Posts Tagged Belgrade

Sunday Column (459)

Monday again – ok Sunday when you start reading this. A mixed week is behind me which started with a Monday flight to Belgrade, Serbia. I have never been, heard a lot and went to see the operations office of the company, Sizmek, that acquired the company I work for, Rocket Fuel.

As a VP Client Success I joined Rocket Fuel back in January, anticipating that they either sell or be taken private. I have seen their history from being a competitor to being a partner to being a supplier and knew most of the people there. And I have been around in programmatic for 7 years, so a good fit I thought, but also a bit risky. Then the sale happened this summer and we are now part of Sizmek, backed by a P.E. Company (Private Equity) which originally took Sizmek private last year. So we have two ex public companies joining forces to build the biggest independent demand side stack in the programmatic space. This is a very promising proposition and I was very excited to be part of this. A great proposition.

With my commercial background and in depth operational knowledge, I was hired to align the back office, operations and analytics, with key accounts to drive further growth. Using my commercial acumen with the understanding of the space and experience of how to run campaigns, aligning back office with client growth. We never quite completed that as I was pulled in to run the German office where I successfully managed a turn around. So two senior jobs since the beginning of the year, lots of travel, lots of time away from the family. Now, the structure moving forward will look different. Less client success, more of an operations and sales divide. So things will change with the company and ultimately for me.

Belgrade. Air Serbia, and again a bit of nerve wrecking when my ticket had a spelling mistake, but everything was fine, and a very hard landing with squeaking brakes. I trust old planes 😉 Air Serbia got me there and back again. Belgrade is a city which on first sight resembled the Eastern part of Berlin 20 years ago, yet it turned out to be beautiful and full of the nicest people ever. Lots of meaty food, lovely people and very rich on culture with influences from Russia, Turkey, Hungary and Greece. It took me back to a trip I made to Istanbul a few years back. The merger of East and West, the tradition, cultural influences from all over the region and the amazing, well flavoured food. I believe I got a good feel for the people and the country. Essentiallly, due to travel times, we only spend two days in the office, however those two days were action packed and we learned a lot.

You remember when I spoke about experience in last week’s blog? That’s what it is all about. Understanding. Listening. Sharing the glass of wine and good food. Making friends and bringing people together. An amazing trip, not only for work and the extension of what we are doing in main markets, but to understand the challenges and opportunities in the Serbian market.

What did I noticed most in terms of the cultural differences – besides a noisy hotel that felt like a youth hostel on the first night (and the manager emailed me to apologise) – people still smoke a lot and you can still smoke in restaurants and bars. Yes, this is more of a Southern culture I suppose. Funny how after only 10 years (the smoking ban was introduced in the UK in 2007), we got so used to having smoke free clothes. I quit chain smoking in 1998, then smoked on and off until about 2004 before I finally gave up. Even that is crazy to think now. And given the lack of sleep, I introduced a second espresso again, and I really needed it 🙂 Not only because of the noise but we wanted to make the most with our hosts to get to know them in and out of the office.

So you would agree I suppose that this week was action packed. Enjoyable, tiring, yet encouraging and full of learning. A roller coaster ride on emotions and reflection on strengths and experience. What else to ask for?

Over the forthcoming weeks I can be more detailed about some personal developments, plans and some ideas; I prepared a few posts on life, work and priorities. Christmas is coming up and Tesco has already filled a whole aisle with things that are Christmassy. Oh yes, the joyful season. We had friends over for dinner, went bowling and enjoyed this autumn weekend.

I hope you did too. It is great to hear from more and more people that they enjoy reading this column. For the forthcoming weeks, keep reading, I will go deeper on a few things. And feel free to let me know what you want me to write about.

Have an amazing week ahead,
Volker

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