Why I chose AppNexus

In 2007, Alenty was the first company in the world that succeeded in actually measuring whether or not online ads are viewable. I knew from first sight that this was a very important concept for the advertising industry.

Summit_Alenty
(Photo: AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley welcomes Laurent to the team by presenting an AppNexus employee backpack.)

In 2008 and 2009, we found our first clients—agencies and publishers—and reached our break even point.

Very quickly, however, I discovered that ad-viewability was more difficult to sell than I first thought. When 50% of billions of dollars is wasted, it should be a no-brainer. But because of the size of this market, many players were reluctant to embrace such a radical change. I knew that for ad-viewability to ultimately succeed, the market would need to not only measure, but also optimize to it.

In 2010, we started to hear about programmatic media buying. I quickly thought: if people are reluctant to change, machines and algorithms will not have such constraints.

So, we saw ad exchanges as a great opportunity for Alenty. We invested heavily in R&D to make our ad-viewability measurement work for RTB. For instance, we had to finally solve the iframes measurement challenge.

Building our own RTB platform was not an option. But AppNexus’ open APIs gave us the opportunity to enter this market with a level of investment that was sustainable for a small, unfunded company like Alenty.

To my knowledge, Alenty developed the first creative app on AppNexus in early 2012.

We are compatible with the other platforms, of course. But the Alenty app on AppNexus makes our technology so easy to use that we saw our client base on AppNexus grow faster than on the other platforms.

With the ad exchanges, we moved from ad-viewability reporting to optimization. We found that more and more clients were not simply looking at our data but they were actually using it to feed their algorithms.

As it became more operational, ad-viewability started to get its real value.

At the same time, the IAB started to promote viewable impressions. With its MRC accreditation, and a 98% success rate, Alenty clearly became the worldwide leader.

Some challenges remained, though. Fraud became a buzzword, and Alenty’s response to this question has always been the same: bot detection is included into ad-viewability measurement. A viewable impression must actually be viewed by a human.

Another challenge is the link between ad-viewability and direct response performance indicators like conversions. Many studies have proved this link: a non-viewable impression cannot influence Internet users to convert. But using ad-viewability to improve performance requires a deeper integration.

In 2012, I had a short but productive 30 second conversation with Brian O’Kelly, CEO of AppNexus. We both immediately understood the synergies between our two companies.

With a growing base of common clients and deeper integration of our tools in AppNexus’ platform, it became obvious that we needed to go one step further.

Finally, meetings with many people from AppNexus convinced us that there was a perfect fit: our technologies and people are 100% compatible. Even though we speak French and AppNexians speak English, we speak the same language!

A lot of great projects are ahead of us. We at Alenty are very proud and excited to join the AppNexus team. Our common ambition is to continue to revolutionize the advertising market.

And believe me, we will!

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A Team for the Long Term: How to Prevent Desperate Manager Syndrome

My team was overworked, I was not achieving my goals, and a sense of helplessness was seeping in.  I was desperate to get out of this hole by staffing up my team and retaining existing staff.  That’s when it happened … average job applicants started to look stellar and underperforming employees started to look indispensable.

I had Desperate Manager Syndrome.  I was about to commit one or both of the two cardinal sins of people management … hiring too soon or holding on too long, in both cases lowering the standards for employees and for the organization.

Truth is, this is a situation I and every other manager has found themselves in countless times.  What can we do about it?

Hiring too soon. 

Desperate Manager Syndrome is insidious.  With every candidate you reject, you don’t even notice the pressure mounting to lower your standards.  You see how overworked your team is, you feel horrible about it, and you start to convince yourself … the candidate is good enough.

The problem is, hiring good people into great teams is a fast track to mediocrity. The creative energy and daily productivity of the team eventually takes a hit. They respond to your unintentional message – good is now good enough, and, quietly, slowly, standards are loosened.  Eventually, your best people start leaving in hopes of working with an amazing team again.  And it all starts with one decision that a candidate is good enough.

Here are some approaches to avoid this trap:

  • Self-Awareness.  Acknowledge you are at risk; all managers are!  Check in with yourself … are you truly excited about what this candidate will bring to your team?  If not, walk away.
  • Rigor.  Spend the time to define and document the qualities of the ideal candidate, train your team to identify those qualities, and develop a rigorous interview process that you follow consistently.  (Learn more about our process for DNA hiring in Global Services.)
  • Deliberate.  Encourage rigorous debate among the interview team.  Avoid group think by challenging people’s thinking and not stating your own opinion up front.  If perspectives arise you aren’t totally comfortable with, bring the candidate back for another discussion.
  • Culture.  Talk to your team frequently about the importance of hiring well.  Build it into the culture – we only hire the best! This gives them context (and patience!) for why an open position may stay open for a while and encourages everyone to keep the bar high.

Holding on too long.

The flip side of Desperate Manager Syndrome is when you hold on too long to an underperforming employee.  The driver is the same … you’re anxious about your team’s capacity to achieve its goals; managing out the employee doesn’t seem to be ROI positive (especially if they have a unique skill set); and so you start to compromise … the underperforming employee is good enough.

Yet, as with hiring too soon, the cost of holding on too long is deceptively high.  Managing underperformers is not only time consuming, but you also get less in return than when investing in high performers.  Furthermore, there is always a distribution curve of performance in a team.  On that curve, employee performance regresses to the mean over time because employees tend to mirror each other’s behavior.  So “good enough” employees lower the mean, dragging your high performers down with them.

So what can we do?

  • Invest.  As managers, our greatest leverage isn’t hiring the perfect person, it’s getting the very best out of the people we have.  So we must invest.  However, part of that investment is being extremely clear with the employee where they are not meeting expectations and agreeing on a path forward.
  • Assess.  Our investment should be proportional to our employee’s ability to change and grow.  As you are investing in them, ask yourself honestly — can the employee truly meet my performance expectations in a reasonable timeframe? Would I hire this person again knowing what I know now?  If not, it’s probably time move on.
  • Moving-On.  You hired this person because you thought they were great.  So it’s worth exploring – is there another role where they can be great?  Role transitions can definitely work.  However, the key word is “great!”  If they cannot be truly successful somewhere else, it’s time to move on.

Thinking long term.

Desperate Manager Syndrome is a natural response to fear.  We are afraid we won’t achieve our goals if we don’t hire soon enough or if we fire too soon.  Our minds tend to focus on short term costs rather than long term benefits.  Just acknowledging that is an important first step.  It creates space to step back, let go of the anxiety, refuse to be “good enough,” and make the courageous decision to accept pain now to achieve greatness later.

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7 Habits of Highly Effective Programmatic Media Companies on AppNexus

Assuming a myriad of traits, Programmatic Media Companies (PMCs) each formulate a distinctive value proposition ranging from regional marketplaces to proprietary optimization algorithms. While there are endless channels for differentiation on AppNexus, I have found as an Implementation Consultant that there is a shared thread of qualities among the strongest PMCs. From this thread, below I weave those 7 habits conducive to long-term durability, grouped by areas of competitive advantage.

Competitive Advantage A: Operational Efficiency 

Habit 1: Appoint one designated AppNexus point-of-contact responsible for internal knowledge dissemination.

A main selling point of the AppNexus platform is its depth of features and user control. As such, knowledge sharing among teams of Media Managers, Campaign Managers, etc. will unlock heightened utilization of the platform. A single point-of-contact responsible for the creation and sharing of internal, well documented best practices is key to enhancing expertise over time. Taking their responsibility a step further, this point-of-contact would ideally become the main channel for AppNexus communication and all Support Ticket submissions, quickly fielding a share of the questions with full context and expertise to become less reliant on Support.

Habit 2: Tier clients based on potential.  

Campaign and Media Managers may be assigned advertiser/publisher accounts reactively as bandwidth permits, which may over time lead to an over-allocation to smaller-potential accounts. Tiering these clients based on current revenue and potential, and subsequently dividing team members’ time allocation according to gross moneymaking propensity will ensure that the most strategic accounts get adequate attention.

Habit 3: Increase employee utility with more advanced training.  

AppNexus offers endless data combinations, which rapidly become stale as supply and demand markets continually morph. As such, employees who can quickly identify gaps and seize revenue opportunities are invaluable, and doing so requires a solid analytical foundation. Thus, it is essential to provide adequate spreadsheet software and analysis training to teams where needed. Effectiveness based on skills and tools available is as follows –

  • Bare minimum:  Know which Console reports are available and how to run them
  • Well-equipped:  Understand basic spreadsheet manipulation and chart-making
  • Empowered:  Understand advanced spreadsheet functionality (e.g. pivot tables, macros)
  • Über powerful:  Build API scripts to automate repetitive work and analyses

Competitive Advantage B: Differentiation Strategy 

Habit 4: Avoid subjective assessments and instead utilize data.  

The AppNexus Console enables users to engage in diverse targeting and customization strategies, which tend to differ from user to user, even within the same team. To avoid duplicating testing efforts, continually gather data and broadly share hypotheses, processes, and learnings; it will compound over time and lead to more informed buying and selling of inventory. Having a data-driven culture means more logical decisions backed by numbers.

Habit 5: Drive high integrity relationships to build your brand.

Your brand is the backbone of your company, and those who you build relationships with shape your brand. As AppNexus evolves, it will become even clearer which PMCs have solid 3rd party relationships. Strategically surrounding your company with quality inventory and demand builds a robust brand, a brand that will be sought by valuable partnerships. Prioritize using Console’s Deals capabilities to propel these efforts, and engage AppNexus guidance for demand outreach.

Competitive Advantage C: Innovation Strategy

Habit 6: Be a leader in fraud detection and ad quality.

AppNexus is innovating and enhancing its detection processes for questionable activity on the platform, and is taking appropriate action to make the Internet a better place. PMCs who remain stable or grow during this time have set strong standards for vetting their advertiser and publisher partnerships. Innovate alongside AppNexus in fraud detection and ad quality and then make this thought leadership known to your clients through marketing, sales, and social media!

Habit 7: Utilize tools available and invent ones that are not.

Tasks of PMC employees utilizing AppNexus Console regularly tend to be similar from day to day; many even spend the first 1 to 2 workday hours pulling and preparing the same reports. For employee efficiency, streamline processes by scheduling automated reports on AppNexus and, for the savvier, building custom reports and analyses via the API. Once the analysis results are significant and consistent enough, build automation technology employing these insights – and then utilize employees for innovation and the “human touch.”

Embodying the above habits takes time and investment, though PMCs who can incorporate these notions into their activity will be better positioned to grow as marketplaces evolve. Remember that AppNexus’s success is directly tied to that of our partners, so we encourage you to leverage your account team to achieve goals and overcome setbacks! Along the way, AppNexus will not only power the technology behind your business, but will also be your partner as the only advertising technology platform to provide deep business and technical consulting services backing your successes.

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AppNexus, Millennial Media and the Future of Programmatic Mobile

The future of media is mobile, and the future of mobile advertising is programmatic. According to a report published by Magna Global in Q3 2013, 68% of mobile display was traded programmatically in 2013, and it is forecasted to rise to 88% by 2017.

At AppNexus, we see this trend in action every day through our partnership with Millennial Media and the Millennial Media Exchange (MMX).  Today, more than 180 buyers are live in more than 40 countries on MMX, taking advantage of its premium inventory and high-value audiences.

There are other exciting ways we are working with Millennial Media to enhance the mobile programmatic experience. For example, we are bridging the gap between mobile and the desktop to create seamless messages for consumers that operate across devices. Julienne Thompson, VP of Programmatic at Millennial Media, posted a blog on how MMX and AppNexus are helping buyers capitalize on this behavior. With cross-screen technology integrated into AppNexus, advertisers can now leverage their desktop data for targeting those same users on mobile devices.

We’re hosting a joint event with Millennial Media at AppNexus today, Monday, May 19, from 4:00 – 6:30 pm to share more about our mobile programmatic future.  The discussion will include key strategies for building a robust programmatic mobile strategy, the state of mobile programmatic, and how buyers are successfully integrating programmatic mobile into their plans.   We encourage you to join us by registering here.  Hope to see you there.

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AppNexus Deals Open Beta: A Step Beyond Today’s Deal ID Limits

Today we are excited to introduce our Deals Open Beta! All Console customers are invited to explore our newest Deals capabilities. But first, a word on how we got here.

Deal ID: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Deal ID was created a few years ago in an attempt to fill a gap that existed between traditional direct buys and real-time bidding. In order to differentiate their media offerings at scale, companies needed a solution that combined the efficiency of RTB with the personal touch of direct sales.

Enabling DSPs and SSPs to package and purchase inventory and data using the RTB protocol was the primary objective of Deal ID. Sellers would be able to offer unique assets directly to agencies and other buyers. Buyers would be able to procure special access to inventory on behalf of their brands. It sounded like a win-win.

However, the standard Deal ID implementation has never quite lived up to the hype; in fact, it is often error-prone, cumbersome, inefficient, and unprofitable. Offline negotiations can take days, requiring dozens of tedious steps. Mistakes are easy to make and difficult to diagnose. As one Ad Operations manager told us last year, “As far as I know we have never had a single campaign using a Deal ID go live properly after the initial setup.”

Because execution with Deal ID is so difficult, the business risks are high. Campaigns can be slowed or stopped by a problematic deal, resulting in end-client dissatisfaction, stalled cash flows, and wasted time spent troubleshooting. More often than not, we’ve seen how Deal ID can hurt reputations between companies and erode profit margins.

Empowering our customers with Deals that work

In the past year, we’ve taken to heart these observations about the limitations of Deal ID and have developed a product that leverages the performance, transparency, and reliability of the AppNexus platform to deliver Deals that work.

Console customers negotiate deals through Partner Center, where they can oversee their partnerships with other Console members and communicate directly with each other about deals. Once a seller creates a deal, a buyer can target the deal immediately in Console. Both parties can see when deals are targeted and can track the success of their deals and partnerships with built-in analytics.

Our Deals product has been in limited Beta for several months now. Quick adoption and lots of usage by those clients has validated that our Deals product makes partner discovery, deal negotiation, deal targeting, and deal monitoring seamless for the Console buyer and seller. Using one common platform eliminates inconsistencies, reduces human error, and gives our customers confidence that campaigns are successfully set up and delivering.

Because business relationships extend across technologies, we’re rolling out Deals for select off-platform Beta partners as well. Starting today, sellers can access DSP Deals demand via DoubleClick Bid Manager and Media Math, and we’re continuing work with other external supply and demand partners to extend our Deals integrations.

With the Deals Open Beta, we’re a step closer to achieving our Deals vision. We’ve reimagined the entire Deal ID experience to deliver the real benefits of programmatically scaling relationships, without the headaches.

Our product is in Beta, which means it is still in an experimental state for testing and feedback. We’re continually iterating on our Deals capabilities, so stay tuned for more Deals product developments!

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The Alchemy of Org Building: Onboarding Employees to Make a Lasting First Impression

Reflecting back some 15 years, everything I needed to know about my wife I knew in the first 30 days of our relationship.  What I could expect of her.  What she expected of me.  The values we would share.  It was all there!  What does that have to do with org building?

First impressions have a lasting influence. An employee’s first weeks and months on the job are no different.  The cultural cues inherited during onboarding are internalized and reflected back into the organization long after onboarding is complete.

Our onboarding process in AppNexus Global Services (GS) was designed with that in mind.  Training employees in the skills required for their role is obviously important. However, reinforcing the culture we want to maintain is a higher level objective. One way we achieve both is through what we call the “GS Olympics,” which has two parts – the Trials and the Events.

The Olympic Trials are a series of five weekly role plays that begin immediately after the employee starts. In each role play the new hire “teaches” a topic to 6-12 “students” (who are actually their peers). The students grill the teacher with questions, leading to some stressful moments, but also great learning!

The Olympic Events is a series of oral exams administered around month four of their tenure. Each covers an advanced topic which the employee should have mastered. For example, “Trouble-Skeet-Shooting” tests troubleshooting skills and the “Optimization Jump” tests understanding of AppNexus algorithms. We have set evaluation criteria allowing the event “judges” to award Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals consistently.

The GS Olympics has five design principles:

  • You don’t know what you know until you say it out loud. Our platform is very complex and our industry is new to most employees (see our hiring strategy). It is too easy to read about and use the product without understanding it well. The Olympics force new hires to speak coherently about what they have learned, which validates if they truly understand it.
  • Test to the point of failure.  The role plays are designed to test the limits of a new hire’s learning. The “students” will ask questions which completely stump “the teacher,” which is expected and helpful! The intent is to accelerate learning by identifying weak spots.
  • We learn best by teaching and doing. The best way to learn is to dig in, figure something out, and then teach it to someone. This gets you deeper and farther faster than more passive classroom style learning.
  • We perform better when the bar is high. There is a lot to learn as a new hire at AppNexus. It requires tremendous effort. We hire people who love that challenge. So we set the bar high from day one, provide a learning environment to support growth, and then the magic happens … rock stars are born!
  • Pay it forward: It’s important to repay the good deeds you have received by doing good things for people you don’t know. Each new hire has benefited from other new hires, who created much of our onboarding material. They are expected to repay their predecessors by doing something to make the onboarding process better for the next new hire.

How does this reinforce the culture we want to maintain?

“Teaching and Learning” is a core value at AppNexus.  Employees start living that week one!

“Making Greatness Happen, Together” is another core value. Our bar for greatness is high; the challenges we face are steep. So straight away we put a big mountain in front of employees and ask them to climb it!  Yet … we do it together. We use a learning management system to structure the learning experience. Employees are assigned a Knowledge Buddy to help with daily technical questions, and a Mentor who guides them through the process and shares high-level business context on the industry. This process instills in employees a deep commitment to learning, teaching, greatness, and togetherness which they bring to everything they do throughout their AppNexus experience.

So, if you are thinking through your new hire onboarding process, start by defining what aspects of your culture are deeply important to maintain over time. Then design your onboarding process in a way that requires employees to demonstrate those behaviors. First impressions last a lifetime; make yours count!

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The Princeton Offense

When I walked onto the Princeton campus as a freshman in 1995, I liked basketball. It was fun, good exercise, and social.

When I left Princeton, I loved basketball: the constant decisions, the intricate teamwork, the ebb and flow of the game.

The difference was three years under the tutelage of John Thompson III, then the JV coach at Princeton, learning the Princeton offense. No longer was I the big guy who was supposed to sit near the basket and rebound. I would get the ball at the top of the key and create opportunities for my teammates. I knew how to throw a back door pass, to force defenders to make impossible choices, to be a triple threat. I was part of an organism that operated on a shared set of simple principles. We were talented athletes who worked together to win. I wish I could share the feeling of throwing a backdoor pass through a crowded lane to a teammate who knows exactly where to be to score an impossible basket.

That feeling is what I try to create every day at AppNexus. We have a clear mission: to create a better Internet through better advertising. We have agreed upon four values –learn and teach, see and improve the whole system, empower customers, and make greatness happen together – which are our shared set of simple principles. We are a team of talented professionals who work together to win.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce that Jon Hsu is joining our team as COO and CFO. Jon is one of the few people with CFO experience at a public ad technology company, but more importantly is one of the best executives in our industry. I worked closely with him when he was the CEO of 24/7 Media and was impressed by his thoughtful leadership, strategic vision, and passion for the future of the industry. In business as in basketball, how you play the game matters, and Jon plays like an AppNexian.

In addition to Jon, we’ve added three world-class executives to our leadership team. It feels like we’re recreating the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, with the best talent in New York joining an already superior leadership team. Geir Magnusson, Jr. will become CTO; Casey Birtwell has been hired as SVP, Strategy & Operations; and Michelle Dvorkin has been promoted to SVP, People.

Over the past few years, my understanding of what it takes to be an entrepreneurial leader has changed, much as my understanding of basketball changed during my time at Princeton. To build a global company that can adapt and win in an ever-changing landscape requires a leadership team that is both talented and aligned.

With the addition of Jon and Casey and the promotions of Michelle and Geir, AppNexus has the team to win the greatest game of all: building a company that makes the Internet better.

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For AppNexus, Mobile Goes Global

This week, AppNexus joined thousands of exhibitors and attendees in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, the must-attend conference for the mobile industry. There, our partner Millennial Media announced that MMX, the world’s largest premium mobile ad exchange, is now available in Asia Pacific and 20 new countries, including India, the Russian Federation, and Saudi Arabia, among many others.

Driven by consumer adoption and usage of mobile devices – and enabled by programmatic ad technology – the mobile advertising market is expected to reach $36 billion by 2017. I hear from leading mobile marketers every day, and they’re looking for new ways to push the envelope and help realize this amazing market potential.

A real appetite for highly engaging ad formats, differentiated data, and effective performance is here today. App publishers are similarly thrilled by the opportunity to increase their differentiation, monetization, and control as they begin incorporating a programmatic channel into their arsenal.

We launched MMX five months ago with Millennial Media to deliver the world’s first mobile “must buy” – a premium exchange that offers access to Millennial’s platform of 55,000 mobile apps and sites, differentiated audience data, and deep mobile expertise. Today, we’re incredibly excited to see MMX expand, bringing premium inventory, high value audiences, and unparalleled effectiveness to buyers across the globe.

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The Alchemy of Org Building: Hiring for What Will Be Over What Is

The first startup I joined was a social venture called CitySoft. We were founded with the idea that a company can make a profit while making the world a better place. We believed the answer to poverty was wealth creation, and wealth creation comes through gainful employment. So we partnered with community training centers in low income urban neighborhoods. We helped them develop software programming training courses and then hired their best and brightest students to be our programmers. At one point, 80% of our programmers came through the training centers.

Although AppNexus isn’t a social venture, a common principle still applies – hire for what will be over what is. At CitySoft, the folks we hired from the training centers never had relevant work experience. However, they had the DNA for success – smarts, a deep desire to be better, and a passion for technology. In Global Services at AppNexus, we take a similar approach; only 13% of our team has previous ad tech experience.

Why does this work? Previous professional and educational experience is not the best indicator of a candidate’s likelihood of success in your organization. A person’s capabilities, passions and values matter more. These are the qualities that determine how high and far a candidate may reach. Let me explain:

Capabilities: Skills like consulting and programming are learned. Capabilities are inherent in a person and reflect one’s capacity to learn; things like the ability to break down complex problems into logical parts; the ability to focus on a subject until its mastered; the ability to communicate clearly about challenging topics; the ability to empathize.

Hiring for capabilities has three benefits:

  • It expands the recruiting pool. The pool of great people who know a specific domain is often limited. The pool of great people who can learn a domain is more abundant. For example, we have several great employees who were Teach for America volunteers, sustainability consultants, and even a lawyer.
  • It creates a dynamic environment. Bringing a diversity of skills and experiences into an organization lifts everyone because they learn from each other and develop better ideas.
  • It enables organizational scaling. As the org evolves employees, have the capabilities to easily change roles and take on new challenges. For example, one employee, over the past three years has moved from being a consultant, to a consulting manager, to a product strategy leader, to a sales leader. Athletes can play a lot of sports!

Although this approach requires a longer training period, it is a worthwhile investment!

Passions: Capabilities are helpful only when we are passionate about putting them to use. Combine passion with capability, and you have a future high-impact employee.

Values: Capabilities and passions are helpful only if a candidate holds your organization’s values. At AppNexus, we evaluate candidates on their ability to embody our values such as, “See and improve the whole system” and “Learn and teach.” Adhere to the Golden Rule of Hiring – values are a hard stop – along with the corollary rule, no jerks!

With that in mind, how do you identify candidates with these qualities?

In AppNexus Global Services, we train our staff to interview candidates using the dimensions below. We call this “DNA hiring.” We hire for this, regardless of work and educational experience.

  • Rock Star Potential: illustrates the personal qualities indicative of high achievers
  • Analytical Horsepower: maintains a passion and aptitude for complex problem solving
  • Technical Orientation: demonstrates success and drive in learning about technology
  • Consultative Nature: exhibits the desire to understand “why” and then evangelize “how”
  • Customer Service Gene: demonstrates a commitment to helping others
  • AppNexian at Heart: embodies our values; embraces our culture

Each dimension has a set of specific qualities to look for and example questions interviewers use to identify those qualities in candidates. For example, in the Rock Star Potential interview segment, one quality we interview for is: “Self Awareness: Understands their intrinsic motivations, their capabilities and tendencies, and how they are perceived by others.” Interviewers are armed with questions like: “What intrinsically motivates you? Why does that motivate you? Give me an example of you doing something impactful because of that motivation.”

The dimensions relevant for your organization may vary from ours. That’s okay. And of course roles may require some relevant work experience (e.g. a manager role will require management experience). The point is—optimize hiring for capabilities, passions, and values; develop a process that reliably identifies those qualities; and then invest in training new employees in the skills they need for their role.

We’ll cover new employee training in the next posting … stay tuned!

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The Alchemy of Org Building: Defining Your Organization’s Intention

At the most fundamental level, creating a great organization requires defining our intention along three dimensions: company purpose, group mandate, and employee experience. We should clearly answer:

  • At the company level, what is our purpose? Why do we exist?
  • At the group level, what is our mandate? What are we trying to achieve?
  • At the individual level, what is the employee experience required to achieve the above?

Let’s look at this in the context of AppNexus and my organization, Global Services.

Our purpose at AppNexus is to create a better Internet. This is why we exist.

We make the Internet better in a number of ways. By helping publishers better monetize their inventory we ensure that the Internet continues to be a vibrant ecosystem of diverse content. By helping advertisers find their audiences, we connect people with the content and services they find valuable. As we evangelize ad and inventory quality in the industry and invest in teams and tools that keep our ecosystem clean, we make it difficult for bad actors to flourish.

At an organizational level, Global Services, my team, has a mandate we defined together and this is the filter through which we measure success. We use it to define individual quarterly goals, assess annual performance, and decide on promotions. It is also the foundational way our team contributes to the company purpose. Our mandate is to:

  • Earn the unwavering loyalty of our customers by delighting them through every interaction.
  • Be generous cross-functional partners committed to collaboration and the success of all AppNexians.
  • Contribute to building a world-class company with scalable operational practices and a powerful culture.

Achieving a company purpose and an organizational mandate is only possible if the day-to-day experience of employees supports it. To that end, we should ask ourselves: if we achieved greatness, what were the qualities of the employee experience that enabled it? In Global Services, we define those qualities as:

  • We are a learning organization:  We are deeply reflective and intellectually honest about what is and isn’t working; we feel encouraged to challenge convention and speak freely; we have formal and informal channels to define success and evaluate progress.
  • We inspire each other: There is something about everyone we work with that inspires us in some way, big or small. It could be a personal passion, a professional skill, or just the way someone smiles every day! Whatever it is, we know we work with great people.
  • We find our work interesting:  Because we are interested in what we do, we work hard at it; because we work hard at it, we excel.  Excelling as individuals brings us together in teams and propels us toward our goals.
  • We matter:  We matter in ways large and small.  Whether we are making the Internet better, advocating improvements to our products, or simply making a customer’s day better by exceeding their expectations, a day doesn’t pass where we don’t make a difference.

Importantly, we defined our employee experience in a way that speaks to our deepest intrinsic motivations – learning, being inspired, being interested, making a difference. By holding them dear, we know our extrinsic motivations — great products, loyal customers, revenue growth — will naturally follow.  The extrinsic motivations are really just context.  They are easy measurements of greatness, but not the definition of greatness.  They are a means to an end, not the end themselves.  The “end” is the experience we have while achieving our goals.

Referring back to my first blog post, it’s worth noting that defining our intention across these three dimensions – company, group, individual – is a great example of focusing on process over outcomes. Cultivating your organization’s intention (process) creates the rich soil from which great companies grow (outcome). What is your intention?

Stay tuned for the next installment of The Alchemy of Org Building titled, Hiring for What Will Be Over What Is.

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