Young Gun: Xandr associate director Laura Harricks

20 February 2020

Our Young Gun profile takes a look at some of the young talent across the advertising, adtech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles, people and companies across the buzzing industry.

Today we speak to Xandr associate director Laura Harricks.

How long have you been in the industry?
Two and a half years.

Time at the company:
Two and a half years.

What were you doing before this job and how did you get this gig?
I was working as a client engagement manager at the Royal Botanic Gardens after completing my Master of Management at the University of Sydney. A friend of mine was working at Xandr, and they were hiring for product specialists. While I had no technical experience, I was keen to learn more about this exciting industry and learn some tangible technical skills along the way.

Define your job in one word:
Unpredictable.

What were your real and cliché expectations of working in the industry?
I didn’t know much about the industry at all, so I didn’t have too many expectations!

How does the reality match up?
After my first day it became very clear that everyone is extremely talented and passionate about the work they do.

How would you describe what the company does and what does your role involve?
Xandr is a global advertising company dedicated to creating a premium advertising marketplace that makes it easy for buyers to reach their target audience across screens, and at scale, and for sellers to achieve better yield by aggregating inventory with other premium publishers.

At Xandr, I manage the customer success team, which means I ensure the team fully understands Xandr’s platform technology products so that they can solve technical client issues on a daily basis and meet their KPIs. I also find effective and efficient ways to ensure that the team and our clients feel fully supported and comfortable using our platform.

Best thing about the industry you work in: It’s constantly changing, and I learn something new every day.

Any major hard learnings in the job so far?
Definitely the technical skills, such as how to work with APIs and use SQL. As a new manager, I’m also learning how to manage and support an incredibly diverse and driven team.

If you had to switch over to another department, which would it be and why?
I would love to switch over to the commercial side to see what it’s like to grow client accounts, build deep relationships and work collaboratively with our partners on account plans for the year ahead.

What's exciting you about the industry right now?
I work very closely with our video team which is really exciting given how sophisticated our local broadcasters are when it comes to advanced TV. It’s exciting to see where programmatic video advertising is going within Australia and the technology that powers it.

What concerns you about the industry and its future?
Data security and breaches. Technology companies have extremely sensitive user data, and the users themselves don’t necessarily understand what this data is and how companies collect and use it. I think it’s imperative that tech companies not only educate users about this but take a privacy-first approach to developing new products.

Who's your right hand person/who guides you day to day?
Edrich Ching – he was my manager for a year and then when he moved to the commercial team, I stepped in to take over his role. He has always been extremely patient with me and has taught me almost everything I know – from technical skills to how to manage a team.

And your almighty mentor that you hope to dethrone?
Tom Dover (Commercial Lead, Buyside) has spent time on both the services and sales sides and brings deep technical expertise along with commercial acumen. He never shies away from a challenge and it’s inspiring to be around him.

Career-wise, where do you see yourself in 2020 and how do you plan on getting there? I’d love to be managing a larger team and put myself in a position to make an impact on a more global scale.

What is the elephant in the room? The thing that no one is talking about – but they should be.
Kool Aid. There are so many opposing views within the industry – such as first price vs. second price auctions, header bidding vs. waterfall, walled garden vs. independent ad tech – I think we tend to adopt the stance that the companies we work for choose, but it’s important to have open and honest conversations about these topics and why we are siding one way or the other.

Where do you turn for inspiration?
My family – they are all extremely driven and hardworking.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?
I’ve always dreamed of being a screenwriter or writer for Saturday Night Live.

Favourite advert is:
Heineken "Worlds apart" by Publicis London

What’s your personal motto?
"If you could choose one characteristic that would get you through life, choose a sense of humour."

I got into ad tech because:
I wanted to be in an industry that faces new challenges and that is making a global impact. Since I started at Xandr less than three years ago, the ad tech industry has completely shifted, and I am working on projects that weren’t even feasible a few years ago. It’s exciting to be part of the journey.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:
Studying psychology.

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