Yellow Belts: 18 Months of Wisdom
This is a story about those people who are not quite sure which career path to choose but are hungry for challenges, ready to learn, and not afraid of an undefined tomorrow. By entering the Adform Yellow Belt Program, these people commit to 18 months in which to obtain a wealth of different types of knowledge and experience from all departments within the company. If acquired successfully... the black belt awaits.
The idea of having the /Black Belt Program in Adform came around two years ago as a result of HR‘s constant question: How do we get project managers with a very broad skillset? We realized that when recruiting, we often were focusing on very specific competencies – either the perfect service mindset or super techy talents. We then thought that it would be tremendously good to have people in our company with a wide range of experience and broad knowledge to pass on to future project leaders. People who are able to manage cross-functional projects. And that’s how we created the role officially called Project Management Specialist/Yellow Belt.
Being part of the Yellow Belt Program involves migrating to different teams in order to learn an abundance of new things: Advertising Campaign Coordination, Site Tracking, Brand Solutions, Product Management, Events Management, and more.
Furthermore, participants in the Yellow Belt Program receive two mentors – a functional leader and Mats Persson, Adform’s Chief Operating Officer. Mats is the founder and active ambassador of this program and interviews every “yellow belt” during the tough and very intense recruiting process. The role of the mentors is to guide and support each “yellow belt” during their journey, and to eventually identify their strengths and abilities so that they can take their next career step.
In order to gain a deeper understanding of what this program gives to its participants, we had an informal chat with them. Here is their feedback:
How did you decide to apply for this role?
Domas Ivanauskas: I first encountered Adform as an extraordinary gazelle company (HUGE growth year on year), and I understood I would really love to experience what it means to work in such dynamic environment. The role seemed to match my previous experience working in cross-teams; thus, I decided I just had to apply. :)
Vytautas Butkus: I was told about it by one person from HR at an Adform event. Coming from a very varied background with no obvious “profession,” I was like “This program was made for me!”
Vytautas Jakštys: Domas Ivanauskas suggested I join the program. I was working for another company at the time – really great company – but was struggling to find proper guidance to kickstart my career. The possibility of having a mentor AND a supervisor (two cool people to learn from) sounded like a good idea. The IT field was also something I was thinking about; no previous experience, though. It all kind of fit.
Antanas Strimaitis: To be honest, at the beginning, I had no idea that I would be offered this position. Thanks to two wonderful people, Jurgita and Dainius, I made my way to Adform. During that time they offered to let me join this company, but there were not any suitable open positions. So I was introduced to our COO, Mats Persson. He introduced me to the Yellow Belt Program, and this was an offer I could not refuse.
Ieva Griškūnaitė: As Mats once said, “Smart people often know a lot of other smart people.” I was recommended by Antanas, who, when he heard that I was looking for a job in this area, forwarded my CV to Adform’s HR.
What did you like the most about it?
Domas Ivanauskas: I like that Adform is a flat-structure company, so during projects (say analyzing one of our features, preparing a pitch for a client) it was possible to get support and feedback from various colleagues. Also, it was very interesting to work with very diverse teams: client support, finance, development and sales.
Vytautas Jakštys: There were three things I loved the most:
a. Mentorship. I was lucky to have a really smart and dedicated mentor – put me on track fast and challenged me often enough. Result – changed my way of looking at product development and (a bit) the world.
b. Freedom and responsibility. With some guidance, it was always my decision what I wanted to do – my mentor/supervisor would say if it made sense or not and/or challenge whether it was beneficial or good enough. That being said, I always felt (and still feel) responsible for the stuff I do within the company. Given the freedom and the responsibility, I had a chance to be a part of or even drive parts of strategic products and clients within the company. This meant even more freedom and even more responsibility.
c. Challenge. I had no knowledge of IT, product management, display advertising, etc. It was a huge challenge to learn it all. It is a huge challenge to use the knowledge properly now. It‘s also a challenge to keep up with the new products emerging within the industry. Many days are a challenge – I love that.
What were your key learning points from the program?
Domas Ivanauskas: My key learning is that in order to make stakeholders happy, one needs to be open and proactive.
Antanas Strimaitis: The main thing so far that I have learned is how the digital advertisement business is handled. What are the different products like DMP, DSP, SPP, and TPAS and how do they work from a technical perspective? I had never thought that while I am waiting for a webpage to load, tons of processes happen and terabytes of data are processed just to show me the most relevant ads.
Another area is related to my rotation amongst the departments. I started in client support just to become familiar with our system and help clients feel comfortable using it as well. Then I moved to the Real Time Bidding team, where I finally understood what sort of magic we do and where the digital advertisement business is heading. I had a wonderful experience with the Creative Production team, and now I am currently working in the Finances department, where I am doing daily tasks related to Billing, Accounting, and Corporate Development.
What type of person do you have to be to take this yellow belt challenge?
Vytautas Butkus: Open-minded, offer solutions (not problems), flexible, communicative. I always try to follow one rule: “When faced with an option to choose the hard way or the easy way, always choose the hard way. You will come out stronger at the end of it.”
Vytautas Jakštys: One has to be ready to not know what tomorrow will bring. Not only does the industry evolve really fast – the products and responsibilities change even faster!
Would you recommend that others participate in this program? Why?
Vytautas Jakštys: Yes, absolutely. I‘ve been out of my comfort zone constantly, not understanding what people are talking about (happens less and less, thankfully), having to learn things fast and make quick decisions along the way. That being said, the support from others is awesome – you can ask a lot of very basic questions and they’re always answered; having someone senior as a mentor and a supervisor brings another benefit to the table. Opportunities to grow – check; challenge – check; amazing people on the way – check. What else can one ask for?
Antanas Strimaitis: I would definitely recommend participation in the Yellow Belt Program. Adform provides you with everything you need to become a professional. If you are not sure what you are good at, your mentor will help you to realize it. This is a professional growth program that every company should have.
So this was the story of our Yellow Belt Program and the opportunities it offers. We strongly believe that by gaining different types of experience solving a variety of complex organizational projects, our “yellow belts” became irreplaceable assets to the Adform team. There is no doubt that this program is a huge success, and we see all our participants as exceptional talents, true Adform spirits who continue to aspire for more. HR strongly recommends that you be emphatic, innovative, and brave – the opportunities are here, but they won’t wait for you. You have to work hard to make your dreams come true, and we have the tools to make that possible! Good luck!
Interested? Apply here.