Every year, thousands of recent college graduates go to creative and elaborate lengths to get a foot in the door at agencies and tech companies, hoping to work for big, consumer-facing brands. But the ad-tech firms operating the technology that fuels digital advertising itself also must compete to win over college students.
Their pitch is similar, but with a twist: Yes, recent grads will get to work with big brands and agencies, but they’ll also help power the pipes that make digital advertising work.
To find out what’s involved in recruiting talent and how to explain the complex ad-tech industry to college students, Adweek talked with Tammy Tolgo, director of talent acquisition at The Trade Desk.
Adweek: Do college kids understand ad tech?
Tammy Tolgo: [They do if] you break it down and say ‘Everyone sees ads and when you see or hear an ad, this is how it’s all connected.’ We give them some examples of the behaviors that they exhibit while they scroll through [websites], how ads operate and how we provide information to help make better decisions.
What skills are you looking for in college students?
We’re looking for skills that are specific to the position—coding for an engineer, or finance for someone joining our finance and accounting team. But what’s consistent [is that] we look for grit, because we know that talent plus grit is the best predictor of success. Then we want people who can fit well within our culture, which is all about innovation and collaboration. We’re looking for people who are low-ego, humble and want to make an impact.
You come from a background in the financial world and have worked at JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley. What’s different for recruitment within an ad-tech firm versus a financial company?
Obviously [ad tech] is a much smaller environment, so we’ve got people who have the opportunity to own [a project] from start to finish. If you’re an engineer, you don’t own one piece of the puzzle; you might own the entire project. That’s very different from what you’re going to find at a lot of larger organizations.
What recruitment programs do you offer to college students?
We have two different types of intern programs. One is in software engineering. Last year, we brought in 16 interns globally. We also have another group [in] data capture and analytics that’s started bringing in interns, which is really exciting. We’re looking at potential expansion to other areas within The Trade Desk.
We’ve got great partnerships with a handful of universities. We’ve taken our trading academy curriculum on campus and offered it to students [at California State University Channel Islands]. We’ve also started to partner with the College of Business and Economics at CSU Channel Island and develop a class that we’re going to be offering in the fall that’s specific to digital advertising. We have executives go on campus and teach pieces of that class, so we’re bringing ad tech to them.
The Trading Academy is an online curriculum that we’ve developed; every employee has the opportunity to come in and complete the curriculum. They can take this crash course and get themselves up to speed to have a better understanding of who we are and what we do—not just at The Trade Desk, but beyond us.
How do you talk about advancements with college kids? Is part of the pitch that they can move up faster than you would at a big tech company?
Our employees have always had the ability to dig in and expand their knowledge—growth and development has been bountiful for anyone who wanted it just based on our growth rate. Now, as we continue to grow bigger, we’re expanding our learning and development team so that we aren’t just solely reliant on the organic growth opportunities.