A seat at the table series

On October 26, 2022 a seat at the table series, work life balance

IAB Australia has partnered with The Women in Programmatic Network (TWIPN) to launch the Seat at the Table Series.  The series will dive into the personal experiences of those from the local advertising community, and give these role models a seat at the table to share their story.  Each month we'll feature a different topic and guest speaker. This month we are featuring Juliette Stead, SVP & Head of JAPAC from Magnite, who will be opening up to us about Work/Life Balance.

Q: To get started, we’d love for the readers to get to know a bit about you and how you got to where you are today.  How did you land in ad tech/programmatic?

I fell into media straight from university 20-odd years ago, working publisher-side for the first 10 years in London before moving to Australia. Experiencing the shift towards digital - first with magazines and then with TV - was fascinating and exhilarating. I loved the attitude of the  publishers I worked for, who got ahead of that change and embraced it, rather than living in the past and trying to cling onto the familiar. I moved to Australia in 2011, working for an independent video network. We recognised the benefit and potential of programmatic very early on, and instead of fearing for the future of our network, we quickly pivoted the business entirely to programmatic, empowering publishers to take control of their trading opportunities, and providing buyers with more tools and transparency to reach and engage with audiences. That network was bought by Tremor Video about 7 years ago, we sold the DSP around 5 years ago to focus purely on the SSP, at which point we became Telaria. We then merged with Rubicon Project in 2020 to become Magnite, bought SpotX last year, as well as an awesome OTT ad server called Springserve. I now lead the JAPAC business for Magnite, with offices across Singapore, Tokyo, Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney. The shift from ‘media’ to ‘programmatic ad tech’ was very natural and - per the shift from traditional to digital media - felt like a logical and unquestionable progression. 

Q: What has been the biggest learning of your career, and how did it shape you as a person today?

I’ve experienced huge changes within my role over the last few years. Going through multiple mergers and acquisitions, during the pandemic, based in Melbourne where we had protracted lockdowns and minimal human contact, was really hard. It was isolating and exhausting. But through that intense experience, I can retrospectively see how determined I was to execute, ensure undisturbed client success, and look after my team (many of whom I had never met in the flesh). It’s helped me to acknowledge that I have a very strong work ethic. Irrespective of role, title or salary, I’ve always taken pride in my work and wanted to do my job well. Much of that comes from my upbringing - I’m from a very working class Northern England background - I haven’t ever taken anything for granted or had a sense of entitlement or privilege. I work hard, and I’m never complacent. I’ve also learnt, though, that while that perspective can lead to great results that I should be proud of, it can also be excessively stressful, and I can be unkind and unfair to myself. During the lockdowns, mergers and acquisitions, I did a terrible job of looking after myself or practising what I preach about perspective/balance/self-care. The sense of relentlessly spinning plates and being entirely unforgiving of yourself is very unhealthy. I’m actively working on myself to release some of those ingrained, high pressure mindsets, and to gain a healthier perspective.

Q: Shifting our attention to the topic we’ll unpack at ‘The Table’ today: the ever elusive idea of work/life balance.  Women often struggle more with work/life balance as they’ve traditionally had greater responsibility in the household. Is this changing over time, and what has been your personal experience with managing work/life balance?

I’d love to split this question into two parts, and they should come with a rant warning:

1. Why the hell do women still have more responsibility in the household just because that was expected in the past?

2. What is work/life balance, and what is my experience with it?

The first point angers me. Yes, historically, and still in many cultures, women were/ are expected to do more heavy lifting than men within the family/household. But, if this is outside of your cultural expectation, why is there so often still an imbalance? Men and women are equally capable of emptying dishwashers and folding washing. Surely the person who does it should be the person who can find some time to do it on that particular day? I try to be non-judgmental but I really struggle on this one. I just don’t see how a relationship can be based on respect if one party leaves the other one to do the shitty stuff that nobody wants to do, based on gender. I went back to work when my daughter was around 6 months old, and my husband took time out to care for her. Both of us treasure our time as her primary carer, and I’m glad that she has been able to see that there is no such thing as ‘women’s work’ within the home. 

On the second point, what even is work/life balance? The term risks adding even more pressure, making people (and let’s face it, the term is usually directed at women) feel as though they should be able to do ALL of the things ALL of the time, absolutely perfectly. ‘You can have it all!’ they tell us. Well quite frankly, I disagree, and I think it’s as harmful as the filtered version of life we see on Social Media. Both can easily make us feel judged and inadequate. Some days, I am consumed with my work and get loads done, and I feel satisfied with my achievement. But it’s highly likely that I didn’t squeeze in a yoga class or meaningful conversation with a loved one or cook a delicious, balanced meal on that very same day. I might not even have managed a shower. Another day, I might manage to make my daughter’s packed lunch, drop her at or pick her up from school, get to a yoga class and speak to someone about something other than ad tech - but that day I might not have ticked everything off my ‘to do’ list. Crazily, I’m likely to beat myself up on both days, even though both of those days were a product of necessity and circumstance, and both had their benefits. Objectively, we really just need to get on with it, celebrate the small wins, and be more generous with ourselves.

Q: What is the biggest barrier to achieving work/life balance and how do we overcome it?

Boundaries are so important. Which is hilarious, because I often have none. I have some unavoidable challenges such as time zones. My boss is in the UK, many of my colleagues are in the US, and my team is scattered across Japan, Australia, India, South East Asia and New Zealand. But I do try very hard to avoid excessively late or early calls, and I prioritise family meal times and putting my daughter to bed. When I’m with my family, I try very hard to be present. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Particularly if Slack is pinging away, or if I’m still thinking through a work challenge. Our ability to be constantly online is a blessing and a curse, and that connectivity can be addictive. It’s something I’m working on and trying to have more control over. I’m also currently trying to work through a framework for international travel - trying to determine a sustainable cadence that allows me to do my job well without sacrificing too much family time. Without a plan, it’s really easy to suddenly realise you have an unmanageable and unhappy schedule ahead.

Fortunately, I work for a company that strongly encourages me and my colleagues to implement some boundaries. We are given a mental health day once a quarter where we are instructed to genuinely take the day off. We are also given four additional Fridays off over the summer. Even though we have annual leave, these ‘forced’ days off are incredibly beneficial and create some time and space to breathe and rest. We also work three days a week from the office, and two days a week from home. That mix works really well for me on a personal level. I benefit from a change of scenery when I’m in the office, and my cycle or walk to get there is often a highlight for me - I get to see the park, trees, people, dogs - it sounds crazy but I get a lot of energy and perspective from time away from the same four walls and my laptop. In addition, the immediacy, convenience and simplicity I get from those two days at home is also really beneficial.

So in summary, I’d say it’s important to impose boundaries yourself, but I also think it’s a company’s responsibility/duty of care to create boundaries and balance for its employees, and to show them that health and wellbeing is a priority.

Q: What can we do as an industry, and more specifically as organisations and individuals/colleagues, to help expedite this shift and support women in achieving work/life balance?

I think flexibility should be available to everybody, regardless of gender. If we genuinely believe that men and women should have equal rights and equal opportunity in the workplace and at home, we should create a fair work environment that allows parents or caregivers, for example, to juggle pick-up/drop-off. If more men took an active role in the home, more women would have more opportunities at work. And men would have more opportunity to connect with their children better, have a more rounded view of the world and their role within the family as more than just the traditional breadwinner. The same theory relates to parental leave. 

I’m also a big believer in the value of diversity within the workplace. The need for a breadth of voices, perspectives and personalities to inform a business’s direction and approach. That obviously isn’t restricted to gender, but having more women within the workplace - at all levels - has been proven time and time again to benefit organisations. To make this happen, companies just need to hire without prejudice. It’s not that hard. Rich white men need to stop exclusively hiring rich white men.

Q: To close, we’d love it if you could share some earned wisdom with our readers.  What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?

It’s such a cliché, but I really believe this. Don’t be a dick. I’ve always known and believed it - I don’t tolerate poor behaviour and try to keep away from toxic people. My most recent realisation though has been more around self-care and self-respect. I can be harsher on myself than I would ever be to anybody else, and that’s just not ok. So don’t be a dick - even to yourself.