Ambitious Women Spotlight – Meet Tanya Ford

Our Ambitious Women Spotlight series continues with Tanya Ford, Partner Manager at NextRoll. Tanya is tasked with understanding customers’ business goals, working with the product team to bring those goals to fruition and being their product expert.

What has been your career progression?

I began my advertising technology career 12 years ago working for an ad network in Seattle Washington called DRIVEpm. At the time, I was a product support engineer and spent many years behind the scenes supporting our frontline account managers. It was a crazy time of CPM deals and big homepage takeovers! I eventually became part of the Microsoft Advertising organization after they acquired our parent company aQuanitive. This acquisition allowed me to move to a more client-facing role as a Network Ops Manager. It was in this role that I found helping advertisers navigate the complex landscape of digital media was what I enjoyed the most. Fast forward several years, as ad networks were being replaced by DSPs, I lept at the opportunity to join Turn (now Amobee) as a campaign manager. The road, while both rewarding and challenging, eventually led me to NextRoll where I’ve been for the last three years.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The best part of being a Partner Manager is that I get to see the direct results of my efforts. Accolades are nice, but what I enjoy most is when my customers share their success – knowing my direct actions and the actions of the internal teams I work with have created a positive experience. I may be the day-to-day contact for the customer, but I wouldn’t be able to help them without the amazing team here at NextRoll.

What does ambition mean to you?

To me, ambition is anything that gives you purpose. Whether it’s the desire to become a CEO or plant a garden in your backyard to share with your community, ambition is what motivates you to tackle the day every morning, and feel accomplished at the end of it. This was something that I struggled to define for myself in the past. I saw my peers climbing the career ladder and heard other people refer to my peers as ambitious. I too wanted to be viewed as ambitious, so I took that to mean that I also must follow the same path as my peers. However, I didn’t necessarily see the same success as my peers once I reached that next level. I realized that what drove my ambition and much of my success came when I was helping others grow. My new role required me to focus on the business needs vs. people, which took away a huge piece of what I was passionate about. I quickly identified an opportunity for me to have a smaller stake in the business while focusing on the development of a new team. This allowed me to continue to grow in areas that I struggled with and still make an impact in the areas I’ve seen the most success.

How do you maintain work/life balance?

I don’t have a hard and fast rule for work/life balance. I try to remain flexible and make adjustments as needed. If I know I have to be at my son’s school by 4pm, I start the workday earlier so I can get important work items done in the morning. If I have a week full of late afternoon meetings, I’ll join the morning commute with my family catching up, laughing and planning the week. I also respect those times when my brain has had enough. Whenever I find it tough to complete a task or just can’t get the right words out, I take a mental break and do something non-work related for at least 1 hour. Waiting at least an hour really works for me and I notice there’s an immediate surge of creativeness when I return back to the task after a break.

What words do you live by?

“Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.” I recognize that our immediate gut reaction to challenges or bad news can be negative. I am no stranger to this gut reaction. It wasn’t until I decided that my reactions were not only exacerbating situations, but keeping me from growing, that I decided that I needed to make an attitude adjustment. I now try to ask myself two things in any challenging situation, “What part of this outcome can I control?” and “Is this something I can live with?” If there is a portion of the situation that I can control and I believe the reward is worth the effort, I then put my efforts towards what I can control. If I cannot change any portion of the outcome but I can live with the outcome, then I just let it go knowing that I gave it all I could under the circumstances. My ability to move on is a big part of how I view the success of my reaction. It’s easy to focus on what went wrong in a situation and much harder to give yourself grace. This is something that I still struggle with daily, but acknowledging it’s a flaw is half the battle.  #workinprogress

Who’s your favorite woman leader or mentor and why?

My favorite woman leader or mentor changes regularly. I am most impacted by women that I have direct contact with. I also feel that women can be considered leaders without the title. We all have qualities that are admirable and my list of women I admire is fairly long. With that said, and she probably doesn’t know this, I really admire Larissa Licha, Chief of Staff, Product, Design and Engineering here at NextRoll. I love her focus, drive and her ability to own any shortcomings. I am inspired by her success story at NextRoll and how she has been able to navigate her career here. Whenever we catch up, I enjoy sharing with her what I am working on. Not only is she engaged, but she provides great feedback and perspective on how to broaden the scope of my ideas. She’s fire!

What’s your superpower?

My children would probably say that it’s having eyes in the back of my head! I’d say my ability to connect with people has been one of my superpowers that I use the most. I am all about giving folks a safe space to converse, vent, plot to take over the world or just connect. And I am open to dialogue about most anything. I didn’t always consider this trait to be a superpower. While connecting with people is effortless for me, I recognize this is a challenge for others and also why I consider it a powerful tool. Connecting with people has assisted me in breaking down barriers, creating a diverse network and having tough conversations. I think it’s important, being a black woman in tech, to use a human element to recognize that we are all faced with challenges and we all have the ability to rise above them by letting our superpowers flourish.