Ad Ops All Stars: Heather Lemon, TechTarget

by Kathleen Booth, on Nov 3, 2021 9:00:00 AM

Heather Lemon TechTarget

TechTarget Director of Brand Operations Heather Lemon didn't start out in ad operations. Instead, she got a degree in graphic design (at just 17!) and then went on to get a certificate in front and back end programming. Initially, that led her to work as a web designer for a real estate company. Soon after, she took a job as an ad trafficker at TechTarget.

That was back in 2010. Today, she is still at TechTarget, but has risen through the ranks to the role of Director of Brand Operations. In that capacity, she oversees a team of 8 and has navigated tremendous growth at the company - including 3 acquisitions in just the last few years.

Today, Heather is focused on making her team more efficient through the implementation of robotic process automation (RPA). 

In this episode of Ad Ops All Stars, Heather shares her career story and offers advice on everything from managing major organizational change, to mentoring younger team members and the benefits of building repeatable processes.

Listen to or watch the full episode, or read the transcript below, to hear Heather's story.

Resources from this episode:

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Kathleen: Welcome back to the Ad Ops All Stars Podcast. I'm Kathleen Booth, your host. And this week I am excited to be joined by Heather Lemon, who is the Director of Brand Operations at TechTarget. Welcome to the podcast, Heather.

Heather: Thank you, Kathleen. I'm excited to be here.

Kathleen: I know I've been wanting to do this interview for so long.

Heather: I know.

Kathleen: Because you're somebody I know just from Ad Ops virtual happy hours and other things like that. And we've had lots of chances to chat, but I've never really had an opportunity to dig in and learn more about your career. I'm looking forward to getting that other side of your story.

Heather: Yeah. No, I'm excited to chat and everything and share what I've done and where I've come from, and where I am now.

Kathleen: Yeah. All right. Well, if you've listened to the podcast, you know that I always start with an ice breaker, same one every time, which is when you have to explain what you do to a five-year-old, how would you do it?

Heather: I did actually think about this one and I was trying to remember, because I actually did have to do something like this recently with some of my family members, I also take it to the equivalent of if I had to explain it to my grandmother sometimes. Sometimes that becomes a conversation around, "Oh, what's the internet?" too, but that's a little bit different. I tell them that I am a solutions person and I'm solutions oriented and I provide options to people, but it's so people can see different advertising and different things on websites. I liken it to like when we're driving in a car and you see a billboard on the side of the road and you see an advertisement for something, the difference is you're just seeing that on a webpage that you're going to as well. Whether you're going to a news site, like my grandparents would, or if you're going to something like Nickelodeon, for those of us that were in that era of Nickelodeon too, you would go to their website or you would go there and you could see an ad there.

Kathleen: Oh my God, Nickelodeon, that just gave me a flashback. Now I feel like it's all YouTube, but-

Heather: I know. It is funny.

Kathleen: It makes me sad. There were so many good Nickelodeon shows.

Heather: I know I used to watch them all the time when I was a kid. Weekends, Saturdays were my absolute favorite for cartoons. And there was always the lineup that you'd have on the cable networks. And then you'd have the ones that were part of old ABC and CBS and everything. We'd start off with those early in the morning and then we'd move to the other ones. I'd spend most of my morning watching cartoons when I was a kid.

Kathleen: I was going to say, this is definitely a generational thing because growing up, not to make myself sound really old, but growing up there were really only cartoons on Saturday morning.

Heather: Yes.

Kathleen: I was trying to explain this to somebody, and then if you wanted to watch TV during the week and it was before 6:00 PM, you were pretty much only watching soap operas.

Heather: That's exactly what happened. I actually do remember, because this was something I remember coming home from school and my mom would have something like Young and the Restless or Guiding Light on at home.

Kathleen: I was a General Hospital person myself.

Heather: Yeah. We watched that sometimes too. But then other times there would be this very old thing on Channel A, by us, that was Disney afternoon. And I was obsessed with that when I was a kid. That's where I got a lot of my love for Disney growing up and everything as well. I very much watched a lot of cartoons when I was a kid, clearly.

Kathleen: It's insane how much that has changed. And I feel like that does sort of lead us right into the world of Ad Ops, because even today with all this change happening with CTV and our new, call it landscape for ads to cover. There's so many options. I want to go back. I want to talk about your career, because I was so interested looking, I always LinkedIn stalk people before they come on the podcast, and you got your start in web and graphic design, but then you went to TechTarget and you are the rare Ad Ops person who has really stayed in one company for quite a long time. I have questions about all of these things, but let's start with how you went from web and graphic design into Ad Ops, because that's an interesting transition.

Heather: Yeah. I think to quote Bob Ross, it was a happy accident I think. And a lot of it actually stemmed from, so I went to school and I went to college and I got a degree in graphic design. As a lot of people will probably have in their senior year, you find one class that really just stick to you and it might not even be in your major altogether and you realize, oh, this is what I really like doing, and I'm probably not going to go back and go get another degree at this point. I need to at least finish what I'm doing right now. I did do that and I actually had an accelerated program. I actually got my graphic design degree in two and a half years.

Kathleen: Oh wow.

Heather: I actually graduated college before I could even drink. That was always a fun conversation starter.

Kathleen: Totally different college experience than many of us.

Heather: Yes. Yes. I started technically at 17, because I was a young person when I was in school and everything. I graduated a little bit early and then I just graduated college before I could even drink at that point. It was something that I decided to then go back and pursue a development in... A web certificate for just back-end and front-end programming, like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, database work. That was an area that I really enjoyed at that point and it's something that I still am very passionate about even after all these years. And it's something I enjoy doing, because I liking programming similar to learning a language and that's something that I'm always interested in. It's always something that I've liked pursuing and doing as a hobby still to this day.

Heather: I actually went to work in real estate, at a company that was looking for a graphic designer and someone who had a little bit of web experience. I worked there for about four years, but the one thing, and this is something that was always a joke about the industry in general, was that they're a few years behind in terms of general tech, advancement and everything, because it's houses, it's a lot of real estate. There wasn't necessarily as much tech back at that time as you do today, like smart homes, things like that, that pop up now, were barely getting started at the time. It wasn't a very popular thing to advance more on the tech side, and I wanted, it was a great vast environment, but it wasn't the vast environment I was looking for.

Heather: I had a friend actually, who had been working here and they said, "Hey, do you want to try apply for this job and just apply for it and see if you were interested?" I looked at the job description and it said Ad Operations Trafficker, and I said, "I don't even know what that is." But they're looking for someone with some coding experience and they're looking for someone who can talk to clients, who can work with sales. I was like, well, I managed 40 to 50 sales reps on my own at my previous job so I feel like I have this in the bag at that point. I got the job at TechTarget and I've actually worked in the same group for 10 years now.

Kathleen: Wow.

Heather: Yeah. It's been very interesting, because I started there as an Ad Ops Trafficker and I really fell in love with the role and I fell in love with the idea of what ad operations was, because it was a lot of problem solving. It was a lot of critical thinking and it really just challenged me at that point, because one of the things that I've always joked and my parents will probably even say it's about me too, is if you keep me busy, I'm one of your best workers, but if I'm bored to tears with something, then I get lazy about things at that point. Always keeping me engaged and having something that changes regularly was always something that made it much better and makes me love my job. And the fact that TechTarget is a tech company as well, that just adds a whole nother... TechTarget always changes because there's a lot of new tech that comes out. There's a lot of news to write about it. There's a lot of information there to share.

Heather: And so you combine that with ad operations, which is another changing industry all the time, and I have this perfect storm of changing constant, learning and having the ability to make new and understand and learn as you go. I'm not the type of person that could do the same job every single day. I prefer variety. That's what made me stay here for all this time and why I've always found a lot of value in staying here, because I've worked under the same group, but I've had opportunities to be a project manager and help solve a challenge that they were having with different groups, and they just need someone who knew how to talk to all of them at that point. So it's like, "Could you speak design, could you speak development, could you speak to client services?" I was like, I have this in the bag too.

Heather: I did that while still working with my old team. And then I came back to take on more of a team lead and eventually became the manager of the group as well. And then I continued on as things evolved and I'm now the Director and Department Head for our ad operations team here. That's something that... It's just continued to grow and expand, so I've taken on more roles here as well, including some additional more data focus products, which is very new to me, because I'm used to banner advertising and how we talk about that. And we're talking about data and contacts and everything that are a little bit more intricate and so that ties together with some of our bigger products here that we offer. I'm learning a completely different side of the business and I'm also helping out with an initiative that I'm starting to own a lot more of, which is our RPA robotic process automation group and that's a new initiative that we're kicking off here as well.

Kathleen: Oh my God. I have so many questions for you right now. I love it. I love it. And I love that you're somebody who loves being busy. I'm totally the same way. I do not do well with an empty calendar. I complain all the time about a full calendar, but I don't do well with an empty one.

Heather: Yeah. My team even says like, they'll see my calendar, "I don't wish that, I would hate to be in your role." I was like, well, "Yeah, but I also like being that busy." And I like the balance of being able to talk to people every day and work through problem. But at the same time, being able to have a couple hours here and there where I can actually work on an actual solution or something like that.

Kathleen: Yeah. That's the holy grail balance, right?

Heather: Yes. Not perfect every day, but it's certainly something I strive towards every day.

Kathleen: Same, same. Now one of the questions I had is, when you first joined the company, so you joined as a trafficker, correct?

Heather: Yep.

Kathleen: How big was the company and how big was the Ad Ops team at the time?

Heather: That's a really good question. The company was, I want to say around, it was around 600 employees I think at the time. It was still a fairly large company, but it was still considered, I believe like a small, medium business at the time. I've actually watched the company grow into the larger business sector at this point, even though we're still kind of a small business in some ways, we have over 700 employees now across the globe. I actually am able to interact with a lot of them as well, but there's a lot more people, there's a lot more faces to get to know and try and talk to and everything.

Heather: And on the Ad Ops team in particular, I think there were probably around, I want to say six or so, maybe more, maybe less. It kind of depended on the years, because we had fluctuations where sometimes we had more people on the team and then sometimes we had maybe a few less people on the team based on different volume statistics and changing roles that we did, and adding to the team versus what we were automating or you know, making more simple to make it easier to work through.

Kathleen: So wait, is it six now or was it six when you joined?

Heather: It was six when I joined. Right now I have about eight people right now. And if you expand into my larger groups, I have closer to 10 to 12 people under me.

Kathleen: And what percentage of the business is programmatic?

Heather: It's actually a very small percentage for us. I actually like to count this as almost a lucky thing from our side, where our direct sold sales team is very good at what they do. And so we actually have, I'd probably say maybe at best 5%, probably even less than that, that come from programmatic. We still manage things programmatic and still have programmatic offerings, but we don't actually focus a lot of our business on that because our sales team does a really great job of going through and actually selling our inventory, to the point where the last couple quarters I've had the lucky point to tell my boss, "Yeah, we're actually selling out a lot of our inventory." And they're like, "Well, can you get more?" It's like, I wish I could make up the inventory.

Kathleen: Exactly. That would be something that you could sell.

Heather: Yeah. It's one of those, we've all agreed, it's a good problem to have, but it certainly can make managing expectations a challenge, around managing client expectations and making sure we're getting our deliverables on time because that actually poses a higher risk for us now, because we need to make sure things start on time, if not well, Mr. Client, your campaign, we're sold through for a lot of it so it's actually going to be a bit longer for us to actually deliver on your program. And so having to proactively manage that conversation and everything is something that my team's been having to work through a lot more in the past six months or so.

Kathleen: Any particular tips on that? Because feel like that is such a crucial thing to nail.

Heather: I think it's always a balance and the best thing that I've always found that my team has been able to do and what I still try to guide them to is, you really have to get to know your client first and really try and understand how they work to set the proper expectations. Because you have the clients that are very, very involved and very talkative and everything, they are very on top of things. You have the clients that sometimes they respond to your emails, sometimes they choose not to that week or something, but it's always finding the balance of making sure that they're on top of everything and reaching out to their clients. But also, I think the bigger piece of it is making sure that they're proactively communicating it to sales. The sales team, if there are things that sometimes they are having side conversations as well, that it's more of, "Hey, this is still outstanding for us. This is a revenue risk now at this point, if you're talking to a client, can you also get an update on this?"

Heather: And so it's really that communication cycle that we've been working on, because I think it's not always about whether or not we get everything in, but it's also about making sure everyone's clear on expectations and what that can do. Because if a client all of a sudden tells us, "Yeah, we booked it, but we're going to be a month late." At least realistically, a lot of them do know, yeah, okay, we probably need to reevaluate what we can deliver here at this point. Being upfront and having that conversation and showing what the risks are and what that means, having that prepared when they go talk to the client and talk to sales has always been much easier in terms of having the conversation afterwards.

Kathleen: Now you... Efficiency is obviously a big thing here, and you mentioned a phrase that I think we hear a lot, but not everybody has experience with, or fully understands, which is robotic process automation. And I want to understand better what you guys are doing with that and how it's impacting your business.

Heather: Yeah. First off, it's not the same as artificial intelligence or virtual intelligence. That's one of the first things I think I usually have to say at first, because I think depending on who you talk to, the first reaction would be, "Oh great. I can, all of a sudden have the robot just do everything for me." And then there becomes a concern of, "Okay, is the robot replacing you?" You always have reactions to it. The difference with the robotic process automation is, the bot that you do is a virtual machine that, it does exactly what you tell it to do. And it only does what you tell it to do. It does things like the repetitive work that a lot of us in Ad Ops specifically, and even just other parts of my organization, there's a lot of repetitive work, a lot of the same repetitive work that happens.

Heather: And I look at it the way, do I want my team focused on copying and pasting data out of a spreadsheet or do I want them actually caring about their campaigns and optimizing, managing client expectations, focusing on the actual communication, like the more human element to our job that I think is very vital and really, I think makes a big impact on how they actually go through and manage their job and how they can make things successful. Giving them that time is really my main focus here. And being able to empower them to have something that we have to update a client list every week or something like that, because we're doing a special sort of nuance or a special campaign with them, updating a list every week and formatting it to be correct, to make sure it goes into the system correctly is something that I absolutely would not want my team spending a lot of time on at that point, but it's a necessary evil sometimes to make sure that the work is done properly.

Heather: In order to do that, you could have something like a robot, go in, get the list and format it and then upload it into your systems and everything and do that correctly. There are ways to do it. It just requires a bit more of the.. I wouldn't say development per se, there is definitely some development work that can tie into this and understanding development work is definitely, it adds value because you almost think like a developer at that point. But then at the same time, the other piece of it is really going through and understanding every little detail of your process, and this is something that has been a challenge in the beginning phases of this part, what we're doing for the initiative with the company, because I think it's really been a learning curve to understand, okay, when we're talking about that, the bot literally does everything you tell it to.

Heather: I'm not talking, it's like, oh, if you say, go do this, it's like, no, if you're saying you need to control C and control V something, you actually have to program that in. It's actually taking a step back and thinking about the actions you actually take as a person when you're doing a process versus just automatically doing it. You almost have to think through the things that you just automatically know how to do. My team likes to say I'm an Excel wizard and they always wonder what my shortcuts are and how do I get around Excel so fast. And it's because I use my keyboard most of the time, but that's also something where an example would be. I have to actually remember what key strokes I'm doing to make sure that I could tell a robot to do that as well.

Kathleen: Yeah, that's so true. There is so much value in breaking down your processes and documenting them also.

Heather: Yes.

Kathleen: I'm curious, what tools you use to build your automation?

Heather: Yeah, so right now we work with a company called UiPath. They're actually one of the leading vendors in this space and everything in terms of automation. There are other ones out there, Microsoft has one called Microsoft Power Automate. I think there's also Automation Anywhere, I think it's another big competitor out there. There's a number of people in the space. It's just dependent on what you're looking for and what the capabilities of the platform are. They just happen to fit the needs of what we're looking to do on our side. But it's definitely something that we think is worth the investment because the long term gains of when you think about growth, because this is a conversation we're having internally too about as the revenue grows, what do we do there and how can we ease the burden that comes with growth when we're trying to evaluate what our teams need at that point and being able to automate a process.

Heather: I think it's going to be so much better to alleviate that without having to concern ourselves. Okay. What are we going to do with all this work at this point? Do we have some temporary help? Do we start figuring out how to outsource it better? What's the best way. But the idea would be to keep everything in-house as much as possible to make it much safer in a lot of cases in terms of data privacy that tends to come up and everything. But then in addition to that also thinking about, that gives a lot of opportunities to other people internally to think about what they do and really think about how they do their job and everything, and really giving a lot of people the tools to say, just ask the question. If I could just have something that would make my life easier and not do something that's really repetitive and manual, what would that be?

Heather: We've started a few pilot tests and everything like that. There's always bugs to fix, as you get something started and you learn more about it, but I'd say that we are coming along very well with that. And I'm excited to really see how we kick this off a lot more in 2022, as well.

Kathleen: That's great. In my limited experience with things like this, the other thing I've come to appreciate is, is you can, because I've build a lot of automation on the marketing side, and it's one thing to build it and then it's in an entirely other thing to document what you've built and the interdependencies of it. And to understand how over time not to turn it into a house of cards, it's all going to come crumbling down when one small piece of it changes. The dependencies are one thing, when you have platform updates or technology updates, all of these things can affect the processes you create. Do you have a system in place for not only documenting what you've built and how it all relates, but also understanding when you need to go back in and update or troubleshoot or fix.

Heather: Yeah. It's a combination of things right now. I would say this is an evolving process for us as well, because I think the more we learn about what we need to do and what we're choosing to automate at this point, the better off we're going to be. We absolutely document everything. They have these things called, I can't remember the full name of it, but the acronym is PDD, but basically it's a step by step of the process documenting every single step in great details. So it like, you log into Google Ad Manager, for example, that is actually a step and it's, but you also have to go select this field and input your email address. Then you have to select this other field and input the password. Breaking it down into that, it's definitely, I find a bit of work upfront, because it's how detailed can you get without feeling like you're just looking at the same document over and over again.

Heather: But I do think the value is there, because it really makes you think about your process in general at that point. One of the things that we've been finding is, we're actually able to start identifying areas where we could already improve the process a little bit before it even gets to the bot. That's always worth the research and evaluation point. And I think that's something that anyone should do, in general, and even if you're doing automation or you're not, it's always good to revisit and document your process at that point, because if you're going five years without really looking at a process, that's probably something you want to look at, because if you work in ad tech, five years is a lot of change that can happen at that point.

Kathleen: Oh totally. And a lot of the Ad Ops teams, with the people I've spoken to or interviewed, a lot of these teams are small. I work in small marketing teams and I've always called it. Even if it's not getting more efficient processes, I've always referred to it as, what's our hit by the bus strategy. If I'm hit by a bus tomorrow and I can't be here, is there any place somebody can go and know what to do? Just having it all written down somewhere, it's such a good insurance policy for your team, and it's what lets people go on vacation. Right? It's the thing that frees us all up to do all the things we want to be able to do, whether that's focus on higher value tasks or take time off or, what have you.

Heather: I totally agree. Once my team hears this they're going to laugh, because I give them the hit by the bus comment all the time. At this point, I told them, I'll start thinking about a less traumatic one for them.

Kathleen: Heather, you and I, we can work on coming it up, but maybe its like, what happens if I win the lottery?

Heather: Ooh that's a good one.

Kathleen: And I go to my private island somewhere that I'm going to own. And then you're all stuck doing my work.

Heather: See, I say that, and I know my manager of my team, her first reaction would be, it's like, "You're not going to quit work." I'm like, "You're right. I'm not going to, but I could."

Kathleen: That's my problem too, is I would probably still work, but okay. We'll work on coming up with a better one.

Heather: Yes. But I do think it's important at that point, because it's one of those things and it's something that I work with my managers on a lot, where you don't need to do my job, but you need to understand enough about my job, so if something were to happen, you can easily jump in. And it's always a good thing for them as well, because it just creates opportunity for them. And it creates a lot of visibility into what they do by higher stakeholders and a lot of the higher-ups in our organization. And I like to really show and give the opportunity for them to really do their work and everything, and really show them what they're capable of at that point. And I think it's something that is always a work in progress. I think, I always think I need to improve in those areas too and figure out how I can be better about that.

Heather: But it's the same I expect of my team, because it's something where you do want to be better and being passionate about what you do is really a lot of what helps you in your day-to-day and everything. It doesn't mean that you have to stay up all hours of the night researching Ad Ops or anything like that, but it is really taking to heart what you learn and then really figuring out how to apply that. And I think it just goes back to being a solution focus person, having that mindset, I think really can change how you look at things in the long run.

Kathleen: Yeah. Amen to all of that. I think that's so true. And that's not something you can teach. I think that's something that needs to come from inside of each person.

Heather: Yeah. No, I agree. It's hard to teach and I think it's something where once... It's always great though, where when you see someone have that aha moment and they get it and everything, because I've been a trainer or two as part of this for the past almost a decade now at this point, I'm over training my team, I'd probably say a few years into my job here. And it's something that, it's always been very gratifying to see, when people get it and people learn it, you can see the excitement on their face too. It's always super valuable and worthwhile.

Kathleen: Yeah. I always talk about it as, you see the light bulb go off inside their head and that's like, "Oh, I did that. Yeah,"

Heather: Exactly.

Kathleen: We have to change gears, because there's another question I'm dying to ask you and I'm worried we're going to run out of time because we have so much to talk about. Which is, you guys, since I've met you, which wasn't that long ago. I mean it's probably less than a year.

Heather: Yeah. I think it was less than a year, but I don't know.

Kathleen: I think it was maybe last January since I've met you, you guys have done a ton of acquisition.

Heather: Yes.

Kathleen: It's blown my mind, because for most people navigating acquisitions is something they, some people never get to do it, some people do it once in a while. You have done it how many times this year?

Heather: Yeah. There's at least two this year. In the past couple of years, there've been at least three acquisitions and it's a lot I would say, but I think it's because there's just a lot of opportunity. And obviously, I'm not involved in the actual decision on who to acquire or anything like that, but I think it's always one of those things where our owners and our department heads are really taking, how do we want to see the business evolve? Not just tomorrow, but in the next few years, next five, 10 years at that point. They're planning even further out and seeing what the value is going to bring and what value someone else can do.

Heather: I actually think our BrightTALK acquisition is a great example of that. They're a video webinar platform and everything and obviously there's been a lot of value in that with the pandemic going and everything like that. That was certainly a valuable asset to us. But I think it's also because over the years we've seen what webinars can do. We've done them ourselves in the past, but it's one of those things where partnering up with another company that does it and does it well, rather than trying to figure out, can we do this ourselves? Sometimes that decision needs to be made, but there's a lot of value in what they can bring to the table. And so being able to see that come through, and we've had different acquisitions over the years, I've actually been a part of them for quite a few years now. But certainly the past couple of years has been a lot more aggressive in terms of that.

Heather: But it's been very cool, because I think that always has given me the opportunity to reinvent it and really think about what I'd like to tell my team are the basics of your job, because one of the things, and I'm sure they're going to get tired of hearing me say this even on a podcast or anything, but Ad Ops 101 was an ad call is one of the biggest things that really I hone in on my team with, aside from the lingo of the industry, because you need to know what CPM or CPC or CPM means or anything like that, or CPP, and understand what an ad call does, how you can structure it. And I know it's a little bit more technical for some people, but really that's the baseline of where I think you can find solutions, because it goes into, how do you target this banner? How do we create something really custom and cool for our clients that can be a first mover opportunity that they might not see anywhere else? How can we develop these things and how can we then serve it and monetize it at that point?

Heather: These are all questions that come up, and knowing and understanding how that works is going to be a huge value prop. It goes into the acquisition work as well, because being able to understand how the sites are set up with what doesn't make sense to merge them with our own network, if that's the case, how do we define that then at that point, because we have a large network of sites here. And because of all of that, there's a lot of granular details that we add into what we do with our ad calls, but understanding what each level of that means, really lets you define and architect and design what the best most scalable and modular solution can be and something that I've been working on for quite a few years now at this point. And my lucky manager is actually starting to get more involved in the acquisition work with me on the banner side, she's actually getting to experience a lot more of this too.

Kathleen: That's great. And how far ahead of it do you have to get? I mean, I know there's obviously confidentiality issues with acquisitions and there's timing. In your experience, how do you pave that path for your team, but also walk that fine line of maybe not having full information way ahead of time or maybe you do? I'm not really sure.

Heather: Yeah. I would say there, I don't always know when they're coming, but I think it's certainly possible that I may hear about it a couple of days before my team or something like that because, or honestly, maybe not, I might hear about it during the actual acquisition phase of it because some of it might not even apply to my team at that point. The first step is always, what my priority is, is to evaluate and really understand what is included in the acquisition? Are there websites attached to it? Do they do advertising? And really doing almost a quick checklist of what this looks like? And then usually there are internal meetings, higher-ups and stakeholders, of here's what we'd like to do.

Heather: And a lot of it has been, especially recently, we'd like you guys to evaluate and meet and discuss to understand each other's business role and business models so we can understand, do we want to keep things separate? Do we want to put things together and merge the way we do everything, that way their teams can take advantage of what we already offer. And maybe we have more automated solutions that they could be a part of, if we move them to our network. And so these are just sort of determinations and questions that we end up asking as part of that and that evaluation helps to establish the timeline on that. It also doesn't hurt that I also very heavily rely on my development team, I always have that as an out sometimes, it's like, "Does our dev team have the resources to do it right now?"

Kathleen: Yeah, yeah, no, that's so interesting. I feel like as I listen to you talk about this in my head, I'm like, "Ooh, there's a really interesting piece of content that I would love to create there around. What is that checklist or questionnaire that you use for running through those acquisitions?" Because that's something that, like I said, not a lot of people get to do it that often and having somebody who's been through it before, who's fine tuned it, is hugely helpful.

Heather: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I'm always happy to share my experiences with that and everything, because I agree. I don't think it's always something that happens and depending on the acquisition, they can be much more complicated than even what I've worked on, but I always still think that there's always a bare bones, basic idea of the overall goal that you have to break down and break into and like here's the questions you should be asking at that point.

Kathleen: Yeah. Yeah. That's fascinating. All right, we're coming to the top of our time together. So now, I'm going to ask you the two questions I always ask everybody toward the end. We've talked a lot about the theme of change and how quickly things are changing. What are your favorite sources that you rely on for really staying on top of what's happening in the industry and making sure that you remain educated?

Heather: Yeah. Publications wise. I think there's a few, I follow a lot of the standard ones like AdExchanger, Admonsters publishing. Digiday. There's a lot of publications I subscribe to. I'm also going to shout out the Beeler.Tech Newsletter, because I do religiously read that every Monday, but I would say the community is probably the biggest area where I get a lot of my information from. Having the community of publishers and access to that group on a regular basis, I think tells me a lot more of understanding where I can focus or what I should be caring about based on the different categories we have. I always feel like that communication, crowdsourcing almost, has been the most effective and valuable.

Heather: I just think that's always been hugely helpful, because then I can go back and like, "Wait, actually, have you talked about this yet? Or have you heard about this?" And sometimes like, "No, I haven't heard about this. Tell me more. I'm actually not aware of this going on." Like data privacy is one that is obviously a big one for all of us too, and staying on top of that is a huge, huge benefit too, to see how other people are doing and understanding and honestly, even just understanding if we all have the same challenges.

Kathleen: Well, speaking of the community, as you know, I interview people who either are currently leading Ad Ops teams or who have done it in the past. And so I'd love to hear who you think in that category is really doing great work and should be the next guest.

Heather: Yeah. I mean, I think it's tough sometimes, because I think you've had so many great guests on here and obviously I know a few of them more personally, like Jared, Kathleen, Catherine. I would probably say Rob, obviously too, that's a pretty obvious one at this point. I'm trying to think of people that you haven't interview yet. Matt Kim from Hearst, I think has always been really interesting. I've followed along with a lot of his conversations or questions or comments and I think he has some really great insights in there.

Heather: Molly Gallagher from Slate. I actually did a panel with her at Admonsters one year and I thought she had some really interesting and cool stuff to say. And I think she has some great questions and some great insights as well. And I think they're doing great jobs. Amy Cerrito from CBS. I followed some conversations she had. She does some of the more technical work sometimes and I always find that fascinating and I always feel like I really pay attention when I've seen her talk about different things or ask certain questions, because I think she has some really great insight there too.

Kathleen: Those are some great names. There's so many people out there doing great work and some of them are more high profile than others, there's some who deliberately keep a low profile and are just amazing. And so I love hearing all these names.

Heather: I think there's so many people that are amazing in the industry and I think that's one thing that's always so cool is just the melting pot of ideas and shared experiences, and I like to say you have to be a little bit kooky to work in Ad Ops and I think it's always been really great to see the different types of people you can meet in the industry.

Kathleen: Well, everyone's been so great so far. I mean, it's a fun community and I love how collegial it is.

Heather: Yes.

Kathleen: And that's one of my favorite parts of doing these interviews, is hearing who other people, who the people I talk to think are doing great work, because it's such a nice thing to hear them shout out peers. That is it for this week. Heather, if somebody wants to connect with you or follow you or learn more about TechTarget, what's the best way for them to do that?

Heather: Sure. It can be through my email address. That's probably the easiest way. I would say that I could check social media as well, but I'll be honest, I haven't been doing as much social media work recently, so I probably need to get back into that, but it's just my first initial, last name at If you ever want to reach out to me.

Kathleen: All right, I will put that link in the show notes. So head there and especially if you're going through M&A, Heather is an amazing resource for that, or want to learn more about robotic process automation, so many things. But in the meantime, thank you so much, Heather, for joining me for this episode. And if you're out there listening and you enjoyed it, please head to Apple Podcasts and leave a review. And to hear more interviews with other leading Ad Ops experts, head to And while you're there, check out our resource center to learn more about protecting your user experience and revenue. In the meantime, Heather, I feel like we barely had enough time. This was so much fun.

Heather: I know. I had so much fun too. Thank you so much for having me.

Kathleen: Oh, thanks for coming on.

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