This post is part of our Summer Intern Blog Series! Each of our most recent class of interns wrote a blog post on their biggest accomplishments and lessons of the summer. This installment comes from Connor, a rising senior at Columbia University studying Business Management and Dance. He’s passionate about structural equity, diversity and inclusion, the arts, and the jalapeño chips in the AppNexus café.
You know that moment at a networking event when you’re stuck in an endless conversation with five people, and every time you try to escape the circle someone inhales sharply and starts a new thought, effectively trapping you?
Don’t worry – this didn’t happen to me during my summer at AppNexus. Instead, I spent my summer thinking a lot about professional networks, their utility, and how best to take advantage of them.
In my role as an intern on the account management team working with our enterprise publisher clients, I tackled a project that gave account managers tools to make better use of their client contact networks. I used Salesforce (the world’s most popular CRM database, for the uninitiated) to compile, update, and bring strategic context to all 5,000+ of the contacts in my team’s book of business.
How did I do it? Think of it as a three-step process.
Step 1: See the whole system
A network is most useful when you understand why it’s important.
Before updating any information in our system, I wanted to understand how the account management team actually used it in their day-to-day work. After speaking with my manager about her experience using Salesforce, it became clear that while client contact information is stored in the system primarily for ease of access and to facilitate client communications, it is also used to make lists for strategic initiatives, event invitations, email lists, and other marketing iniatives.
After learning this, I set up meetings with the marketing team to understand how they use Salesforce on their end. During these conversations, I learned that Salesforce connects with another system called Marketo, which is responsible for sending out communications and invitations en masse. Because of this connection, maintaining the accuracy of the information in Salesforce is crucial. Plus, the more information we have for each contact in the system, the more granularity and accuracy the marketing team can apply in their strategic communications.
Step 2: Improve the system
Knowing why your network is important can help you be more intentional about how you add people to your “database” in the future.
To start my project, I cleaned out all contacts in the system who had left their respective publisher organizations in order to get the system up to date. While tedious, this process allowed me to gain insight into the roles and general job functions most contacts hold at our clients’ organizations, as well as the different pieces of information I could upload to each contact’s Salesforce profile. Realizing that the account managers had under-utilized some contact fields in their data entry, I set out to make the process more intuitive; I brainstormed and then added new, descriptive contact type values to Salesforce, allowing for more accurate categorization.
After using these new contact categories to fill in missing information about the now up-to-date contacts in the system, I began to add new contacts. To find these contacts, I used LinkedIn sales mode, email verification tools, and good old-fashioned internet research. With the help of these tools and my team, I researched and created lists of executive contacts at different publisher organizations with whom we had not previously spoken, in the hopes of building a more robust client network.
Step 3: Consider the future of the system
A network is only as useful as you make it.
While I was focused on improving the state of Salesforce during my internship, I knew it would be crucial to maintain the work I had done. Thus, I presented a system of best practices designed to encourage account managers to regularly clean up their individual accounts, add as much information as possible to each contact record, and effectively research existing and prospective contacts.
Aside from thinking about client networks this summer, I had the opportunity to build my own professional network at AppNexus. Meeting with people across departments like Implementation Consulting, Product Marketing, Finance, and Services gave me a well-rounded understanding of our company’s ecosystem. When I look back on my internship, I’m grateful for how willing everyone was to provide me with insight into what they do and how their work contributes to the overall mission of AppNexus. It’s clear that the diverse, talented, and passionate individuals who make up this organization drive our role as an industry leader in the ad tech space, forging a new path forward for the internet.
AppNexus has shown me that working endlessly to improve existing systems and networks creates a virtuous cycle – a circle that creates value rather than trap you in a never-ending conversation.