Yahoo's Nate McCoy stands against a white wall with a geometric pattern smiling at the camera. He is wearing an orange t-shirt.
Nate McCoy. Image: © Connor McKenna/

These are the skills you need to work in the adtech industry

8 Jun 2022

Yahoo’s Nate McCoy breaks down what it’s like under the hood of advertising technology and shares his advice for those coming into the industry.

We’re bombarded with advertising everywhere we go. In a world where marketing it is becoming more and more centred around technology, opportunities in advertising technology, or adtech, are skyrocketing.

Everything from software engineers and developers to data scientists and product managers are needed in adtech. But what exactly is it? sat down with Yahoo’s global head of adtech engineering, Nate McCoy, to find out.

“Almost every time you see an ad on the internet, an auction is run. That auction is run by the publisher who has some space to sell. And they’re running that auction, typically, with a whole bunch of other companies,” said McCoy.

“Each of those companies represents tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of advertisers, all who could be potentially interested in getting their ad in front of your eyeballs at that moment in time.”

The skills you need to work in the adtech industry will vary depending on what area you’re working in. However, given that the customer journey is particularly important in advertising, a customer-centric mindset is key across the board.

This is particularly important at a time when online advertising is viewed with a certain level of scepticism from many, which McCoy acknowledged.

He said that while the bad side of adtech is the “creepy ads that follow you around”, it can also serve as an opportunity to give people interesting and relevant ads that are served at a time at which they are open to receive said advertising.

“As a person who doesn’t particularly like advertising, mostly because it’s irrelevant and not timed for my interest, I actually am a huge fan of making sure that people’s interests are kept at the centre of what we do,” said McCoy.

Adtech professionals also need to be privacy-driven and aware of the regulatory landscape when it comes to advertising. McCoy flagged these as two of the biggest challenges facing the industry at the moment.

“Almost every state will have their own take on what is the right regulatory policy. How do we work with all of them to comply? And what’s the least common denominator that can apply to all of them?” These are the questions tech workers such as McCoy must be able to answer.

Adtech is extremely data-driven and many of the opportunities in the industry right now are related to data science, data engineering and analytics. Those who want to work in the industry will need to be able to effectively disseminate data and communicate the results effectively with stakeholders.

McCoy said that for those starting out there are plenty of small, niche players that can help early-career professionals hit the ground running. But to get into a wider environment with higher transactions and huge-scale problems to solve, he advised moving to a larger company.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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