Despite ending up as an advertising data and technology specialist, Lara Izlan studied economics at undergraduate level at an Ivy League university. Though she loved the subject, she found the classical way in which the economic theories were taught were rigid and the assumptions flawed. “I started taking elective courses in fields like psychology, statistics and computer science, which gave me a new perspective on the questions I had,” she explained.
"I was trained to consider problems from multiple angles."
Izlan later went on to study social psychology, now more commonly known as behavioural science, to understand the user behind the technology. Two years after her master’s degree she went on to study an MBA. Though her educational foundation may seem like an unorthodox background, Izlan said that it has helped her in her data career. “My formal education has indulged my sense of questioning and trained me to consider problems from multiple angles, to ‘triangulate’ a solution. It is the approach I take when working with data, technology and any number of daily baffling challenges,” she said.
Throughout Izlan’s career as an advertising data and technology specialist, she has amassed a wealth of experience including “a trove of failures and successes.”
"Sharing lessons and discussing them is a learning in and of itself."
Several of those successes took place at AutoTrader, an automotive classified advertising business. They were: the launching of AutoTrader’s data management platform, the modernising of its programmatic trading business, the building of an in-house media buying team and the development of a commercial strategy for the automotive data. She has decided to take her experience of such career highs, as well as lows, and share them as learning opportunities through mentoring. “I have found mentoring to be so fulfilling. The process of sharing those lessons and discussing them in new contexts is a learning in and of itself. Hopefully, the mentee also gets some useful input into their professional journey.”
Learning has been a constant throughout her career as she said that due to the ever-evolving landscape of data and technology, she has been given many opportunities to try new things and meet talented individuals from whom she was able to learn on a daily basis.
In addition to her work at AutoTrader, building great teams is another career highlight for Izlan, but she said that would not have been able to do so without working with talented individuals. For her, achieving great work is a product of having a great team.
“I’ve had the pleasure of leading teams of graduates, analysts and specialists who came together and created an atmosphere of generosity and trust, in which each person was empowered to challenge, experiment and get the most out of each other,” she said.
Her work with data saw her and her team focussing on progressing a number of data-driven initiatives. Examples include the continuous development of the advertiser insights dashboard, powered by web analytics and Big Query, that illustrates how consumer engagement with brands change over time, and troubleshooting the technology blockers for a data collaboration with a media partner.
"Having happier employees ultimately benefits the company."
Izlan is also a big believer in happiness being a blend of purpose and pleasure, and experiences that are all of one and none of the other will seem overwhelming. “Getting back to a healthy balance can seem impossible. Thankfully there is a growing movement within companies to recognise the importance of work and life balance, and that having happier employees ultimately benefits the company, as well as nurturing the individual and their families.”
She advises people to try to achieve that healthy balance, especially if they are in a senior leadership position and can inspire others that to look up to them to do the same.