Inspirational Woman: Anne Coghlan | Senior Product Line Manager, EMEA, AppNexus

Anne CoghlanAs Senior Product Line Manager, EMEA at AppNexus, a Xandr Company, Anne is responsible for the strategy and vision for the AppNexus Programmable Platform (APP), the industry’s first programmable Demand Side Platform (DSP).  

Launching her technology career in 2013 as Technology Consultant for Accenture, Anne led a 17-member system integration test team through major transformation projects for this global media communications company. Since joining AppNexus in 2014, Anne has also served in a services role where she supported programmatic partners on both the sell and buy-sides of the real-time advertising marketplace.

Outside of her role, Anne is a member of the IAB UK Ad Tech Advisory Group and has led advanced programmatic workshops to educate and inform newer members of the industry.  She also mentors some of the next generation of digital talent through her association with WhiteHat apprentice.

Anne was recognised for her work this year when she was named one of The Drum’s 50 under 30 women of outstanding talent across the ad tech industry.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am a Senior Product Line Manager at AppNexus, which is part of Xandr, AT&T’s advertising business. I am responsible for the strategy and vision of the AppNexus Programmable Platform (APP), which allows media buyers (those negotiating online ad spend for their clients) to purchase online ad space in real-time with an algorithm. It sounds technical, but I’m essentially part of a team that ensures consumers have an enjoyable and relevant advertising experience when browsing online.

I studied Maths with a Year Abroad (Italy) at undergraduate level and then I did a master’s in philosophy, before working for Accenture for two years and then joining AppNexus where I’ve been now for four years.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At the start of my career I never planned beyond more than a year! When I left university, I was more focused on securing a job than what my career could look like. I evaluated each opportunity as it came, and not really in the context of anything broader. Last year I was considering moving roles internally and this was the first time I actually thought about what different career paths could look like for me. Given that my roles to-date have had a technical focus, I wanted to make sure I had an understanding of the full picture of how a product is made. So, I recently moved into a slightly different role to gain experience in product strategy which gives me insight into the full product lifecycle.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

It took me a while to understand the difference between working long hours and working hard, which ultimately comes down to figuring out what the priorities are.  When you understand this, it’s easier to decide how much time to invest in different tasks.

Finding my working pattern has definitely been a particular challenge for me, since a lot of my colleagues work across different time zones. I am also wary of conflict so have had to work on navigating disagreement. Particularly as a woman, in my career I’ve found that there’s a tendency for my decisions and opinions to be branded as ‘emotional’, whereas men sometimes seem able to give opinions as fact. My solution is to always make sure there’s a data-driven rationale behind my views, to limit the likelihood of pushback.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

It was very exciting and humbling to be named on The Drum’s 50 under 30 Women in UK Digital earlier this year. The Drum is an influential marketing trade title, and the list is compiled by industry experts, so it feels great to be recognised for my achievements so far.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Success is an interesting word – a friend and I were debating what this means recently. It feels like if you set a goal and define your success by its achievement, then as soon as you hit the goal, that feeling of being successful doesn’t last for long. For me, the question of success is more about continual growth and learning. The major factor for me has been to actively listen – to colleagues, leaders, clients – to make sure I’m on the right track.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I have a mentor and I am a mentor myself, through a company called WhiteHat, which supports young digital talent. I meet my mentee for an hour a month, and also put time into preparing for our sessions, so it’s not massively time consuming, but it’s so worthwhile.

Being a mentor is a great opportunity to reflect on how much you’ve actually learnt throughout your career and helps battle any insecurities you might have when you see how much knowledge you have to share. It’s also a great exercise in learning how to actively listen, which can be a difficult skill, as it’s important to guide your mentee to come up with solutions themselves, without pushing your advice and opinion too much. You can apply this to work situations as well – as you learn the importance of asking questions and properly listen to people’s responses.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Pay transparency. It is hard to advocate for yourself or others if you don’t have any data points.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

You should always ask the question that you worry is irrelevant.

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