Hello! I’m David Denes Pall and I work as an AdOps Specialist helping internal sales and account management teams with technical questions. 2020 was an unusual yet very successful year for Criteo. Let me share my insights on the peak of the year: the famous Holiday Sales Season.
2020. The year when everything turned upside down from almost one week to another. Governments, hospitals, schools, businesses, practically all of us had to adapt to some sort of new normalities. A year with many challenges requiring stamina and a sense of positivity. I wonder, how many times I heard You are on mute this year.
But life, education and business could not stop. At Criteo we came together as a family, as our CEO, Megan Clarken calls our global team, and completed a demanding but successful year. If you work in marketing you know how important the year-end Holiday Sales Season is with brands focusing a larger part of their resources on the last quarter of the year. For these busy months we gathered all the learnings from the previous months (and the pandemic) and did our best to help grow our clients.
Now, in one of the last days of the year, accompanied by a hot coffee, I’m reflecting on my first Holiday Sales Season at Criteo: What made us and our clients successful? What did we do well and what did we learn? In my opinion, the answers lie not only in our great technology and processes but also around Criteo’s people-focused approach.
Planning in times of uncertainty
As an AdOps Specialist, my job is to answer technical requests coming from Criteo’s Commercial teams. Projecting workload for the peak season was almost impossible in 2020. The only certainty was that it is going to be a really busy period for us all. Therefore, our team set up a pre-check process for requests coming from business teams.
We defined a few checkpoints to review when a query arrives so that when we later get to fixing the issue there would be no time lost waiting for other stakeholder’s inputs. This pre-check process made us much more efficient, contributing to answer double the number of requests on our busiest weeks compared to the 2020 average. We are now analyzing our operational metrics to determine if this process improvement would help AdOps to be more efficient in the long term.
Technical + Commercial teams = one FAMILY
No process improvements can succeed if team members applying them don’t communicate effectively. When thinking back of our busiest week, I recall a rainy Saturday when I was all alone in my room at home doing my shift after Thanksgiving. (Our team provided on-call emergency support on that weekend in case something went wrong for our clients.)
As you can imagine, since it was a weekend and I had no meetings at all, I almost felt lonely in front of my computer. However, we had a company chat room where product engineering was giving regular updates to business teams on their own unique way like Servers are up and running. Turkey is in the oven. Or Data-flow OK. Pie OK. Even though I was by myself at my desk this kind of funny interaction between product and commercial teams really made my day. I felt content to know we were many Criteos on that weekend all over the world doing our best for our clients (and beloved ones).
I believe an important value at Criteo is that even though we are spread across 18 countries, we collaborate as a team. This was no different during this Holiday Season. I’m lucky to say that in my team we’ve built trust between each other and with the management taking care of our daily responsibilities in the remote setting.
Team meetings play a crucial part in our group dynamics: management shares their updates and listens to feedback from the team. But why not spend the last 10 minutes of each meeting having some off-topic fun? During the lockdown, we’ve started to organise quizzes around areas like board games or beers selected by a volunteer quiz master. Thanks to these games we did not only learn interesting facts but also got closer together as a team.
Apart from our weekly two team meetings Criteo organised other activities which helped us stay engaged despite the remote settings. My favourite was the Donut break when people from the same office/region were randomly paired week by week to have a 30-minute virtual meeting. Thanks to this initiative I got to know my own teammates better and also Criteos from other countries. For example, I got one step closer to understand what our Engineering Interns do on an average day.
Staying mentally healthy
The last quarter (and the whole year) of 2020 was challenging on many different levels. Criteo guaranteed from the very beginning of the pandemic that our well-being remains in the centre. Of course, reaching our business objectives stayed key, however only after our mental health. The company offered continuous work from home support, such as helping with the home work space furniture or offering psychological counselling.
I personally could not have dealt with the heavy workload without taking care of my mental well-being first. Taking advantage of the warm Spanish November/December I often spent my lunch breaks having an espresso at a local café or running up to the hill of Passeig de les Aigües. Every time I reached the top I stopped for a moment, took a deep breath and looked at the office building from far away where I interviewed for my AdOps job back in the days
A moment of gratitude
It seems home office, virtual coffee breaks and sentences at meetings like I cannot hear you well will stay with us in 2021. This year was a challenging and adventurous one. I am lucky to work in a company whose operation was affected by COVID-19 but not interrupted in its essence. In a company where everything starts with people in order to help our clients succeed.
Distancing a little bit from my individual AdOps role and the sector I work in, I do appreciate the work of everyone who helped us through 2020: healthcare workers, teachers, family members, friends. Everyone.
I wish you a calm and successful New Year!
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