Team Spotlight: Product, NextRoll

At the core of NextRoll sits a dynamic team of product managers and engineers who design and run our innovative and layered tech stack, which in turn powers both the AdRoll and RollWorks business units. 

NextRoll is continuing to grow and support more businesses of all sizes in all corners of the world, and we’re building up our core product team to not only sustain the growth but prepare our products for the future. 

Kushan Patel, Sr. Director, Product Management at NextRoll, is leading the team’s growth and has been along for our company’s journey for over five years.

Keep reading to learn more about this team and the opportunities that await the product managers who are ready to democratize digital marketing and shape the future of MarTech.

How have you grown your career at NextRoll?

I’ve been at NextRoll for over five cumulative years, across two tours of duty! I started my NextRoll career as a product manager in AdRoll (the B2C side of NextRoll). I managed our big data teams and infrastructure, and I enjoyed the opportunity to work on data problems at a massive scale. After leaving the company briefly, I rejoined the great leadership team and my dear colleagues to become one of the first product managers in RollWorks (a newly founded business unit at the time) focused on serving B2B customers. 

After about three years of helping scale our RollWorks business, we were in need of a PM leader in what we call “NextRoll Core” – it encompasses all of the teams who support the foundational technology that both of our businesses are built upon. It seemed like a perfect fit, as I’ve had the opportunity to work in both Business Units and could bring those experiences to the table as we look to build the strategy for our core technology. Moreover, it allowed me the opportunity to work more closely with some of our most innovative technology teams and help set company-wide tech strategies while working directly with a great group of very talented PMs! 

It’s a great place to work on some really interesting and challenging problems that also help you to learn new skills and grow in your own career. For me, that’s manifested in many ways – from leading tech teams dealing with big data to growing and scaling a new business endeavor, and now growing and scaling a talented team of product managers. 

Tell us a little bit about your team.

The core product management team deals with the foundational technology that both of our business units are built upon. That encompasses many interesting domains including our pixel technology, cross-device identity, machine learning, data science, our extensive real-time bidding (RTB) infrastructure, our supply integrations, policy and privacy, audiences and segmentation, our in-house customer data platform (CDP), APIs and developer enablement, and much of our foundational reporting and attribution infrastructure. It really does take a village but there are also lots of opportunities to learn new areas and domains!

What are some exciting future projects in store for your team?

Wow, so many to choose from. A couple that I’m particularly excited about are:

  1. We have a really talented team of data scientists (DSE) and machine learning (ML) engineers. In the past, they’ve dedicated much of their time and energy to building out our world-class AdTech platform. But NextRoll is on a journey from previously being a media-only business to a full SaaS-based marketing platform for B2B and B2C customers. We’ve embarked on some really exciting opportunities to take our DSE and ML talents and apply them to brand new areas in the MarTech space to help accelerate and differentiate our products in both business units!

  2. Our advertising products currently make some of the largest contributions to revenue at NextRoll, and there’s some significant opportunity to 1) scale those further 2) reimagine them as new replacement technologies and solutions emerge and 3) introduce brand new advertising products that can take advantage of our existing and growing scale.  

What makes NextRoll’s product team different from others?

There are a few things that I think really make the Core Product team unique: 

  1. Data - It really is a data-driven product manager’s dream here. Data abounds at NextRoll and we’ve made some really great investments in tools that put the power of that data directly in the hands of product managers, data scientists, engineers, analysts, and indeed the whole company.

  2. Trust - In Core, we really are the company’s trusted partner and subject matter experts in our various domains. We’re often guiding the company to understand the best course of action for our business in a dynamic and changing landscape.

What is the biggest problem your team is solving?

Changes in the Privacy landscape are resulting in some fundamental shifts in how the underlying technology of AdTech will work and operate. At the forefront is Google’s announcement to phase out third-party cookie tracking technology. At NextRoll, we embrace change and the core product team is really at the tip of the spear in guiding the company through this shift. We lean into this challenge by engaging deeply in industry forums like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), testing early by participating in Google’s Origin Trials, and providing feedback by authoring specs for the broader industry to evaluate. It’s really exciting and rewarding to be a part of shaping how the industry will evolve into the future. 

How would you describe your management style?

It’s hard to describe every facet of management, but a few aspects that I tend to emphasize are: 

  • Meaningful work with coaching - People all have a variety of strengths and motivations. I like to pair people with meaningful work that plays to their strengths while also providing opportunities to grow and learn. I then try to provide regular feedback along the way. 

  • People First - The last two years have especially taught organizations that we need to recognize that people all have unique needs from time to time and that we need to care for people first. I think it's important to get to know teammates on a personal level. I strongly believe that when team members feel personally and professionally fulfilled, they’re more effective and more likely to produce great work. 

  • Ownership with clear expectations - I believe product teams especially thrive when they are given ownership and clear definitions of what is expected and what success looks like. I think people enjoy having the space for creativity in how results are achieved and finding the working models that work best for them and their teams. 

How do you set your team up for success?

I really do view this as my #1 job and I try to do this a few different ways: 

  1. Ensure everyone understands how their work connects to the larger goals of the business unit and the company. 

  2. Ensure everyone has the necessary background and context to make informed decisions 

  3. Forums to identify barriers and blockers and timely responses in removing them 

  4. Air cover to try new things, experiment, and move fast 

  5. Forums to have “hard conversations” and openly discuss trade-offs we might have to make or communicate to leadership to achieve our mutual goals

Our Core Product team is growing fast, and we’re looking for PMs who are ready to creatively solve complex problems and try new things to join us! Check out our Job Board and see if we have a role that aligns with your career journey.