From traditional to programmatic: Mapping Sadia Akhter's MENA journey

PubMatic, renowned for pioneering digital advertising solutions, has recently welcomed Sadia Akhter as its Director of Advertising for the MENA region. With an illustrious career spanning over two decades in media and advertising, Akhter brings a wealth of experience garnered from diverse leadership roles encompassing sales, operations, and client services. Prior to her appointment at PubMatic, she held prominent positions such as Co-Founder & Managing Director at Sociallyz, Managing Director at FreakOut MENA, and Regional Managing Director at Addictive Mobility.In an exclusive conversation with Adgully Middle East, Sadia Akhter, Director of Advertiser Solutions - MENA at PubMatic, provides insights into the company's strategic vision for the region. Emphasizing the growing prominence of women in advertising, she delves into the evolving landscape and the significant contributions made by women, highlighting their inherent strengths in shaping the industry's future trajectory.Please talk a little about PubMaticPubMatic (Nasdaq: PUBM) is an independent technology company maximizing customer value by delivering digital advertising’s supply chain of the future. PubMatic’s sell-side platform empowers the world’s leading digital content creators across the open internet to control access to their inventory and increase monetization by enabling marketers to drive return on investment and reach addressable audiences across ad formats and devices. Since 2006, our infrastructure-driven approach has allowed for the efficient processing and utilization of data in real time. By delivering scalable and flexible programmatic innovation, we improve outcomes for our customers while championing a vibrant and transparent digital advertising supply chain.What is PubMatic’s roadmap in MENA?PubMatic is committed to building the digital advertising supply chain of the future, across the MENA region. To achieve this goal, PubMatic has been increasing its investments in the region and providing its growing client base with best-in-class technology that spans various formats such as CTV, online video, digital display, mobile and more. Following the success of recent product launches such as Activate, our solution that puts buyers in control of their media-buying strategy while simultaneously driving more revenue to publishers, and Convert, our unified advertising and buying commerce media platform which leverages PubMatic’s expertise in monetisation and digital advertising, we are very much looking forward to growing the business and delivering the best value to our clients.Women outnumber men in the advertising industry yet are underrepresented in leadership roles. Your thoughts? Also, please elaborate on your role in advertising. Advertising has historically been a field where women have excelled, as evidenced by their high representation in the industry. However, they often find themselves underrepresented in leadership roles compared to men, revealing that gender biases are still present. Addressing these systemic issues requires widespread behaviour shifts, a cause I've advocated for throughout my career.At PubMatic, where I primarily oversee the buy-side client relationships across the MENA region, we actively recognise and support women’s talent, providing them with opportunities to step into leadership roles. Amélie Grenier-Bolay's journey is a testament to this support. Having been with PubMatic for eight years, she has progressed into a leadership role as the Country Manager for Italy and MENA. Her path highlights the nurturing environment PubMatic cultivates, enabling women to grow and progress into leadership positions.How can men go from being part of the problem to part of the solution?Men can play a pivotal role in advancing gender equality, be it in the workplace or at home. In my case, I’ve worked with several male leaders who never made me feel that I had to push for equality. I was actively encouraged to participate in business decisions, share my expertise, and learn from those experiences.  Generally, I’d urge men to listen to women more and build a foundation of trust and respect in the corporate world. Such a foundation will help men avoid seeing work through the lens of gender and ally with women for common goals. It will help recruiters choose the best person for the job; not the best man. In the context of the corporate world, what are the prevailing challenges for women aspiring for leadership positions? How would you tackle them?Social perceptions, gender stereotypes, and biases pose significant challenges to women, often disrupting and discouraging their journey toward leadership roles. Education is key to addressing such issues. Training programmes and awareness campaigns can help mitigate unconscious bias in hiring, promotion, and performance evaluation processes.  Another important issue would be work-life balance. Balancing leadership responsibilities with family and personal commitments can be challenging for women due to societal expectations and limited support systems. Implementing flexible work arrangements and parental leave policies can enable women in leadership positions to balance their professional and personal responsibilities more effectively.  What has helped you achieve work-life balance?Constant help and encouragement from my husband have been integral to my work-life balance. We have no defined gender roles in our household — we tackle things as they come, with whoever is free handling the task at hand at any given time. Leadership is also about nurturing the next generation of leaders. What is your message for women leaders of tomorrow? Use your voice. Trust your knowledge — you know more than you think you do. The more you believe you belong in the room, the more confident you will feel.Please share personal experiences of navigating gender biases at any point in your career. Gender biases work in mysterious ways. When I first relocated to the Middle East from the UK, I remember attending an industry event where I felt pressured into joining a panel discussion on a market I had been in for only three weeks. My inclusion did not quite feel natural but forced, likely because I’m a woman. I have subsequently cultivated a belief that if I’m an expert in a field, I will not hesitate to share my thoughts. If I lack the necessary expertise, I gladly pass on the opportunity to someone who does. Similarly, it is not uncommon to experience “mansplaining”, which I believe can be navigated through confidence, upskilling, and perseverance. How have women inspired you in your journey? Please elaborate on their influence on your career and leadership style. Over the last 20 years, numerous women at different junctures have inspired me. I've drawn distinctive inspirations from those women mentors and incorporated them as I forged my own path to success. But there are common, stand-out traits among them: Emotional Intelligence and maturity. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a crucial, often overlooked aspect of leadership. Those traits enabled them to lead by example, take risks, break biases, and succeed.Why do you think is the observance of Women’s Day important? How does it impact the global discourse on gender equality?I had always wondered why just one day was dedicated to women when we deserve recognition and appreciation throughout the year. However, after learning about systemic inequalities and injustice faced by women over centuries, I understood the need to dedicate a day to resolutely acknowledge the impact and importance of women in all walks of life, shed light on prevailing challenges, and create an action plan to address them.

PubMatic appoints Sadia Akhter as Director, Advertiser Solutions, MENA

PubMatic, an independent technology company delivering digital advertising’s supply chain of the future, has appointed Sadia Akhter as Director, Advertiser Solutions, MENA. Akhter takes the helm as the primary commercial leader overseeing the buy-side clients as PubMatic advances its business in the region. Based in Dubai, Sadia will report directly to PubMatic’s Country Manager, Italy & MENA, Amélie Grenier-Bolay.“We are investing resources to support our clients in MENA further. And as a leader with deep experience in the industry, Akhter will help us consolidate our position in this market,” said Grenier-Bolay, Country Manager, Italy & MENA, PubMatic. “Sadia’s expertise in leading strategic initiatives that drive omnichannel trading and supply path optimization across multiple platforms and screens makes her an excellent candidate to achieve PubMatic’s growth goals in these areas.”Akhter comes to PubMatic with 20 years of experience in media and advertising in various leadership roles in sales, operations and client services. Before joining PubMatic, she held numerous commercial positions, including Co-Founder & MD at Sociallyz, Managing Director at FreakOut MENA, and Regional Managing Director at Addictive Mobility. As a result of significant investment in the region, PubMatic works with several local partners, including Rotana, Sky News Arabia, and Arabyads. Akhter will be responsible for developing these client relationships, besides growing the company’s client base and building innovative solutions that meet the needs of both advertisers and publishers. “Having experienced the evolution of media and advertising throughout my career, I am thrilled to help PubMatic expand our omnichannel offerings to a wider audience of media buyers and advertisers,” said Akhter.“PubMatic’s best-in-class technology, spanning CTV, online video, display, mobile, and new commerce media offering, combined with our dedicated team of experts, will help drive programmatic success. PubMatic has long been one of the biggest players in our industry in the global arena and, following the success of recent launches such as Activate — which puts buyers in control of their media buying strategy while simultaneously driving more revenue to publishers — I’m very much looking forward to growing the business and delivering the best value for our clients,” Akhter added.Commenting on the appointment, Cristian Coccia, Regional Vice President of Southern Europe & MENA at PubMatic, said, “Sadia’s appointment is a significant milestone in PubMatic’s ongoing expansion in the region. We are delighted to welcome Sadia to our EMEA team. Her impressive breadth of experience and industry relationships will be vital in accelerating our continuous growth.”