“My Career Journey” is an interview series where we showcase the phenomenal talent at DeepIntent, offering insight into the paths that led them to their current role, as well as the ways they’re making an impact at the company.
As Director of Talent Acquisition, I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Josh Stewart, Director of Product Management, to discuss their career, what inspires him about his job, and his advice for anyone who wants to expand into a product-focused role.
What initially brought you to DeepIntent?
I have worked in advertising and ad tech for most of my career. I began working at Dstillery as an Account Manager and then moved into a Product Manager role. I gained experience with UI and data science and then moved to DoubleVerify where I was handling backend. I missed having the opportunity to think about user experience, which I have a passion for, along with having direct interaction with users. DeepIntent had a DSP offering, and after meeting Chris Paquette and the leadership team I felt passionate about the work I would be doing and decided to join the company. I followed my heart and am really glad I did! Almost three years at DeepIntent and really proud of the work we are doing!
What part(s) of your job inspire you every day? What are you most passionate about in your day-to-day work?
What inspires me the most is trying to answer questions as if they are a puzzle. I am a very logical person. The idea of using strategy to weigh the things you know can be improved in a way of what customers want and need. Using critical thinking to answer big questions and putting puzzles together to find solutions gets me really excited.
Another thing that is really exciting for me is getting to know DeepIntent employees — those I manage and interact with (from designers to engineers) — getting to know what their passions are.
An added benefit of managing someone is getting to learn where they hope to go, and if they are unsure, helping them to uncover that. I find this rewarding. I find meaning in extracting the best out of my team so they are excited to develop their skills and career. I hope when I am done managing someone they see this time as a productive part of their career.
In creating a new product, it’s exciting to dig in with everyone and hear their ideas. It’s really rewarding to then celebrate alongside everyone and share the kudos of the team’s success when it launches. It’s meaningful to ensure everyone feels appreciated.
As you’ve grown in your career at DeepIntent, what have been your keys to success?
My keys to success are intertwined with constructive feedback coupled with wanting the team to succeed. These are vital to success and collaboration. To be in an environment where you can receive feedback while also having teammates who want you to succeed and want to work with you to develop your skills, just as they are hoping to do the same. Especially on the DSP development side, we have built a lot of trust with each other, have empathy for each other, and have gotten to a great place where everything flows really well. These things have been beneficial for our overall success.
Another valuable key is access. Being able to speak to someone who is an expert in something welcomes a whole other perspective and benefits from success; people are very generous here with donating their time to educate and train their fellow teammates.
As a subject matter expert in DSPs, my career has evolved a lot to get to where I am today. I have done most roles across the spectrum within ad tech. I have been a media planner, platform trader, account manager, and strategist. My success is accredited to the breadth of knowledge and experience I have gained throughout my time in ad tech. I can empathize with the customer because I have been on both sides.
Beyond my resume, coming into DeepIntent and being the first Product Manager at the company gave me immediate access to dive in and solve problems. In a way, this jump-started my knowledge and allowed me to get right into things. I also believe tenacity makes a difference. I am the type of person that wants to know how everything works, which allows me to make better decisions. Having key people who offer support and access provides comfortability to pull threads and have a conversation. Being bold enough to know I don’t understand something and someone will be happy to talk about it is encouraging and creates a safe space for creativity and education.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to someone looking to kickstart a career in a product-focused position?
My top piece of advice is to figure out what you can do at your current job that is more aligned to being in a Product Manager role. If you think you are interested in product, tell someone at your current company. Fly towards the responsibilities of product management. Taking the initiative demonstrates you can handle the responsibilities and you’ve proven to yourself that you like it.
Every transition I have made in my career was toward product, each job I started doing something that wasn’t part of my job description but was part of my interests, which started expanding into something new. When I was a media planner, I was more interested in the product being sold so I moved into media buying. In my Trader, Account Manager, and Strategist roles I started working more and more closely with product at each step. Eventually, someone in product pulled me over to work alongside them, which then made sense because I was already in the mix and working heavily with the team.
What are some of the paths within Product people can pursue throughout their career?
I have mostly worked at small companies, and what’s available at small companies is different from large companies. You can get deep into your career simply by being an expert at something — Data Product Manager, Technical Product Manager, UX-focused Product Manager, etc.
At larger companies, you can remain an individual contributor within Product Management if being close to execution is what you’re passionate about. Depending on interests and specializations, there are many paths/opportunities one can follow. You can grow to manage a team with a focus on execution on specific team goals. You can grow upwards to become a VP or above, which has you focused on organization itself, ensuring proper and efficient functioning and relationships between product organization, engineering, and the rest of the business. This shift is mostly strategy-focused — how does product and engineering work together, etc.
Who has been a mentor to you during your career at DeepIntent?
Aaron Fulmer is the first person that comes to mind. Aaron is naturally good at a lot of things, I have learned a lot from him. The number one thing that comes to mind is how he approaches and navigates difficult situations. He is really good at conflict resolution. The way he is able to redirect a conversation from disagreement, get to the core of the topic, and steer toward a happy resolution is astonishing and has allowed me to improve how I navigate tough conversations. When I’m trying to recreate this on my own I remind myself to use my “cheerleader filter” and it’s been pretty successful.
Aaron definitely shows he cares — he is empathetic and always understanding of his team of people. Aaron is really respectful and makes it clear that you, as a human, come first. This earns a lot of trust and helps to make me feel valued and bring out the best in myself. This has been really valuable in my success.