Achieving work/ life balance in ‘madtech’ is difficult but essential

The world of adtech is exciting and fast-paced, but also slightly mad, argues Bonzai's Harley Ramien. The trick is figuring out how to get close to the ever-elusive work/ life balance.

Thanks for being overworked, said nobody.

Compared to other industries, the pace of change in adtech is exceptionally fast. Five years ago, my own role was completely different. The industry, dynamics, working day, expectations from the business and clients: all different. And who knows where it’ll be five years from now.

There’s also a lot of excitement and enjoyment around helping grow new business and breaking ground with new products and solutions. So how do we achieve work/ life balance in this exciting, but slightly mad world of adtech?

You’re always on (strategy)

I often wonder how this all worked before emails and mobile phones, when there was a definite cut-off. If anyone is old enough to remember the Yellow Pages’ classic ‘Not happy Jan’ TV ads, the idea of missing the telephone directory print date today seems far less dramatic.

Today, Jan has options. At any point in time, she can set up search, display, video, or social, all from her desk. It can be optimised, made dynamic, layered in data, pushed back, or upweighted, thanks to the wonders of technology. Maybe it’s too many options.

In the ‘business of adtech’, it’s a similar situation. We’re inundated with emails, Google Sheets, dashboards, CRMs, IMs and calls. It means you’re always on, so you need an always-on strategy.

Actively planning your most important tasks for the day sounds obvious, but it’s easy enough to forget and saves you falling victim to the day. Using the urgent/ important matrix if you have a stack on your plate is handy and helps work out what can be delegated and what you need to do now. And be open with your co-workers around how best to engage with you. For example, the meetings they book with you should have clear agendas.

Build your work family

Have the client meeting at the pub. High tea is a surprisingly amusing WIP venue. Make small changes to integrate the ‘social’ into your working day; it makes for a much more interesting week.

Trust me, if you work with people you like, even if you go your separate ways, you’ve forged some lasting friendships – typically in the ‘heat of the fire’ – that have genuine, authentic meaning.

And if you’re just starting out in the industry, it might be surprising that, at some point, you’ll probably know more people than not. Avoid the mic drop exit – it’s a small industry and you’ll find old colleagues could end up being clients at some point.

Have the right support structures

If you’re dedicated to what you’re doing, it’s likely you’re putting in above and beyond at work. I’ve worked in environments that struggled to nail work/ life balance, but you have to find one. Because ultimately, flexibility means mutual respect and value, so that your personal and business halves can grow together.

That’s one key piece of advice I’d offer anyone who wants to work in adtech – look for a workplace that understands we all have a life or family outside of work, and empowers you in your next phase of career growth.

If you don’t make plans, plans get made for you

Actively put things in your calendar that force you to get out of the office. Take a day for a long weekend. Drag your client out for some fun. Plan your quarterly team get together.

As a positive side effect, the more you put into your calendar, the more efficient you’ll become with your time.

Life goes on

We’ve all been in a work situation that seemed extreme at the time. But while there will be some things you can’t control, you can control how you react. In advertising, we need to remember that even the worst situation isn’t ‘terminal’ and tomorrow’s another day in the crazy world that is ‘madtech’.

Harley Ramien is director of customer growth – publishers and partners at Bonzai


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