The Programmatic industry is growing rapidly and with businesses across Southeast Asia and India struggling to find a constant between talent acquisition and retention, we look to explore the long standing question: how do we sustainably not only plug the talent gap but add consistent new talent across the programmatic landscape? This topic was discussed by the IAB SEA+India Programmatic Committee. 

For some companies, the technology is the foundation of their business and therefore they have no option but to provide in-depth platform on-boarding new hires. Clear examples provided by the IAB SEA+India Programmatic Committee were a managed service business, who rely on offering customers fully managed technical expertise; thus, they lean in to ensure all team members can execute against the ask. With structured technical training offered in these circumstances, the prerequisite of experience becomes questionable. The question posed, is it easier to find talent who can fulfil these roles as full training is required, at least at junior to mid-level? 

However, as we advance the conversation to hiring for senior management in AdTech, there is a clear shift in training requirements as it is clear across all businesses in the advertising ecosystem that while technical understanding is beneficial, less on-boarding is dedicated to learning the tactical aspects. It was also noticeable in conversation with senior management, that there is a greater focus on running and growing the business which requires an entirely different set of skills. 

Given the persistent talent deficit in SEA, we considered out-of-industry hires as a potential solution. According to Glass Door “There are plenty of jobs out there where those without direct experience are welcomed and celebrated” and digital is on the list as one of the 9 perfect jobs for career changers. 

When senior leaders in the IAB programmatic committee were asked “What industries would you consider preferential to port talent from?” we found IT leading, followed by Finance and Engineering. In a 2018 study by ManpowerGroup, it was observed that roughly 56% of employers in Singapore reported difficulty finding the right fit for open positions. With Finance and Engineering in particular having a strong volume of talent in this region, this allows these businesses to cast their nets far wider than looking purely in the programmatic pond. However, one can’t help but observe these are still three highly technical and process focused verticals. 

The general consensus across the ad tech industry is that soft skills are a lot harder to teach than technical ability. As an emerging market, most companies hiring in Southeast Asia and India are looking for candidates to hit the ground running with KPIs pushing for high-growth, particularly when in sales roles. 

It is always a challenge to find an equilibrium between experience and an enticing employment package, whether hiring in the industry or willing to take the risk on a newcomer. While junior employees are attracted to career progression in correlation to increased merit, experienced professionals tend to look for longevity in their investment at an employer which includes managing people, culture, a growth plan and opportunity. 

In the same Hubspot study mentioned above it was noted that even with the right talent, only half of businesses are equipped to encourage personal career growth.  Taking this into consideration, we must also think about how we can continue to keep our talent motivated when some of the traditional forms of measuring career progression, e.g. promotion, salary increases, etc. may not be an option. 

At the IAB SEA+India Professional Conversion Program, a government-funded training programme looking at re-skilling new entrants into the programmatic industry, 90% of participants noted that they were looking to expand their skill sets and progress to manage people within the next  6-12 months. With this in mind, we can make three key considerations when looking at growing and sustaining talent in Southeast Asia and India: 

  1. Thinking more laterally for industries that can work for hires, particularly for junior to mid-level management roles.
  2. Changing the perception that success only relates to moving into people management and finding new ways to motivate your talent. 
  3. For business leaders, commercial success is fundamental to their role, making out-of-industry hires less likely to be successful. 


This thought leadership article was written by IAB SEA+India Programmatic Committee Members Janat Kiwanuka, Platforms Manager, SEA, Google Marketing Platform and Isabella Sjogern, Programmatic Partnership Manager, APAC, CBS Interactive