“The Pandemic Has Taught Us About The Highs And Lows Of Technology”

“The Pandemic Has Taught Us About The Highs And Lows Of Technology”

For two of Taboola’s media sales managers, life in tech had its highs and lows long before the arrival of the pandemic. But new challenges emerged.

Jaclyn Hadida (pictured, right) and Lucy Pierce (pictured, left) may work alongside one another at Taboola, a sponsor for tomorrow’s Women Leading Tech Awards. But their experiences within adtech are not complementary.

Both have had their own ups and downs and moved through challenges, pre- and during the coronavirus pandemic, coming away with advice for other women in tech facing similar problems.

For Jaclyn, this meant navigating the early morning grind in an industry that has been dominated by one sex since she entered it, alongside being a mother of two children.

While Lucy faced a battle to balance her working day and the rest of the obligations in her life—being a good friend and staying connected with family in the UK.

Here’s how they overcame their challenges in 2020, in their own words.

Jaclyn Hadida, media sales manager ANZ at Taboola

The alarm goes off at 5:15am. I snooze for 10, while mentally running through the day: the number of client meetings, the brief response, and the urgent emails (there are four still in my drafts).

I’ll prepare two lunchboxes, make a school drop off, a gym session and remember the internal 6pm call I must turn up for. This was my world pre-COVID-19.

My life has been about ticking each box and ensuring nothing slips through the cracks. There was the media degree at university, my first sales coordinator role on a food magazine and a promotion to account manager.

Then there was selling ad space in newspapers and landing my dream job at the old ACP (now Are Media) stomping ground. I worked my way up the ladder where I was able to manage teams alongside many successful and ambitious females. This was all pre kids.

By 2019, I knew that my art for ticking boxes needed a shake up and the ever-evolving world of digital and tech was one challenge I was finally ready to take on, knowing the opportunities but also some barriers that lay ahead.

Tech has always been a male-led industry, one which I have always been curious about, had the desire to immerse myself in, but I never really had the courage to put myself out there based on the stigma attached.

Being able to dive headfirst into a company like Taboola in 2019 made me realise that it wasn’t about ticking a box, but rather learning, adapting and finding a way to make this new experience of Adtech fit in to my world.

It has been a learning curve to say the least—it’s an industry that demands an ‘always on’ approach to success; there’s never much down time and there’s constant change, progression, and evolution.

I knew this would be the challenge I was up against; however, this was one that needed some time in learning how to adapt to make it work for me, my family and my future happiness.

It wasn’t until we were faced with the COVID-19 pandemic that brought so much more realisation to me that balance was the key. I was always rushing.

Rushing to make the 9am team meeting after dropping the kids off at school and day care.

Rushing to make the client meeting after promising to send out a brief response by lunchtime and rushing to make to home in time to see my kids to bed (after they have been fed and bathed but not by me).

Why did it have the be this way? Why did I feel the pressure of being a full-time working mum whilst always feeling the guilt?

In 2020 I was blessed with a whole new world of balance. Balance with working from home, being a mum that was present when the kids got home from school, staying productive and learning how to remain focused, motivated and ambitious.

It seems like the phrase ‘women can’t have it all’ was a constant in my mind after having my beautiful kids.

This phrase is something fathers never think about. Something rising execs don’t worry about. But for females in the tech space, this is something that is real.

The way forward for me has always been about backing myself. Not letting fear stand in the way and not taking my eye off the goal I am striving for.

This ambition wouldn’t have been possible without the backing and support of a company like Taboola. Taboola’s most recent initiative, TaboolHER, has been an integral path to success for women like me: those who have had to stop ticking the boxes just to stay afloat and be recognised as a valuable player in the tech world.

TaboolaHER aims to create unity and awareness about turning our fears into goals when stepping into the adtech world. The unattainable can be turned into something achievable, for all women today.

Lucy May Pierce, media sales manager at Taboola

I started my career working in traditional publishing, magazines and events which naturally progressed into the digital space as the industry evolved. I found digital to be an exciting environment with how quickly the industry was moving.

In 2017 I made the jump from the publishing world to work in the tech sector. With this move came excitement, opportunity, growth and consistent learning. However, I also faced many challenges.

As is the case for many in our industry, one of the challenges I find the hardest to overcome is balancing my working day and the rest of the obligations in my life; being a good friend, staying connected with family abroad (having moved to Australia from the UK eight years ago), and keeping myself fit and healthy.

Many refer to this as their work/life balance, when really this is all life and we are all constantly struggling to fit everything in!

Client lead deadlines, as opposed to the strict publisher deadlines I had been used to, combined with time differences and multiple geographical locations has made it difficult for me to have strict traditional ‘working hours’ and time ‘away from the office’.

This has never been more exacerbated or difficult to manage than during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the move from office to home-based working.

Like so many others I found the initial change to working from home challenging.

I quickly found myself not taking breaks and spending my evenings still in front of a screen either working or trying to stay connected to friends and family. The screen fatigue was exhausting.

Technology was enabling me to carry on living whilst simultaneously taking over my life.

Whilst in many ways a lifesaver—I could continue to do my job using online meeting tools for clients, and I can stay connected to family and friends even whilst we are unable to travel—it was also making me feel as though I was never truly switched off or spending any time looking after my mental or physical well-being.

I realised that most of the pressure or expectation to remain online was actually coming from within and put on myself: my inbox must be cleared everyday, and every client email must be responded to as quickly as possible.

So I sat down with a cup of tea and worked out a way to try and make this situation better. I blocked out a lunch break every day, increased my personal training sessions in the evenings, and where possible if I could take a meeting whilst having a walk I would do so, which meant although I was talking I was not staring at a screen.

This all led to a clearer routine, with a start and finish time and a break in between.

It is by no means perfect and of course late-night calls still happen, which will always be the case when you work for an international company and you live in Australia, but it is much more manageable if I have ensured I have been out for a walk and got some fresh air during the day.

As I am a natural extrovert, I also realised early in the pandemic that I was really missing the social interaction that my job naturally brings.

I had spent the last fifteen plus years in an office running around to client meetings and pretty much meeting new people on a daily basis. It was so surreal that one day that just all stopped, and I really missed meeting clients in person.

When I realised this was not going to all be over in a few weeks I needed to find a way to disconnect and find a better balance whilst simultaneously keeping in touch with colleagues in this new found world.

I also wanted to find ways in which I could be working with colleagues outside of our day-to-day roles.

I was able to become involved in some global business initiatives such as Taboola’s first female collective, TaboolHER, a programme launched in 2020 aiming to empower female leadership, with the mission of underscoring the value that women bring to our workplace.

Being a part of this collective has given me new connections and expanded my network within the business, which has never been as important as it is with the lack of ability to travel and naturally having the opportunity to meet with colleagues that we do not interact with on a day-to-day basis.

I, and in turn my clients, have already benefited from meeting colleagues across the business as a result of TaboolHER.

In the last year we have all become far more reliant on technology, in many ways it has allowed businesses to carry on functioning and people have adapted their ways of working and communicating.

Whilst I found a period of time where I struggled to adjust to working from home, I now find myself with the best life balance I have had in my career.

I am able to continue to serve our clients’ needs and drive forward our business in Australia and New Zealand, whilst maintaining a healthy, happy and fulfilling life outside of work. All of this is possible because I have adapted my work practices and integrated technology in a positive way.

In March 2021, Women Leading Tech sponsor Taboola launched #RecommendHER, a global initiative that saw the soon-to-be public tech company donate $500,000 in free advertising on Taboola to women-owned businesses.

Taboola’s RecommendHER program is aimed at “helping to bring women-owned small and medium businesses back to a place of growth”. Furthermore, #RecommendHER was launched specifically to support women-owned SMBs in the industries most affected by COVID-19, like travel, retail, and education.

This came after the launch of TaboolHER, Taboola’s first female collective that aims to empower female leadership, with the mission of underscoring the value that women bring to its workplace.

Thank you to our incredible sponsors and supporters for making the Women Leading Tech Awards possible. 

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