In episode 90 we catch up with Mike Shaughnessy, Chief Operating Officer at Kargo. Great conversation with Mike about the importance of advocacy and why he's so passionate about it. Mike takes us through his career journey, experiences that shape who he is today, what he's up to at Kargo, and much more.
We want to welcome all of our listeners to another episode of Minority Report Podcast with Erik and Kerel. Each episode we talk with leaders in business, tech and media. And today joining us is Mike Shaughnessy, the Chief Operating Officer at Kargo. Let's jump in and get to know Mike. Mike, welcome. How are you?
Thanks. Thanks for having me. Before we got on, I was just joking about how this was years in the making. So first, I want to say congratulations to you both recent award is amazing. And I'm excited to be here. Thanks for having.
Thanks so much, Mike. That's awesome. And thank you for being a supporter and listener for so many years. And you're right years in the making. And we're lucky and we're thrilled you're here. We're lucky you got to carve out some time and hang out with us. Can't wait to hear about everything that's going on with you. And first for the listeners that may not know you. Can you tell us a little bit about Mike Shaughnessy, where were you born and raised?
So Mike's Shaughnessy. Currently, the chief operating officer of Kargo. My career has been in digital advertising and publishing. And I was born on Long Island.... I currently still in New York. But as I was in high school, it was really important for me to move to New England. And I think this will integrate into your program, and really well was that I think it's about 17 years ago, almost to the date where Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage. It sounds wild now. But in college or in high school, I was actually very politically active. I contributed to campaigns, some of them were losing campaigns, Hillary in 2008, and 2016. But you win some and you lose some. For me, the reason why I went to New England are kind of going back to where I live, or where I choose to live is that I intend to many rallies because gay marriage and equal rights is really important to me. I think anecdotally growing up in the 90s. I remember when Ellen came out on her show, and it was like 97, or 98. And it was really kind of the beginning of the end of her career. Years later, she'd get this talk show. But as an impressionable child, it was really eye opening to me just what the perceptions were. And then even fast forward with someone who really appreciates pop culture, it was probably 2005 or 2006, where it was really common for celebrities to come out on the cover of People Magazine. And so think of, you know, Lance Bass, I moved back to New York years later. And I remember being in Manhattan, it was June of 2015. And it was really that 5-4 Supreme Court decision that struck me or impacted me, such as landmark decisions that we read about in school, right, like in social studies, or, you know, AP American, such as Brown versus Board of Education, I guess, a really long answer your question, I grew up on Long Island, I lived in New England, partially because of my identity. And then also I came back to New York to live in Manhattan.
That's great. I want to ask you about your identity and like living where you are, and having that activism all sort of kind of come together. How do you feel as Mike Shaughnessy today versus rewind 15-10 years ago, tell me about the difference between those two, Mike Shaughnessy?
Yeah, I think that's a really good question. And as I was thinking about connecting with you guys, on this podcast, I was actually thinking about that. I think the difference between me now and then is I feel a lot more responsibility today, I feel that with everything going on in the trans community, Black Lives Matters, it's really important for me to be involved. And I think it's really important for me to be an advocate, I've been really fortunate that I've had great family members, great friends, in moments where I was discriminated against, where I had that support system. And it was really those moments that really pushed me forward. I mean, going back to my days in New England, I remember that, you know, waking up one morning and having fag written on my window. And in those moments was really fortunate for me to have that good support system around me. But I feel now that I am so privileged, I've been able to build this career through the advocacy of great mentors and friends, that it's really important for me to make sure that I create opportunities for others. And now I feel a lot more confident. It really is that responsibility that I mentioned earlier, and pushes me to work harder to be more accepting of others as I matured, and as I became older, it's important for me not to be a bystander in moments where people feel like they're being oppressed or during the difficult circumstances. So I think that's probably the biggest difference. I mean, I'm still you know, I love to have fun, I love to laugh. And that's usually how I break the ice. But I do feel a responsibility to advocate for others.
And, Mike, I wanted to ask you a further question on you know, your thought about advocating for others, right? Because there's intersectionality at play here, right? On one side, you're part of an underrepresented group. But on the other side, you're part of a privileged group as well too, right? Of course, you're aware of that, but I'm assuming using, you know, areas of privilege is a great way to sort of help with some of that advocacy as well, too.
Definitely. And I think that's one of the things that I have become really self aware, in the last few years. And I think that's part of the permission I was talking about. I think it's really important for me to use that privilege to help other marginalized communities and advocate for my friends and people that I work with. So you're 100%. Right.
Thank you very much. And I want to talk to you more about your personal experiences a little bit later. But I also want to ask you about what you're up to right now. I mean, you've been working with a tremendous company and climbing in your career, can you tell us a little bit about what's going on with you professionally, and what's happening in Kargo?
of course, maybe to give a little bit of history of how you came into this role, I think is really important in the beginning of my professional career, and when I was leaving Northeastern University, I had an accounting degree. And it was really important to have a technical skill during an economy in a downturn. So think of like the Lehman Brothers, and you're entering recession. And for me, having that degree and being able to really understand the balance sheet and, P&L, working for a regional firm, where I had the opportunity to learn about a lot of different companies and interact with many different industries. Through that I was able to become financial planning for Evite, I became so invested in digital advertising. Now ad servers worked mobile advertising, which, you know, circa 2013, was revolutionary. It was really fascinating to me, as well as through networking in our industry, which is so so important, you need to really understand how all of this works. One of the most important device that we have, which is the iPhone, through my experiences, at Evite I was able to contribute to the programmatic visits at about.com collaborate with an amazing leadership team at Bauer to drive, record search traffic and monetization. And then it really set me up for success, my role a Bauer to work at Kargo, as the chief operating officer. And I think for us, this was something that you mentioned earlier, that's really important, is kind of the advocacy bureau work. So first, with everything going on in the industry, it's really important for us to create mobile advertising networks, and especially everything that's going on cookie, contextual targeting, or the latest updates from I think it was blurry, that put out, only 4% of people are actually opting in to be tracked in the iOS 14.5. So it's really important for us to build solutions for the open web. And that's what we're working on. But I think it's also really important for us to take a stance. So one of the things that we have been doing, or something that's been really important to me and the team is the editorial endeavor. And we launched the editorial endeavor, and it became more relevant than ever in 2020, where we're supporting and we welcome other members of the industry to join us to support fact base content, but also diverse viewpoints. So making sure that we are spotlighting the editors that create information or support the distribution of information that really creates stability in our society. And also make sure that we're all operating on the same facts, because in the social environment, it's become more difficult even with family members, right to have conversations, the work that we're doing is making sure that we can help monetize these editorial properties, but then also to creating awareness to it. So I would say that's probably the passion project or kind of really intersects with the work that we do that's super relevant. That gets me really excited as one of the things that we're working on. And even tomorrow, we're getting a panel actually, to showcase some of those editors, and really kind of highlight diversity in journalism.
That's exciting. Being able to sort of bring those kind of worlds together is pretty cool. Like, I want to ask you about sort of the worlds coming together. So talked a little bit about where you grew up, and where you chose to sort of live. And I wanted to ask you, you know about some of those difficult moments. And you had a tremendous sort of network of people who've always been supportive. Can you talk to us a little bit about that structure, family, as friends?
It's mostly through friends, I would say. And the reason why I say that is when it comes to my background, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, it was really important for me to maximize my college experience and to ask a lot of questions. It's super important to be inquisitive. And I've also found and this is something that I would recommend to anyone is that the best icebreaker is to ask someone a question, what is working well in the industry, what do they like ask about their family, and it usually creates a scenario where people become very interested in speaking with you. And there's a way for there to be an exchange of currency information rather, and the reason why it's a currency is that I feel that information is currency. And I think it's really important to build relationships and ask questions. So I would say that I was really fortunate to have the experience to go to a great university. I was super privileged in that aspect. But it was really through a ton of networking starting in college to Northeastern's credit where I did go to school, the co op program, you're able to work for six months while you're not in class created opportunities that I wouldn't ordinarily have.
Mike, earlier on, you talked about the importance of building your own network, right. So for anyone that's listening to this podcast that's either about to enter our industry or maybe is a junior employee, can you speak to them a little bit about why building your network is so important for the future of your career?
I think there's a few components to it. So one is, I think it's really important when you are requesting time for someone to learn more about their career, you go into the conversation really prepared. It was recently Melissa Grady who said this on Bethenny Frankel's podcast. And I thought that this was so wise, if you're going to take time out of someone's day just to get to know each other, that isn't necessarily the best use of time, or to get something out of the conversation or the relationship. The reason why that's so important is when you're speaking to them. And you're asking them questions about their career, if there are future opportunities that open up and they understand your background and what you're talented in, or where your interests are, you're top of mind because he discusses interest. The way that I view networking is that it should always be very mutualistic. And I think that earlier in your career, it's really important to seek advice as you mature, or as you develop your network. And as you build skills it's really important to reciprocate. And I think that's when you start to experience that mutualistic components of networking to anyone that starting their career, I think it's really important to be inquisitive, to be humble. And never be afraid to ask questions.
I always tell people that the majority of your jobs are going to come from your network, not filling out some application on LinkedIn or on a website. So it's also a good motivator for building your own network.
That was my experience when I went from Evite. As someone who didn't necessarily know too much about programmatic advertising to about.com. It was when I worked at Evite, there were a few individuals that moved over to about and saw the capabilities that I had and gave me the opportunity to have that mobility to go into something different words able to contribute to revenue in a more meaningful way. That's why it's so important, and never burn a bridge. No, absolutely not. True. You may think, today that it doesn't matter. It will always treat people with respect.
This industry is so small and everyone knows everyone. Yes. Speaking of our industry, Mike, what excites you about the future?
So what excites me about the future is really what's going on right now with contextual targeting. I think that this social giants, Facebook and Instagram, tik tok and snap, it's going to be really interesting how they navigate the changes in iOS 14.5, only 4% of people opting in, I think it creates a lot of opportunity for the retailers to think of Walmart and Amazon. And I also think that it creates a lot of opportunity for publishers. So that really excites me, curated editorial content is so underrated, I think that the value of intent is just going to grow. And what I mean by that is, when you're someone who's typing in a search, and you're reading content, you're going there with intent, the value of that is so so, so important. We have been operating an ecosystem where deterministic data was able to target individuals, maybe in environments that didn't make sense. Or maybe if someone already made a purchase, I always joke with my husband, Mike, when we first got together Do you want on my computer, I was researching something. And he saw all of his Christmas presents, because they were retargeted ads. I was no longer the person to be converted. So I think that things that excite me are what I was discussing earlier about the editorial endeavor where we're able to prove out fact base journalism, making sure that we have diverse voices, then also to everything that's going on with the targeting capabilities. And I think it's a really big opportunity for premium publishers. We've known each other for quite some time. I know you've worked with some tremendous individuals in the space and as a leader yourself, now you have an opportunity to to work with other people too. And you mentioned sort of mentors and people who helped you along the way. How are you finding that you're working with other folks in the space, maybe that are newer or just kind of moving into our industry? I would say that when it comes to working with new individuals coming into the industry, I view myself really more a facilitator than anything. My goal for new people that come into the industry is really to be providing them with an adequate foundation. And I also think you can learn something from anyone. And I think sometimes when you get someone who's new to the industry, they bring a unique perspective, and I learned something so it's kind of an advantageous scenario where you get someone who is in an industry because they have a fresh perspective. So I think that that's really important. I also I think that for me personally, when it comes to working with other leaders, or what I appreciate leaders is I have some heroes that I would like to call out some of the more obvious than others was fine. Of course, yeah. So I would say for me, Tim Cook is a force, right. And he's so applicable to our industry openly and proud to be gay. We're running one of the largest companies in the world, and look at the influence he's had on our industry. We're talking about iOS 14.5 privacy. And you know, it all too well, our industry has been dealing with this for years is really impacting the way that the DSPs will transact. I also want to others outside of the industry that are highly visible, Beth Ford, who is the president and CEO at Land O'Lakes, those are some of the CEOs that I started to look at. There's also people outside of the industry that I've used heroes. I'm a huge, huge, huge tennis fan, and Serena Williams is the GOAT, she's the greatest of all time. I bite my nails as she chases her 24th Grand Slam. What I love about Serena is that you can never count her out, you can never count her out of the match. And I really admire that night, integrate them into my day to day. And as a gay man, although she has the record in the Open Era, Serena that is, I really would love for her to tie Margaret Cortes 24 Grand Slams, which she won in the 60s and 70s, because she's been so vocal about gay people being abominable, and homophobic. So for me, I'm so inspired and motivated. And I try to bring that resilience to my work. But I also because of how I identify, it's also really important to me on that front as well. So that's really exciting. But when it comes to people in the industry, and how to work with people that are senior leaders, there have been a few power women in the industry that have really shaped my career. And they've been doing this for 20 years. And they've been so so so influential. And one of them is my dear friend, Pearl Collings whom you guys probably know, she's currently the CEO of Contently. And Pearl really taught me how to manage up, effectively, but also how to mentor others. And the reason I brought up Pearl is because she's such a great person to talk shop with. And she also is really, really good at career development. And she's the first person who taught me what professional development was. And she would give me homework. And now when there's new people that enter the industry, I give them homework. So pass it down. And I also teach them how to manage up to my talent, right. So when you're mentoring someone, or you're working with someone new in the industry, especially someone that's new and junior, you want to teach them how to manage up. That's something that I wanted to mention, as it's so important to learn how to manage up.
That's awesome. Like you've been climbing Kargo, and your day is probably getting busier and busier and crazier and crazier. How are you managing the work life balance? Is there such a thing, or no sort of work life balance?
I believe that there's always work life balance if you want it. So there are a few fundamental things I learned in my career that are so important. So first, when you go on vacation, take a day off, delete Slack, forget about even deleting it, toss it in a dumpster fire.
Easier said than done.
I've struggled with it. Seriously, it's still important to recharge in these days off, and I consider work as a hobby. But I would caution everyone is that it can be really distracting work is your only hobby, the reality is stale what you do. The other thing that I think is really important, and if you're fortunate and privileged is that when the world opens up, if you're fortunate enough to travel to a different time zone, the reason why it's a different time zone is that it's really important to recalibrate to a different atmosphere and fully disconnect from your work outside of PTO. It's important to find his hobbies where you can disconnect and engage in them without your phone. What I love about Kargo is that we're focused on driving big outcomes on the most important device in our lives. Because phones are so relevant, you need to engage outside of your phone. So something I read recently in Bloomberg that I thought was rather interesting. And I'm curious if you guys have heard it, have you ever heard of the third space?
This is so important to the work life balance conversation. So home is the first space rather, work is the second when I read the Bloomberg article. And this is so important. This creates such balance for myself, find your third space. So for me during COVID I've been walking, treat yourself to a coffee or neighborhood or go to a different neighborhood right, spontaneity in these moments and minimal interactions that really broaden our perspectives and bring something unique and unexpected into our lives and really creates that balance. Or at least that as for me.
Yep. Love it. I think mine is cycling. I'm a big cycler so that's probably my third space.
Cycling is great. And that's a good one. Erik, what is your third space?
It used to be traveling to New York....
You everywhere you had a 3rd, 4th, 5th and a 6th space.
Amtrak was Erik's third space.
Quiet car. The quiet car. Even you recharge.
I love that like and just continuing on the theme of education and advice, what advice would you give to anyone entering our industry?
I probably sound really repetitive in saying this, but be inquisitive. People love to give their opinions, it's really important to listen, I think one of the best skills in our industry is let someone else talk, let them give their opinion. don't prepare in your head, how you're going to respond before that person finishes. And I think that our industry connecting even your COVID is incredibly important. And there's someone in the industry that Erik, I know that you're definitely friends with, who taught me this when I entered the industry when I was at abount.com is our friend Scott Mulqueen. I don't even think I knew it. networking was until I worked for Scott.
That's how we met was asking and then continuing the networking from a networking event to another networking event.
And it's so important. And in all of those moments, I always felt what can I learn from these people. And that's so important. And you should always surround yourself with people that can teach you something. And you should be humble enough to know that may not be obvious to you. But you can learn something from every
I love it, definitely, definitely. All right, Mike fun question time, give us the top three apps on your phone that you use on a regular basis, but you can't name email, calendar or text messaging.
So they may be boring, but there will be some humor here. So my husband calls me a professional scroller. Although he's on Twitch, so I don't know, worse, be scrolling on LinkedIn and Instagram, or to be watching twitch all day. Although I will admit I am a gamer is one way that I disconnected, I put my phone to the side with my headset on and engage. But to answer your question, three apps on the phone, so I stayed scrolling counts from LinkedIn. And you all should know that I'm always commenting on your post. We appreciate it. Congratulations. So excited to be here. I would say second is Instagram. The third one. I don't know if this really counts, but does the phone count. And the reason I say that is I love talking on the phone more than most people might. There's nothing like connecting with a good friend or family members on the phone and all of them before COVID. But during COVID I have a new appreciation converge during zoom fatigue. So I honestly, believe it or not, I prefer getting on the phone over texting. And I love to text. So I don't know if that one counts, but the phone is definitely in my top person.
You know, we'll let that one count. We are 90 plus episodes over three years. And as the first time we've heard the phone.
I was just gonna say I can completely back that up. And it wasn't him looking for such a unique answer. Almost 100 episodes but it's it's amazing. Nobody has said the phone my always picks up. It's something that makes you so special. Besides your amazing infectious energy. It's so thank you for always picking up. So thrilled you are here Kerel and I, we're so excited you can join us and we'd love to be able to have our audience stay in touch with you and follow you as well. What are some ways that our listeners can stay in touch and find you?
I would say LinkedIn is probably the easiest. Instagram which is a little bit more casual, but I'm not as interesting as the people I follow and say it's good to have awareness. Something else double word is good a long ways. Very true. Yes. Thanks again for the two of you for having me on here. I love the programming. It was exciting to participate. And looking forward to your future guests.
Thanks again for joining us, Mike. And thanks everyone for listening. You can find more episodes where you find all of your audio and video, just search Minority Report Podcast and look for the logo. Thanks.