ADAPT, ADOPT AND EMBED CHANGE SAYS GLOBAL CTO AT MEDIACOM
Despite studying to be a vet at university, Nadine Thomson, Global Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at MediaCom, quickly found that her romantic notions of ‘playing with cats and dogs all day’ were far from reality.
With a career change to computer science, she says it was the creativeness of programming and her vision to be able to see how the internet would evolve to make a difference to the world that cemented her passion for the tech industry.
Starting out in technology roles including infrastructure, programming, operations and project management, Nadine later moved into leadership, overseeing engineering, application and product development.
Holding senior positions with global organisations such as Vue Cinema, Capita and Conde Nast, it may come as no surprise that she was the first Global CTO at MediaCom, which as part of WPP and Group M, has 8,000 employees working across 100 countries.
We caught up with Nadine to find out how the pandemic had impacted on MediaCom and how we manage change while the country remains in lockdown.
Connecting companies with consumers
As a business that works so closely with clients to understand their brands, along with the interactions they have both physically and digitally with customers, we wondered how the pandemic had impacted on the approach taken by the agency.
Nadine comments: “We work with creative content and consider how best to connect companies with consumers. It may be internet display advertising, search, social such as Facebook and Instagram, ecommerce or offline channels such as cinema, out of home advertising or TV.
“Working with fantastic clients including Mars, Adidas, PSA and Playstation, we have to be close to our clients and to what’s going on in the wider world around us to make recommendations that will deliver results.
“As you can imagine, right now Out Of Home (OOH) may not be the best option but gaming and podcasting are a great option for some clients. We’ve seen a large increase in ecommerce activity, which is no surprise, but the focus remains on how our individual clients reach their audiences most effectively.”
Nurturing virtual relationships
As a global business, we asked Nadine how the pandemic and remote working had impacted on relationships both with customers and employees across the MediaCom network.
She comments: “One big change has been how we pitch, connect and build relationships with clients. Our meetings are shorter, sharper and there are less people involved. While this may appear more efficient, the fact that we are not meeting face to face can make things very difficult. Even something as obvious as body language needs to be carefully considered when you are sat behind a screen.
“In terms of employees and infrastructure, for us, it was never about tech. It was more about the people and maintaining the culture we had in the company and throughout our respective teams. We need to give people time to adapt and to adopt change. We can’t expect it all to fall into place overnight."
“We have lots of different people in a variety of situations; some are parents, others single, many are homeschooling, then there are carers and younger staff that are in a bedroom at their parent’s house day in and day out.
“It’s not about tech, it’s about trying to keep the team energized and motivated, especially when we all have those ‘groundhog’ day moments. It’s appreciating that people have peaks and troughs. Thankfully, that’s the benefit with working for an agency that is people first, it’s part of our values and has really supported the mental health of our team when it mattered most.
“We’ve been bringing people together from across the globe to share experiences. The other day we were sharing our views from the window; while those in Australia had incredible sun, here in Yorkshire we had snow! It made for an interesting conversation and took our minds off other things for a short while.”
A change of structure
With so many employees still working from home, we ask Nadine what changes she predicts when people can go back into the office. We wondered if the pandemic had changed the way MediaCom would recruit and retain staff in the future.
Nadine comments: “The truth is that we need a balance when it comes to time in the office and working from home. I don’t think we will ever go back to a model where we work in the office five days a week.
“At MediaCom we have now changed our technology recruitment approach, so we hire outside of London. It has helped with globalizing the team and also meant that our plans to encourage remote working have been fast forwarded. We have a cross boarder approach now and we wouldn’t have got there as quickly without the pandemic.
“I think we are going to need to find new ways to on-board people remotely at scale and continuously. Another key consideration to remote working is career development. If you were starting your first job pre-pandemic you would go along and watch what people do and take advice and guidance about interaction. You don’t get that mentorship or visibility on Teams calls.
“We need to crack this. We need to think about how staff at the beginning of their career develop their careers and address how the way we now work makes that much harder.”
Sharing some personal lessons
It’s not all about work. We asked Nadine to share with us some personal experiences that she had had in lockdown and whether there were any lessons that she felt able to pass on.
Nadine comments: “For me, I have addressed my mental health by looking out for my physical health. I run each day. Not fast and not far, but it gives me head space and gets me out of the house. It doesn’t fix everything but helps me to balance and switch off from work.
“I also find that walking away from where I have been working all day and being somewhere else gives me the distinction I need between ‘office’ and home. I appreciate that this can be hard for people that don’t have the space.
“One of the things that surprised me was that the pandemic has forced us personally to make a huge amount of change quickly and this has caused fatigue. There is a need for us all to take a breath. We should think about how we adapt, adopt and embed the changes we have made before we move on again.”
For more information about MediaCom, its clients and services, please visit: https://www.mediacom.com