“Ad tech moves faster than any other industry,” explains Rikki Decker. She’s talking about her deep fascination with all things ad tech, which began soon after graduating from the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business and shows no signs of abating.
Rikki became the Vice President, Account Management of AAX in October of 2020, a now-famously unprecedented year full of tumultuous change. But for Rikki Decker, expecting the unexpected has always been part of working within the ad tech sphere. In fact, she asserts that the challenges and the sense of discovery are what make ad tech so dynamic.
“With ad tech there’s a sense that anything could happen,” she says. “It’s empowering. You can start from scratch; you can come up with new, unheard-of solutions.”
Rikki took time to chat with us about her time so far at AAX, how an interest in analytics has shaped the impressive arc of her career, and what she thinks both ad tech and workplace life in general will look in the latter half of 2021 and beyond.
AAX: Let’s start with your history. Tell us a little bit about how you got interested in ad tech!
Rikki Decker: Rikki Decker: The seeds of my interest were there from the beginning! In college I originally pursued marketing, adding finance because I loved the data side of it. I was always interested in consumer analytics.
My first job after college was outside of ad tech, and I knew immediately that I wanted to move to ad tech. This led to a position in campaign management, which was deeply exciting and contained this sense of continual newness: the feeling in ad tech that follows you every step of the way.
AAX: Was it this aspect of ad tech—the excitement—that you see as steering your career trajectory?
Rikki Decker: That, and an interest in analytics. Because analytics are a way to understand the world. I’ve always been fascinated by a couple of essential questions: what makes people tick on a macro level? What drives humans?
And the answers, I’ve found, can only be understood through data and analytics.
AAX: And what are some other key experiences that you see as leading, ultimately, to your role as VP, Account Management at AAX?
Rikki Decker: It comes down to a combination of autonomy and working within a team. When I look back at another campaign management role—where I was actually the second trader hired—the lessons I learned were primarily how to be autonomous, how to work within uncharted territory, dealing with multiple variables and new challenges.
After that I became more passionate about coaching and training. I started a weekly trader roundtable, sharing resources and mentoring. Then, when I moved into a role as a team lead, I gained more exposure to high-level decision making. This allowed me to scale up the team, and that’s when the training process became even more important. That gives you a sense of how better to move ahead.
AAX: How do you see AAX moving ahead?
Rikki Decker: I’m excited, frankly! AAX is a newer company, and we have this strong, lean team. We’re starting something, and there’s that sense of exploration and creation: we’re going to expand and grow together.
AAX: No conversation of any kind these days is complete without a discussion of how the world is changing post- 2020. What are some of the challenges and opportunities you see ahead?
Rikki DeckerRegulation is definitely a factor. There’s been a ton of regulation, which has led to a number of amazing, innovative solutions. But it also leads to questions: will regulation at the state level in the USA lead to federal regulation? How will companies deal with regulations? Also, I think 2021 is going to see a lot of development around Identity and a unified solution, and it’s going to be interesting to see how things change. Ad tech moves faster than every other industry.
My biggest takeaway from 2020 is that there’s more flexibility coming to the industry. One of those things is: remote work. Last year really opened people’s eyes to the fact that work from home…works. The flexibility is liberating.
It’s a subject that’s especially relevant to me, because I am remote work—I live in Washington DC and 2020’s work from home revolution is what allowed me to be here, in the role as AAX VP, Account Management.
Before 2020, I thought I’d have to move to the ad tech center of New York. I didn’t want to leave DC, but I talked to my husband and said ‘I love ad tech, so we might have to move.’ Now, as it turns out, I can have a job I love in the city I call home.
Another bonus? Working from home has also given me the opportunity to welcome a new puppy, Bailey!