Milica Lukic is an Account Director for the global media buying platform, Adform. As a key driver of revenue and success across a range of clients, Milica was named Adform’s Account Director of the Year in 2023.

Milica is a dedicated advocate for sustainability and is steered by her ambitious goals to advance net-zero objectives and cut carbon emissions in digital advertising.

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

For the past six years, I have had the pleasure of working within the media and ad tech industry, making my way through various parts of the advertising ecosystem.

My career began when I was back at Buckinghamshire New University, studying Advertising Management and Digital Communications. Here I engaged early with the world of media through assignments that involved briefs from media agencies. Through this, I was able to fast-track into the world of advertising, landing myself a job at the media agency, Wavemaker, as a Journey Activation Executive on its Vodafone team.

During my time at Wavemaker, I built an invaluable foundation of knowledge that set me up for all my future endeavours. From there, I moved to work for a dynamic audio company, understanding the impact sound has on the way consumers perceive a brand, before moving to work across Display, Connected TV and also Gaming, which helped to expand my omnichannel expertise.

Finally, two years ago I was approached for a job at Adform as an Account Director, which felt like such a full-circle moment for me as my first job at Wavemaker had involved working within Adform’s platform.

Being part of a company that is so innovation-focused, passionate about the consumer, and which grows at a fast rate aligns with my values around drive and ambition. Moreover, at Adform, I truly feel a sense of belonging and being able to make an impact on the industry. It has been the most joyful blend of challenge and reward that keeps me going.

Working at Adform has also helped create a space where I can focus on a topic so dear to me, sustainability. As my colleagues know all too well now, this is a topic I am driving heavily within the business through being part of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Sustainability group, promoting some of our initiatives such as being the first global Demand-Side Platform (DSP) to integrate with Scope 3, and most recently becoming the first global DSP to commit to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Finally, my contributions within The Drum and submitting our Sustainability FAQs online have been some of the projects I have been super proud of and wish to advance this year.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes and no. Throughout the years I had some key objectives I wanted to achieve that have helped shape my career and where I am today. For the first 5 years, my goal was to grow as much as I possibly could. Setting myself such ambitious targets around what kind of title or pay I wanted, became my main focus. My parents were one of my biggest drivers when it came to my growth, encouraging me every step of the way and always being my biggest fan.

Having said that, despite not overly planning what part of the industry I wanted to work in, I am glad to have had experience working across the agency side, publisher side, and now more so in the ad tech space. The industry is ever-changing so it is important to have a balance of both. Goals you want to work towards whilst also being flexible.

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

Imposter syndrome has been a consistent theme in my career and this feeling has been a constant challenge for me.

I set myself very ambitious goals and often that has led me to be in situations where I was the least senior in the room. It was so easy to feel intimidated or that I wasn’t good enough to be sitting in that seat, but I have learnt to flip that switch and focus my mind on two things:

  1. You are here for a reason, and if you don’t know what that reason is, then find it. Figure out what your purpose is and what value you can add.
  2. Recognise that you have this incredibly unique opportunity in front of you. You have created so much opportunity for yourself to grow and be exposed to things you wouldn’t normally be. Embrace it and if it is a little bit scary, then so what?

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am currently living in my biggest career achievement to date! I started my current role a couple of years ago, and the thought of being an Account Director at 25 scared me to death. I told my current manager that I didn’t think I was suited for that specific title/position, but with a little encouragement, I gladly accepted.

However, the fear hadn’t gone just yet, as it was my first time in a role where there was a huge focus on revenue growth. From the days of following people around at stations asking them to sign up for Hello Fresh, I was petrified of being in any sales role.

Although it took six months to settle into my role, it has grown me in ways I never could have imagined. From building my confidence around upselling and hitting revenue goals to building my confidence in how I speak to clients, and attending events to make lifelong connections and develop my industry knowledge.

All of this led me to win the Account Director of the Year in 2023, and I know that is only the beginning of my achievements.

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

One of the main factors that has propelled me in my career has been throwing myself into challenges that I may not have necessarily felt like I was ready for – trusting in myself that I will always figure it out.

It is almost like constantly activating your flight or fight mode, and I am such a firm believer that growth only happens in uncomfortable situations. Whether it has been taking on a new role that I didn’t feel 100% qualified for, or entering a new part of the industry I had no prior experience. I started saying ‘yes’ to things that scared me because I knew that challenge would have a direct positive correlation to my growth.

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

Set yourself unrealistic goals. I know this sounds counterproductive but it is meant to challenge and grow you as a person. Sit down and think: wouldn’t it be cool if I did this, or wouldn’t it be amazing if I could achieve that? Make that your goal. Our brains physically cannot comprehend what a brighter and better future could look like, as all our thoughts and feelings are based on past events. Therefore, we end up limiting ourselves because we think something is unrealistic or unachievable. So, if we set those unrealistic goals, we open up ourselves to a better future.

Fake it until you make it. Although this sounds like a cliché, people see what you choose to show them about you. Make a conscious decision to channel the energy you want others to see in you. Whether you want to come across as confident or knowledgeable, learn how to embody that and before you know it, you will become that. Our brains have thousands of thoughts a day: why not feed them with positive thoughts about the person we want to be.

Take charge and ask for what you want within the workplace. Nobody will care about your career as much as you do, so you need to ask for what you need to help you excel in your career. Whether it is a promotion or additional responsibility. You need to play the leading role in your career. The worst that will happen is you will get a “no”.

Do you believe there are still barriers to success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

In terms of promotion and salary, these barriers remain for women in tech.

A standardised approach around recruitment and promotion will help overcome these obstacles. To ensure that one process is followed for all and opportunities are offered on an equal basis. Moreover, the way that these opportunities are presented should be adapted and should take greater consideration of how different groups of people respond to offers. For example, leaving job posts open for longer to attract a more diverse set of responses, or sharing more information about opportunities for growth with all employees, rather than through individual conversations.

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

Having a better understanding of individual circumstances and values is key to supporting the progress of not only women but everyone in the tech industry.

We are all so beautifully unique and different things in life give us more energy and structure to set us up for success. Whether it is being able to spend more time with your children, going for a run or a gym workout, or having extra time in the morning to have a coffee with a loved one instead of commuting to work. Time is something we will never get back so being able to have more flexibility over how we use it and accommodate how much we want to invest it in things we value, will generate so much more fulfilment and ultimately success in the industry.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

The one thing I would do is ensure diversity and inclusion are always front of mind with every decision made. A lot of the time people make decisions with an unconscious bias and therefore the amount of opportunity each individual is exposed to varies massively.

Gender has become such an important topic of discussion within Adform, and we take steps to shift away from the biases usually present. For example, when hosting events we make a conscious effort to include more females and people from diverse backgrounds, to provide better equal opportunity.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I am massively into self-help books, so here are my top recommendations:

  1.     Lost Connections by Johann Hari
  2.     How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  3.     101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think by Brianna West
  4.     Own the Day, Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus
  5.     Happy Sexy Millionaire by Steven Bartlett

Read more from our inspirational profiles here.