working closely with universities. I love education and I do see that there is a gap between when you start working and when you get out of a university course. I just feel like there should be closer work between agencies and companies, and the universities.

I also strongly believe that if you are in a leadership position, you are there to drive and thrive and to do so you really have to look after innovation so getting involved with local start-ups is key to rise as a futuristic leader.

Anything else you want to add?
I just want to give a shout-out to my mentor Adam Furness, for his time and precious advice shared so far, and the IAB to create this programme and give me the opportunity to participate - it has been fabulous!

Adam Furness - IAB Mentor

adam-furness_impact-1.jpg
Why did you put your hand up to be an IAB Australia mentor?
A little while ago I went through a process of working out what I care about and what I think my purpose is. I realised it centres on how to evolve, connect, and teach.

The evolve part of my purpose is being a better husband, a better father and a better boss. Actually, just be better. The connect bit is about connecting people together personally and professionally so they can help each other out. The teach part is about sharing what I've learned on my journey to help others.

Being an IAB mentor speaks strongly to this purpose. I have actually been mentoring for the last five or six years with a recurring meeting on a Friday morning between 9am and 10am with anyone that reached out to me through LinkedIn or through other connections.

I'd meet with CEOs, people that just started in business, graduates, individuals that were struggling with mental health issues and people from all spectrums of life. I literally just listened to them and as I was listening, I’d be thinking ‘how can I help this person - no matter how small or how big?’

Is there a danger of taking mentoring too far?
There are people that mentor as a tick box exercise and then there's people that do it because they genuinely care and want to help. It's those people that do it that genuinely care that can get carried away with it. I am the later and have come to realise that while selfishly, mentoring feels good, I needed to peel back.

You've got a day job and have other things going on in your world but it can take up a significant amount of time. For me, I get it to a place where people know they can reach out, but I also tell them that I might not get back to them for a week or sometimes a couple weeks. You have to be clear with how it will best work.

What are the requirements to be a mentor?
Think about what you love doing and what you're really good at doing and how you can add value to other people's worlds with those passions, skills and experiences. Then you’ve got the pieces right.

How long does the mentorship run for?
Formally the mentorship lasts six months but I think once you've started to connect with someone then you're always connected, though the intensity of the connection may change. I think that's okay and I think it's about being adult about it. You've both got lives and worlds and it may be for six months only or every month or once a quarter we'll catch up.

What are the benefits to the IAB mentorship program?
The biggest benefit is that the IAB has done the work around the matchmaking. They have looked at the type of things that the mentor can offer and the type of things that the mentee is looking for. That's one of the biggest things - the fact they're doing the heavy lifting to organise the initial connection. The structure and the framework behind the program is fabulous too.

What are you hoping to take away from participating in the program?
I hope to get out of it the same thing as I hope to get out of each of the times that I catch up with anyone and that’s helping them with one thing or another.

Advice you have given Stefania so far?
I told Stefania to be unashamedly “you”, but to understand how that may impact the world around you. The other big thing I’ve advised is to ask for feedback and be up for it. It’s important to understand that feedback is a gift. It's a version of the truth and when you're given it, say thank you, whether you agree with it or you don't agree with it. Then work out what you're going to do with that feedback. It's a skill to be able to take it and to be able to give it, but if you can it's super powerful. I think it's also the most powerful thing that you can do in an organisation. Equip your people to be able to give and receive feedback. Then take those learnings and apply those learnings. If you can do that and if you can do it quicker than anyone else, you win.

Have you learned anything from your mentee in the process? If so, what?
I don't think you can ever finish learning. The moment you think you've reached the peak is the moment you have to do something else. What I've learned from Stefania is about having greater awareness from a different viewpoint. It just reminds me to check myself and question ‘am I seeing through my eyes or am I seeing through their eyes?’.

From other female mentees I’ve worked with over the years I have also realised just how incredibly tough it is to be a female leader in a corporate environment. Particularly a corporate that isn't up for change and has some kind of fear around promoting women or providing the flexibility necessary to set individuals up for success.

What are some of the big industry issues you think the program can help address and why?
There's a soft skill piece that the IAB mentor program can certainly help build - and there’s also the opportunity to level set and ensure those entering the industry understand that life isn’t easy, work isn’t easy, but if you put in the effort consistently, approach with a growth mindset and focus on what you can control, success will likely follow.

I would like to think that the program can also help with awareness about the importance of mentors and mentees as well.

How can the industry better support rising talent?
This IAB Mentorship Program is a really good initiative and a good start. If someone is interested in participating either as a mentor or mentee, I’d simply tell them to find a way to work it into your world. Literally. For me this meant scheduling Friday morning at 9am and getting mentees to do the follow-up. If I didn’t have that structure, I’d fail them. It’s about working out what works for you. And we all need to do it!

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