Anna Forbes has achieved huge success as a woman in ad tech, having played a role at some of the biggest names in the industry. Anna worked her way to the position of UK Country Director at Azerion by adopting an attitude of perseverance and fostering a transparent and open culture internally.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role.

I’ve worked in digital from the beginning, which is fortunate as it seems to be taking over thanks to the digital transformation of traditional channels. I got into programmatic 10 years ago starting out in some fantastic roles such as Senior Director at Xandr and UK General Manager at The Trade Desk. I’m now UK Country Director at Azerion, one of Europe’s largest digital advertising and entertainment media platforms.

We recently gave one of our clients a high-level overview of what Azerion is, who we are, where we’ve come from and where we’re going. Their response? “Wow, you’re the biggest platform I’ve never heard of” – one of those delightful backhanded compliments! We’ve got some work to do but we’re making positive moves in the right direction. Our USPs are in Gaming, Rich Media, Video, Performance and newly launching CTV – all wrapped up with world-class creative, data and insights. That’s a lot to shout about, so it’s my job to make sure we’re saying the right stuff to the right people and helping find sustainable solutions for clients to help solve real problems.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all, I’ve kept my options open the whole time and luckily, I’ve had some wonderful opportunities present themselves that just felt absolutely right. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some hurdles, but fortunately, they’ve been short-lived and ultimately, I’m really proud of my career to date, my network of fabulous people and the experiences I’ve been able to gather over the years.

The one thing I have invested significant effort in is plugging my knowledge gaps. The first thing to do is identify them – self-awareness, staying humble and not being afraid to ask for feedback are the foundations of cracking that nut.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these? 

Yes, unfortunately, my experiences after having my two daughters on both occasions were not the most positive. This stings as I’ve typically been very happy working in one of the more progressive industries in the UK. But sadly, this behaviour is intrinsic to how businesses function. Thankfully, at an individual level, everyone I know and have had the pleasure of working with in my career has been allies.

It’s clear that the system needs to fix its contradicting incentive structures. And now that I’m in a leadership position, I have the power to help facilitate positive change. My goal is to level the field on parental leave and fight against damaging stigmas associated with being a working parent.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’ve had the pleasure of leading awesome businesses in the UK to the next level. I’m excited about the journey I’m currently on at Azerion, as this rocketship shows no signs of stopping!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Collaboration and culture in everything we do within the business are paramount. It creates an environment where we are greater than the sum of our parts and there is no problem we can’t out-think or hustle our way out of.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Be hungry for knowledge and don’t be scared to ask questions, no matter how silly they may seem, you will undoubtedly not be the only one. Identify experts in their field and develop a rapport with them so you can tap into greater knowledge and rely on their opinions to help form the basis for decision-making. You are not expected to know everything, no one can, but know enough to be able to relate and understand the details and ramifications of each decision. This is critical to allow you to consistently make good decisions, you need to weigh up and ultimately mitigate risk. The biggest risk is to take no risks, so be curious, stay informed and don’t be afraid.

What barriers for women working in tech are still to be overcome?

See above, the system is rigged for anyone wanting or needing to take time out. More government support is needed to level the playing field for parents. In the interim, lean in and choose somewhere with good policies and a progressive leadership team. I often think of myself as a pioneer, perhaps it’s self-aggrandising, but it helps pick me up when I meet these challenges… I always remind myself that I’m helping pave the way for others and bringing important topics to others’ awareness so we can collectively fix it.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Even our parental leave removes the stigma from both sides of the parental partnership, allowing those with children to have a career whilst also being present for their families. Easy.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?

 I’d champion more opportunities for women working in digital, from junior to senior level. Diversity of thought brings many valuable perspectives to an organisation, which in turn can yield great results.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Want to get fired up? Read Brotopia.

Whoever you are, reach out to organisations like Bloom and WACL and see how you can help.

Read more about our inspirational women here.