Welcome to TripleLift’s Publisher Spotlight Series! Every month we’ll share an interview with one of our premium publishers, highlighting unique stories and uncovering valuable insights. This week we’re speaking with Shobha Doshi, VP, Programmatic Strategy & Operations at CafeMedia. Read on to learn about how Shobha became an important piece of the CafeMedia puzzle and her advice on maximizing your potential.
Thanks for joining us Shobha! To kick things off, can you tell us about your early career? What do you think was key to getting your foot in the door?
My very first job out of college, where I studied marketing and psychology, was on the Marketing team at Novartis Pharmaceuticals. Right after that came my first foray into the digital advertising world as a Media Planner at The New York Times. At that point, I took a break from working to get my MBA. Having some real-world business experience really helped me to apply a lot of what I was learning in the graduate program and set the path for my next step. Once I graduated, I joined up with CafeMedia (then CafeMom!). I’ve been at CafeMedia for almost nine years, which is a lifetime in our industry.
When did you know that Programmatic advertising was an area you wanted to focus on?
I’ve always been interested in marketing in some form or another, but originally fell into digital by chance at NYT. When I continued to pursue it at CafeMedia, there were a small handful of us who kicked off programmatic advertising as a kind of second job. And it took off like wildfire. I find it such an interesting space because it’s always evolving. You can count on coming across something new frequently and that has continued to challenge and educate me.
What intrigued you the most about CafeMedia and what keeps you engaged?
After working at two large companies, I wanted to get the experience of a smaller company. Everyone I met there was smart and savvy, and it felt like a scrappy company where I could learn so much and grow as they grew. And that’s exactly what’s happened — I went from being a Sales Development Manager to helping build the Programmatic team from the ground up. Our goal is to help our publishers do what they love best and excel at, which is creating amazing content for their users and not having to worry about managing their ad revenue. CafeMedia is a leader in the programmatic ecosystem, and I want to make sure we continue to push forward and innovate with our partners alongside us.
What advice would you give to women who are interested in a career in ad tech?
As with many industries, women are underrepresented in ad tech, and that’s even more true for women of color. I would encourage women to fight for themselves — speak up, ask for what you deserve, and keep on pushing until you get it. It has been and will be a long road, but we are our own best advocates and can continue to set a good example for the next generation of women coming into the workforce. I would also add that for those who have already found some success, we should take up the responsibility to pay it forward and help up-and-coming women to succeed.
What tips do you have for achieving the ever elusive work/life balance?
First of all, acknowledge that it’s hard. You don’t have to “have it all” — you have to do what works for you and your situation. There may be weeks that are more work, but make sure that there are weeks that are more life and family too. Get help, in whatever form that takes, and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Find a company that cares about YOU and will help with creating that balance.
How have you been handling the Covid-19 pandemic from a work perspective?
Our HQ is in New York City so, similar to many other businesses there, the office has been closed since March. The majority of us were actually remote before the pandemic, so we were in a good spot to make the virtual transition relatively smoothly. We had already heavily embraced Zoom, but now we’ve added in virtual happy hours and more frequent check-ins. I’ve been encouraging my team to remember to take time off, even if it’s to do nothing, since it’s been easier than ever to forget that everyone still needs recharge and reset time.
From a publisher perspective, what are the challenges that programmatic is facing right now that keep you up at night?
Similar to a lot of others in the industry, I’m constantly thinking about identity, privacy, and third-party cookies going away. We’ve been planning for this for a long time and are always testing solutions and partnerships that will help to mitigate a lot of these issues. We’ve also leaned into context and our advertiser partnerships in a big way. CafeMedia has been very vocal in the industry to make sure that independent publishers have a strong advocate and are encouraging other partners and publishers to do the same. It will be a landmark time for our industry, and I think we’ll come out of it with some really innovative and groundbreaking ideas.
What is one lesson you wish you had learned earlier in your career?
Imposter syndrome is real, most commonly for women — I wish I had realized earlier what I was feeling and how to address it. I believe it held me back from pushing forward in certain situations and points in my career, though I was fully capable. It has been a process to fight it, and it still rears its head sometimes, but I continue to remind myself and encourage other women to be aware, be confident, and know yourself.
When you’re not making things happen at CafeMedia, what do you like to do for fun?
Spend time with my two boys and husband — we’ve had to be more creative these days to find activities to keep us busy and get out of the house safely, so we end up in our backyard a lot running around. I also love to read, so whenever I can, I’ll have my nose in a book. Pre-COVID, I really enjoyed traveling and hope we can get back to a new normal where that’s possible again. In the meantime, I’ve been exploring local hiking spots to get outdoors for a change of scenery.
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