Going from leading media to fashion to a programmatic platform is not a series of leaps all marketers can make, but for The Trade Desk CMO Susan Vobejda, it’s business as usual. Given her “spider web” career path that has seen her embracing change and challenges along the way, Susan shares why taking the not-so-obvious path has been key to her success, along with the importance of having a mentor in your corner.
What are you doing now and how did you get there?
I am the Chief Marketing Officer at The Trade Desk which is a leading programmatic media buying platform for global brands and their agencies, and I am also on the Board of Directors of Cision Ltd. My role as CMO at The Trade Desk is very different from my two previous roles in fashion and media. I cannot tell you how exciting it is to be at a tech company leading the future of marketing and working with the world’s largest brands and their agencies. It’s fascinating, and I feel so fortunate to work with such visionary leaders and innovative teams.
I love to learn and actively look for situations that look nothing like what I’ve done in the past. If I am not an obvious fit for a role, that’s the right situation for me! I love to take what I know and apply it to a new challenge. I’ve had a “spider web” career path as a result.
What pivotal moments did you face along the way?
When I’ve accepted new roles, I have gone with my gut. Sometimes I haven’t gone for the obvious next step or the higher salary. My No. 1 criteria when screening a new opportunity is the people and especially the leadership. When you join a new company or team, it’s always been so important to me to feel that “click” with the people and culture.
"...it’s always been so important to me to feel that “click” with the people and culture."
I’ve accepted assignments that I wasn’t sure I could do. At Bloomberg, I was promoted into a GM role for a business that I didn’t know much about. I told my boss, “If this is what you’d like me to do, I am in.” It turned out to be one of the most rewarding and highest growth opportunities of my career. I am so thankful that I took that leap.
What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today?
My advice to women is to ask for what you want. Is it leading a project, a new responsibility, more salary, training on a particular skill — what is it that you want? Ask, and be specific. Men do this far more than women, and we need to get better at it.
What advice can you share?
One thing that is super important is building negotiating skills, especially when negotiating a job offer and entering a company. I’ve seen first-hand that many women don’t negotiate their offers, but almost all men do. Get used to asking for something. Even if you are told that the initial offer is the maximum, you can always ask for more vacation days etc.
"...pick one portion of your offer and push on it hard."
When negotiating compensation, you need to focus on the most important thing. The best negotiating advice I have ever received is to pick one portion of your offer and push on it hard. Don’t ask to be moved up on everything or the company will likely get frustrated. Just pick one lever – salary, equity, bonus percentage, flex time – and give a good rationale for why that is meaningful to you.
Who has helped you in your journey and what advice did they give you?
I’m very lucky to have had a mentor since early in my career who has constantly told me that I can do it. This person has told me this for 30 years. It’s amazing what happens when someone believes in you. My advice is to find your informal coaches and nurture those relationships. I’ve tried to help others to understand their potential like this person did for me. It’s such a gift you can give to someone.
What one thing would you have done differently early in your career if you had the right bit of advice?
Relax more! I am fairly ambitious and driven but do really try to take time out to enjoy and have fun. I’ve become passionate about golf which is like meditation for me. And I don’t take my phone. It is super hard when we are connected 24/7 and there is always something to take care of. But in order to have longevity in senior roles these days, you have to find ways to recharge.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?
Majority leader of the U.S. Senate.