Lindsay Van Kirk, Sr. Director, Product Line Management at AppNexus, loves that her work is all about collaboration. In addition to working with the company’s product development team, she works with employees in sales, marketing, engineering, finances, and operations — meaning no two work days ever look the same.
“At AppNexus, I have freedom as I collaborate on and make decisions about how we operate as a cross-functional team working towards a common goal. While I have good judgment, I appreciate that AppNexus is an environment in which I feel safe executing on my decisions, knowing that making the wrong call on something is OK, as long as I learn from it!” she says.
We love how she describes her favorite career mistake — and her outlook on work-life balance!
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I have been in my current role for about six months. Prior, I ran a sales and account management team, and before that, I worked in strategy and operations.
What’s the first thing you do at work every day?
The first thing that I do at work every day is check my calendar to get myself oriented around my day, check my inbox for urgent emails, and then look at the key reports on the business lines that I oversee.
What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job or AppNexus?
For my role, I get to work with every function within the company: I work with product development, our services team; I partner closely with our sales and account management groups, as well as with folks in marketing, engineering, finance, operations — you name it. I love working with these different groups and seeing how we all fit together as one incredible system to achieve our goals.
What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about AppNexus that you think they should?
AppNexus is actually at the heart of how modern media operates; the internet as we know it doesn’t exist without the advertising model that we come to work every day to support. A lot of people take for granted that the internet exists just as a part of everyday life, but at AppNexus, we come to work to ensure it remains an open and thriving environment for people to share news, ideas, photos, and videos. I think that most people forget that much of digital media exists primarily through the monetary support of advertising.
What’s something you’re especially good at at work?
I’m a very good translator. What I mean by that is that I’m very good at knowing how to communicate with any given audience, and I can also tell really quickly when there is a gap in understanding between two people and help them figure out why. I’m good at putting myself into each of their shoes and figuring out what it is about the specific problem they’re having trouble understanding.
What about outside of work?
I’m a baker, and a pretty good one!
What are you trying to improve on?
I’m always trying to be a better manager and better at prioritization. On prioritization, I’m interested in so many different things, which means that I don’t always get to go as deep into a specific subject as I would want! And I believe that management is something that we’re never done working on — and that you always need to learn to flex your style for different personalities on your team.
What’s your favorite mistake?
When I was a new manager, I didn’t do a very good job of communicating with my team, and that was a huge challenge for them. I was lucky enough that they were all comfortable talking to me about it, so that I could address it.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
Last fall I had a really hard decision to make — I had just been offered my current role, but I was really happy working with my sales and account management team. My family had also just found out that my dad had a terminal cancer diagnosis, and not much time left. Our CEO came to me and gave me the option of not making the change, if it was going to be too much. I decided to take the new role, and while the transition period certainly wasn’t easy, it was the right decision for so many reasons. I went from being a manager of a six-person team back to an individual contributor while I built out my org. This was ultimately a really good thing for both me and my team — I didn’t have the extra emotional energy to be there for them the way that they would need me, and I would have felt like I was failing them as a manager.
What do you love most about your job or your company?
My favorite part of my job is that it’s about seeing others succeed in their roles; as a product line manager, part of my job is to help different teams organize around an objective and move towards it, unblocking along the way. I like that my job isn’t about my own personal accomplishments — it’s all about how we perform as a team.
At AppNexus, I have freedom as I collaborate on and make decisions about how we operate as a cross-functional team working towards a common goal. While I have good judgement, I appreciate that AppNexus is an environment in which I feel safe executing on my decisions, knowing that making the wrong call on something is OK, as long as I learn from it!
What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
I’m currently reading the second in the Three Body Problem series – “Dark Forest.”
I’m listening to “On the Media” and “Hello from the Magic Tavern” podcasts, and I’m watching “Barry,” “The Bridge” (Danish version) and “SNL.”
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?
I’ve seen this advice elsewhere so it’s not original, but don’t be afraid to not tick ALL of the boxes on a job description. Most hiring managers know that candidates they receive are not going to meet every single qualification they list out, so they’re looking for good matches, not perfect ones. So if you see a job you think you could be good at, and you have relevant experience, apply even if you don’t have a personal example for every bullet point.
Who is/was the most influential person in your life and why?
My dad — he was always my greatest coach. My dad taught me about failing, how to cope with not being the best at something but loving doing it anyway. I was a pretty mediocre basketball player when I was in high school, but I loved playing and my dad was with me at every game and would go to gymnasiums with me on the weekends to shoot around and practice free throws.
He also taught me so much about work-life balance, and what is truly important about your workplace. My dad was at every game I played, every piano recital I had. He always made the time to be there. My father passed last year, and I was blown away by the number of colleagues and former employees who came to visit him at the hospital and who attended his service — they all cared deeply about my dad because he had cared about them as people and not just colleagues. I try to bring that same attitude to work with me at AppNexus.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
My dad always told me to “keep being Lindsay,” and I never really knew what that meant to me as career advice until recently when I started reflecting on what it meant to be your authentic self at work. I really believe that being yourself and acting true to who you are is an important factor in success.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
Candor — a boss who will be honest with you about where they are at, how you are doing, what you could be doing better, and a little bit of guidance on how is invaluable.