C-suite career advice: Aaron Goldman, Mediaocean

Name: Aaron Goldman

Company: Mediaocean

Job Title: Chief Marketing Officer

Location: Chicago, IL USA

Aaron Goldman is CMO at Mediaocean, the mission-critical platform for omnichannel advertising. With $200 billion in annualised ad spend running through its software, Mediaocean provides foundational solutions to connect brands, agencies, media, technology, and data. In his role, Goldman leads a wave of global initiatives across corporate marketing, communications, content, branding, and demand generation.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I know it’s cliched, but it’s true. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to be in love with your exact role, your company, the industry you work in, and the people you work with. But you do have to love at least one of those things at any given time and it sure helps if you can check all four boxes.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? “Don’t go into business with your friends.” I’ve had very good luck working with close friends throughout my career. You spend so much time with the people you work with that it’s a shame to have to keep those worlds separate. Plus, you have a built-in element of trust with your friends that can take longer to build with co-workers.    

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? Go all in on the metaverse. Seriously. Over the next couple decades, every business will have to embrace the virtual world and need specialists who understand how it works. Diving in now will put you in the driver’s seat (or headset as the case may be) when those platforms take off.

Whether it’s the metaverse or some other aspect of Web 3.0, I’d definitely advocate for getting in early. Coming out of university, I had a choice between a traditional media job and an online advertising gig. I went for the latter and that helped me quickly climb the ladder.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? In school, I started in journalism and pivoted into advertising. I can’t say I had a passion for tech at that point (unless you count video games) but it was clear to me that the future of communications would be digital. Fast forward 22 years and I’ve spent my entire career in ad tech and can’t imagine doing anything else.

What was your first job in IT/tech? My first job was as a Sales Planner at L90. I helped manage ad campaigns across a network of websites. We ran banners and pop ups and did a lot of email list rental. Those were heady times and felt like the Wild Wild West. We even had an ad unit called the Wild Bill which was a digital billboard named after our chairman.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? I’d say the biggest misconception is that I know how everything works so I’m the de facto tech support for my family. Did you try unplugging it and plugging it back in? Ok, that’s all I got.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Be adaptable and approachable. There’s no direct path to the c-suite. You can learn from every role you’re in and every person you meet. Make sure you’re always accessible. Sometimes just responding to emails will set you apart!

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? Taking a company public is definitely on the bucket list. I’d love to help guide Mediaocean through an IPO when the time is right.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Balance is in the eye of the beholder so I’d turn this question around to my team and my family. If they’re feeling the love and a strong sense of connection, then I’d say I’ve achieved balance.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? “No change, I can change, I can change, I can change, But I’m here in my mold, I am here in my mold.”

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? They didn’t have coding bootcamps when I was in school but I earned my stripes programming VCRs. I managed to get through entire seasons of The Simpsons with just one tape by recording, deleting, and repeating.

How important are specific certifications? In general, I’d advocate for getting specialty degrees and supplementing them with as many extra certifications as your schedule (and wallet) can afford. The key to any leadership position is being well-rounded.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? Passion, punctuality, and punctuation.

What would put you off a candidate? People who just talk and talk and you never think they’re going to finish their thoughts because they just run on and on and they keep talking and talking and eventually their sentences just drift off…

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? The biggest mistake a candidate can make is not having any questions. It shows a lack of preparation and general disinterest. The best way to avoid it is to end every answer with a question. See what I did there?

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? Individual contributors can do quite well, and build very successful careers, as specialists. But people leaders need to have a mix of both. The Presidents and CEOs I’ve reported to have always brought a good blend of depth and breadth to the table. As long as we’re mixing metaphors here, you could say that’s the recipe for bringing home the bacon.

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