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The Trade Desk’s CMO says she prioritizes hiring & is committed to her team’s training & development
Susan Vobejda feels it's her responsibility to mentor as many young people as she can.
Susan Vobejda was named CMO for The Trade Desk in November of last year. As the top marketer for the ad-tech platform, she oversees all aspects of the company’s marketing, including branding, product marketing, PR, digital media and content development.
“It is a new day for marketers, and things are changing rapidly,” says the CMO, “I know how confusing the marketing technology and customer data activation landscape can be.”
Vobejda says she loves helping brands determine how to engage customers and grow their businesses. Before joining The Trade Desk, Vobejda was CMO for fashion brand Tory Burch, and she served in leadership roles for Bloomberg, Yahoo, Gap and Walmart.
“Helping brands and marketers navigate these changes is something I am passionate about,” says the CMO. “Every day is different and I love it.”
Right now, Vobejda’s team is developing a “Principles of Programmatic” course designed as an instructional guide for brands and agencies.
“This course is an introduction to the power of data, targeting and digital media to manage the customer journey,” says Vobejda.
In today’s profile interview, the CMO pulls back the curtain to give us a glimpse of what her days are like running The Trade Desk’s marketing organization.
- Apple or Android? Apple.
- First car: Vintage 1973 VW Bug with four-speed standard transmission.
- Hobbies: I played tennis in college but have been obsessed with golf for six years.
- Favorite brand (not counting The Trade Desk): SoulCycle.
- First job: Sewing dorm curtains at Colorado College while in high school.
- Favorite TV Show: “Mad Men.” Jon Hamm is awesome.
What was the first thing you checked on your phone today?
Since I work on a global brand with teams around the world, the first thing I check is email every morning. I want to help the Asia team in particular if they need a quick answer to a question late in their day.
Which apps do you use most often for work?
Slack — our whole company uses it daily.
The Trade Desk is based in Ventura, California, and I was visiting our HQ on the night that the Thomas Fire broke out last December. It was the middle of the night, and we could see the fire coming into downtown Ventura and toward our hotel. Slack connected the whole company instantly so we could understand what was happening with everyone.
People knew where we were and helped us leave the area.
What was the last thing you shared on one of your social networks?
I am blessed to have a special group of friends and family in my life. I recently gave my first keynote speech to the entire team at The Trade Desk. A few days prior, I posted a photo of my rehearsal on Facebook and said I was excited and a little nervous.
I received many messages from friends and family wishing me well. It was a small thing, but unexpected and pretty wonderful.
What’s the first thing you tackle when you get to the office or start your workday?
New York City is terrific because you can walk everywhere. I love to walk to work through Central Park and then down Park Avenue to our office.
My walk to work takes about one hour. I take calls during that time from the Asia and European teams and also speak with job candidates and business partners informally. I also listen to podcasts. “How I Built This” from NPR is one of my favorites.
Take me through your typical workday.
I am new at my job, so a typical day is divided into helping the team with key initiatives, fine-tuning a strategy and vision for where we are going and meeting people at the company. Our culture at The Trade Desk is very much about being connected and having conversations with people, and I love that.
What’s your favorite martech?
We use The Trade Desk’s platform for our digital campaign targeting and activation. My team’s job is to reach media buyers at ad agencies, ad executives and brand marketers and engage them in our brand story.
We are informing each segment why The Trade Desk is the leading buy-side technology platform. Using our amazing data and targeting capabilities, we can micro-target and reach our audience very cost-efficiently.
We also use The Trade Desk platform to activate our employment branding campaigns. We use some really interesting look-alike models to do this. For example, we modeled a look-alike audience off the web browsing patterns of our Boulder, Colorado, engineering team to target engineers who might like our company.
How much of your work is actually completed in your office?
About 50 percent. I travel or am at outside meetings about half of the time.
What’s your favorite sentimental item that you keep on your desk or in your office?
I collect golf balls from each of the golf courses I’ve played. Each course sells a ball stamped with the course logo and name. I have a few of my favorites in my office, including the ball from my home course. The winter golf trips that I’ve taken to Streamsong in Florida and Torrey Pines in California are my favorites so far.
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
What keeps me up at night is talent. How do we attract, develop and retain top talent at The Trade Desk? The company is growing so fast, and it is really important to continue to build a best-of-the-best team globally.
When you are hiring like we are, it is important to sharply prioritize it. I always push to see candidates sooner and clear my schedule. It is the only way to find the right talent.
In addition, I am very committed to training and development of the marketers on my teams. I was very fortunate to receive solid marketing training when I was a young executive, but those programs really don’t exist these days. Now I create a specific skills agenda and bring in outside trainers to work with the team on marketing fundamentals.
Where is the best place you’ve traveled for work?
While at Tory Burch, I traveled to Shanghai and Beijing with Tory and our team. It was amazing. We had several events, press meetings and speaking engagements. The people were so welcoming and excited about the brand.
The best part was the last day, when we toured the Summer Palace by private boat. We did a photo shoot there, and the pictures were stunning. Working in fashion can be very glamorous!
What has been the most pleasantly surprising thing that’s happened to you in the past year?
In the middle of 2017, I had the good fortune of meeting Jeff Green and the team at The Trade Desk. They were looking for a CMO who had a deep brand marketing and digital background. I was looking to work on the cutting edge of marketing. I feel very fortunate in my career to find exciting roles where I continue to learn.
The culture at The Trade Desk is very special and really about being together as people and doing something great. It’s about “we” here and the company operates as a unit.
What marketing leader do you most admire?
I’ve worked twice with Jeff Jones, who is the former CMO of Target and now is CEO of H&R Block. He is an exceptional business leader, marketer and communicator. Jeff has a talent for developing razor-sharp strategies and then presenting them in an engaging and easy-to-understand way. He also is a flat-out good person.
How do you de-stress or clear your head when you’re away from work?
I head to a spa called The Ranch in Malibu, California, when I want to de-stress. It is a detox place where you eat healthy and work out all day. Each day begins with a four-hour hike. It is off the grid and I love that. After a week, you feel really energetic, healthy and strong.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
As a young girl, I saw Farrah Fawcett hit a tennis ball in the opening credits of Charlie’s Angels. She was so cool! I started playing immediately and competed through college. I also designed and made a lot of tennis dresses along the way.
I think my team would be surprised to know that I was alive during the original airing of “Charlie’s Angels.”
Why did you go into marketing?
I spent my first two years out of college in investment banking in Chicago. Very quickly, I started meeting all kinds of people in advertising and marketing. They seemed to have so much fun going to focus groups and TV shoots for their jobs.
I couldn’t believe they got paid to figure out what made people tick and to try and engage them. I ended up interviewing at Leo Burnett and switched careers at 24.
I think the experience of navigating a big change when I was so young has made me a risk-taker in my career. I am not afraid to try something completely new if it feels right. That’s how I ended up first working on the internet in 1999 and also how I ended up at The Trade Desk.
What did you want to be when you were young?
I thought it would be cool to be a doctor. They all looked so chic on “General Hospital.”
What’s the last thing you read that impacted how you think about marketing?
I just finished Stephen Galloway’s biography of Sherry Lansing [“Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker”]. She was, of course, the pioneering female leader in Hollywood and green-lit many iconic movies in the 80s and 90s.
Sherry was very passionate about what she was doing over many years, which reminded me how important purpose is in business. She was also an important role model for young women. I feel a responsibility to mentor as many young people as I can, which is honestly one of the key reasons I love business.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign caught your eye recently?
I love the work that Trey Laird is doing for SoulCycle. He really understands the brand and that the Soul Cycle experience is about connecting with yourself and the people around you. The videos are cool and reflect the powerful feeling you have after doing a great class there.