"Use the diversity we now have to your advantage. As long as you are willing to put in the work, anything is possible."Gessika Kabeya, Technical Engineer, Adzerk
In honor of International Women’s Day, I’m excited to spotlight a fellow woman in tech — Adzerk’s Technical Engineer, Gessika Kabeya.
Gessika is new to ad tech, and she was eager to offer insights, advice, and international perspectives from Adzerk’s London office (Adzerk is HQed in Durham, NC).
Whether you’re new to the industry or a seasoned pro, hopefully you enjoy Gessika’s tech journey as much as I do.
You joined Adzerk last fall after years in client services and product development — and in other industries. What drew you to ad tech?
I like tech in general because of my curiosity for understanding how things work. In most customer service roles, you pass on information and appease clients, but I wanted to understand the bigger picture and how products are developed. This inspired my progression to product development and eventually ad tech.
I was in fin tech before joining Adzerk. When this opportunity arose, I felt it was my chance to learn a new field and perfect my existing skills and software capabilities.
What do you find most challenging or surprising about ad tech?
What is definitely surprising in ad tech is how much work actually goes on behind the scenes. There are many components that must come together and be correct for things to run smoothly.
Understanding how it all works is vital to being successful and correctly advising people. You have to be prompt and attentive, as most things are happening in real time, but that’s also what makes this field fun — as you are not limited to a particular type of client you need work with. I love the diversity that comes with working in ad tech.
Any recommended resources for others who are new to the industry? What books, websites, etc. have you found most helpful?
What common misconceptions about ad tech — and technical engineering — would you like to correct?
Ad tech isn’t about creating those annoying ads you cannot wait to skip when watching or looking at something interesting. Ad tech is there to create a better Internet and better content.
When done well, it adds relevance for what you see online, protection of your data, and an overall good online experience that is smooth and seamless.
A misconception about being a Tech Engineer is that you cannot “make it” unless you have a Computer Science degree/background, and that you lack creativity and social skills. I couldn’t be more different than the typical tech stereotype.
What does your typical day look like?
Troubleshooting, meetings, and lots of conversations between teams.
I start my day by checking email and internal messages that came in overnight (GMT). My day then consists of troubleshooting clients’ requests and issues that I can ideally resolve the same day.
I have few daily meetings with the Engineering and Product teams to discuss ongoing cases.
How does your education in fashion design inform your work — and your hobbies?
I find fashion and technology to be similar, as both require a great attention to detail, and you are often building something from scratch to fulfil a purpose — be it creating with fabric or coding and building software.
My education in fashion has helped me tremendously in making sense of the logic and algorithm behind ad building, for example. In my everyday life and hobbies, fashion gives me a particular eye for coordination and seamless finishes, regardless of the difference in my projects.
What’s it like to work remotely from another time zone, as well as another country?
It’s interesting, as I have very little interaction for the first part of my days. It definitely gives you a sense of responsibility and makes you more independent, as does being alone within your department.
However, I feel it has also helped me to get more involved and understand my role and product more quickly. It definitely prompts you to be proactive.
What advice would you offer to other remote workers?
Flexibility in your working hours is important, if possible, as it helps you to interact and meet other people. Not feeling “involved” is normal, given the lack of face time, but never feel intimidated to ask questions.
"Even when colleagues are far away, don’t feel like you must resolve all things within your timeline and on your own. People are always happy to help."Gessika Kabeya
As a UK-based engineer, what challenges and opportunities do you see for publishers now that Britain has left the EU?
Digital advertising remains a critical source of publishers’ revenue. Now that Britain has left the EU, the economic turbulence presents additional threats to British clients’ revenue. This could also be an opportunity, as British clients will need to advertise their products even more to boost visibility, and publishers could provide strong support for that.
With GDPR now fully enforced, there are more roadblocks to what can and cannot be done with consumers’ information, but this will also create a more transparent, open relationship between the consumer and the client (that was lost at one point) — which may, in turn, generate more business.
As International Women’s Day approaches, what advice would you offer to women considering careers in tech?
I would say go for it. For a long time, a career in tech was seen as a “male” role.
Use the diversity we now have to your advantage. As long as you are willing to put in the work, anything is possible.
I was once told by an old manager, “You either have attention to detail or you don’t,” and they didn’t think I did. I disagreed, as I believe it’s a skill like any other than can be learned.
Today, I’m in a career that requires far more attention to detail than the job I had then. Have faith in yourself.
Gessika Kabeya is a UK-based Technical Engineer at Adzerk. She lives and works in London.
Huge thanks to Gessika for sharing her ad tech journey and advice. I hope it will inspire others to join us!