In this edition, we caught up with Stephen Short, PMA Rising Star of 2020. Stephen is the Product Lead at Awin. When awarding Stephen, the judges commented on the fact that at just 24 years old, Stephen was promoted to senior product manager – the youngest in Awin’s history. They said: “His innovative ideas have revolutionised the way things work at Awin and the ways their clients engage with us.”

Niamh Butler-Walton wanted to find out how Stephen has grown and progressed over the past year, especially during the pandemic.

Has your role or responsibilities changed since you took the Rising Star crown? What do your current responsibilities in your role look like?

Since being awarded with the Rising Star, my role has changed from Product Manager to Product Lead. That means less of a focus as an individual contributor (although I do still enjoy being hands-on) and more of a focus on helping a team of product managers to grow and create great products with their engineering teams.

I primarily look after the tracking service as we strive towards making sure advertisers have the best-practice sale measurement methods implemented to ensure publishers are fairly attributed for every conversion that they drive.

How do you feel that winning the Rising Star award motivated or influenced your career moves since?

I first heard about Awin when a recruiter attended one of my university’s lectures looking for internships for the Technical Services department. Coming through the internship programme at Awin and being fortunate to receive many opportunities on the way, which culminated with the award, I have a lot of time for the internship programme at Awin and especially for the managers who champion it. Being awarded the Rising Star helped me reflect on that journey and I hope to begin to support that programme.

2020 was a very difficult year for many. What were some of the career challenges you faced during this period, and how did you overcome them?

On a day-to-day basis, I’m fortunate to work with a group of incredibly talented engineers in one of our development hubs in Hannover, Germany. These teams look after our Tracking Technologies at Awin. Even pre-pandemic this brought about it’s remote challenges with myself being based in the North of England, but I’d try to get out there once a month for a few days to have some planning sessions (and drinks). 

With the growth of the company, we now have many ‘new’ faces that I’ve been seeing over video calls every working day for 18 months without meeting them in person – that’s tough. I still wonder how tall they are…

Are there any projects that you are working on currently that are particularly exciting to you?

Consent is a hot-topic that isn’t going away over the coming years, unfortunately there is a distinct lack of technologists in legislative chambers around the globe. That being said, I’ve been working in a cross-functional team to make it as simple as possible for our partners to pass us consumer consent status while maintaining optimal sale measurement and attribution in any given circumstance.

This is a constantly evolving topic and I always find it interesting hearing from our team of legal experts on the latest developments as they unfold with new interpretations and legislation always being announced around the world.

Looking forward to another years’ time, what are some of your goals and aspirations for the next moves in your career?

When applying for universities it was a real toss-up between pursuing Computer Science, which I was okay at, versus something more like a business or management degree – which I actually enjoyed! I chose the former. With Awin’s new four day working week (not #sponsored), I’ve been able to begin an MBA programme and begin to fulfil the latter desire, so completing that is a particular goal.

As for the next few years, I think I work best at the interchange where business and technology meet and so I am to continue in a role and on projects that support that.

What would be your number one piece of advice for the future rising stars in regards to entering the industry, and thriving within it?

For me, I’ve found finding your niche to be incredibly beneficial as a catalyst for career growth and providing value to the industry.

Towards the beginning and end of careers, people tend to lean towards a generalist role, whether that’s someone fresh to the industry dipping their toes in many pools because they are learning. Or a manager, who is spread across many domains and functions in a leadership capacity.

But finding your niche, something that interests you, that you can spend a fair amount of time crafting your specialism to create expertise and be called upon as the go-to person in that domain – that’s pretty valuable.

People may think in an established industry going twenty years that all the niches are taken. I feel we’re still very early, and there are opportunities to specialise everywhere whether that be card-linking, App Tracking, Podcasts as the new influencer frontier, or even just being an incredible storyteller and presenter within your organisation.

If you want to see who this years’ judging panel and the industry voters selected as 2021’s Rising Star, you can download the Book of the Night for free.

You can now register to vote for the International Performance Marketing Awards 2021 Industry Choice categories. Sign up to be part of the decision making process.