The Digital Dozen is a series of profile interviews with thought leaders in the technology industry. Here we speak with Ally Stuart, Managing Director, EMEA, Sharethrough – native advertising company – about his career path and ask the question on everyone’s lips… what’s your favourite doughnut?
Name your three best qualities.
I did a Johari Window exercise (look it up!) with my team as part of a recent workshop and their semi-anonymous top answers were: calm, intelligent and adaptable.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your working life?
That done is better than perfect. I started out as a bit of a perfectionist, but soon realised that it’s better to finish something, get feedback and improve.
What has been your best idea yet?
I think it was enrolling in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme when I moved into product management. It’s a government-funded scheme that matches academics and graduates (me at the time) to help drive innovation and growth within a business. It gave me a really solid grounding in my new role, as well as great mentorship.
What advice have you been given that made a difference?
That you need to know when to ‘fire’ yourself. Throughout my career I’ve worked in pretty entrepreneurial roles that have involved wearing lots of hats. An old boss said I needed to judge when it’s time to fire myself from a role/project and either find someone to take it on or kill it.
It’s important for company growth and stopping individual burnout, but it’s tough giving away responsibilities (especially if it’s something I enjoy). It’s really a matter of hiring people you trust and giving them autonomy to take things forward.
What’s the best thing about your work?
The team we have at Sharethrough is amazing, but I think the thing that I like most is our mission. I am a firm believer in the ad-funded internet and the importance of quality journalism being free and available for everyone. This aligns well with the Sharethrough mission – to empower publishers to control their own destiny so they can create content that moves humanity forward.
What do you think will be big in media in ten years’ time?
Not sure where a ten-year forecast fits on Amara’s law but I’m excited about the prospect of technology creating more frictionless experiences. There are lots of fields (like augmented reality) that are very experimental at the moment but should revolutionise the way we experience the world as they develop.
10 years ago the iPhone was released and arguably the last 10 years have been the ‘years of mobile’. But I think the next chapter is about moving beyond the screen and finding ways of creating more seamless and intuitive experiences, be it directions, messaging, or journalism.
What career path would you advise your children to follow?
I had my first child at the start of February so this feels like a pertinent question. If I can’t live out my professional football dreams vicariously through him, then I’d be pleased if he took some sort of design path. I feel that a design education is very transferable and would be pretty future proof.
What career path would you be following if you weren’t in your current job?
Probably some sort of product design role. I like solving those kinds of problems to help businesses become more future facing.
Which TV programme would you like to star in?
It would be great to star in Match Of The Day. I’m picturing me scoring the winner for Bristol City against Man City to go to the top of the Premier League. Who knows, if I’d been a bit luckier (and had a lot more natural ability) it could have happened.
Who would be your four perfect dinner guests?
I’m going to presume they are coming over to mine so my wife is already there. Joining us I’d have:
Tim Urban (Editor at Wait But Why): I spend a lot of time on waitbutwhy.com – Tim has an amazing capacity to take a complex subject and make it both interesting and funny.
Sarah Koenig (Producer and Presenter of Serial & This American Life): Another fascinating storyteller. It would be good to take the podcast in real life.
James Murphy (American Musician, LCD Soundsystem): My mate was his chef for a while and not only does he create incredible music but he apparently has exceptional taste in wine!
Bill Murray: Every year at SXSW you’d hear rumours that he’s popped up bartending and I think he’d be a cracking final guest.
What three items would you take to a desert island?
Not something that particularly appeals. I think I’d take a solar powered phone (to call for help), a Kindle (to entertain myself while I wait to be picked up) and some shades (it’s hard to read in direct sun).
And finally, the question on everyone’s lips… what’s your favourite doughnut?
One of my team members, Jonny, brought in a couple of fresh boxes of Krispy Kremes on his first day (smart move) and having sampled a variety I think my favourite is a straight up Original Glazed.