As the Adtech industry has grown over the years and the shift from the IO to programmatic has become more prevalent, our industry and Asia especially is suffering from a skills shortage and skills gap. Every time we recruit for a mid to senior level role, there is always a challenge finding a candidate that is well versed in the Adtech industry who also has an understanding of the role and the necessary requirements. The way technology is advancing in the ecosystem is far outpacing predictions and the list of criteria for a new team is growing so vast that many times the hiring manager is settling for someone with lesser experience or someone from another industry. Smaller companies struggle to recruit this way since they do not have the required resources to provide on the job training.

This topic affects companies in Adtech, agencies and brands basically across our whole ecosystem – what more can we do to combat this? We want to open this discussion piece up amongst industry leaders and look deeper in a trending issue and look at alternatives to make a change.

There was consensus across the IAB Programmatic committee that there is a skills gap and skills shortage within the industry. Many of the members have experienced challenges across the region, here is a list of further points of discussion.

Is there really a skill gap or a volume gap? 


No formal study has been made specific to Ad Tech and programmatic talent on whether its a lack of volume in the Singapore/Southeast Asia region, or a lack of skill.  To really figure out how we can affect the industry we need to understand what we are lacking – volume or skill. Once this is known, we can then address if we need to do more training and certification or instead focus on upskilling the current talent pool. 

Training certifications and courses. 


These are one way of raising the bar on current Adtech employees and candidates that are looking at jumping into the Adtech industry. Perhaps we can consider running sessions on particular topics with a view to educating the market about topics where we deem gaps are felt. Whether it is MRAID3, Vast 4.1, Open Measurement or the forever changing list of acronyms we so enjoy to use.

Look for a softer skill set. 


By casting the net wider and targeting candidates with softer skills like creative thinking, adaptability and then look to provide a long and deeper onboarding training process, more candidates could be found. Many skillsets are transferable from various industries, such as a salesperson from professional services, finance or telecommunications. However, there is a risk that the candidate won’t enjoy the industry/role, so there needs to be more of an emphasis on the interview process in order for both parties to understand if the candidate is capable of doing the role and whether the company is able to devote time to training the candidate.

Enable candidates to develop themselves.


The discussion also touched on how company culture and management styles help or hinder the development of new skills within their organizations.  There was considerable discussion on developing skills within management itself that will help cultivate an environment for learning and upskilling.

IAB SEA & India’s Professional Conversion Program. 


This program has made headway by partnering with the local Singapore government to help fund new talent in the industry with a clear structured training program.



There is no doubt the committee was in agreement that the SEA Adtech industry is under pressure when it comes to talent recruitment, that there is a challenge retaining talent, and that a skills gap exists across the board. For companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon this doesn’t seem to be the case, but they have big brands that graduates right through to the director level want to work for. But how do other companies compete for the remaining small pool of talent?

Research must also be done to understand if the problem stems from a lack of volume of talent or a lack of skills within the industry.  By identifying the root of the problem, we can better address the needs of the industry through specific programs.

Although more research could also be done in our market to see what key motivators companies can use to change this gap, small success has been seen by streamlining recruitment processes. Good candidates are often lost due to the long wait, or building a more innovative disruptive working environment so that tech employees can thrive. However, this alone isn’t enough. So what more could we be doing?

As a group, we are extremely interested in this topic and looking to the wider industry for ideas on how we can combat this issue so as our industry booms we have the right people with the right skills on board helping it grow.

This piece was written by IAB Southeast Asia and India (IAB SEA+India) Programmatic Committee Members Toby Williams, Senior Director, Demand APAC of Smaato and Paolo Lacuna, Strategist/B2B Marketing Lead, SEA of Verizon.