How I Got My Dream Job: Megan Baker, Senior Director of Program Management, FreeWheel
Meet Megan Baker, Senior Director at FreeWheel, a company that produces and manages the technology behind ad-supported content for some of the heaviest hitters in the television industry. (Clients include ABC, AOL, DIRECTV, ESPN, NBC Universal, Turner Broadcasting, and Viacom, to name just a few.) Drawing on the same work ethic and no-holds-barred gumption she used to put herself through NYU by balancing multiple jobs while maintaining a full course load, the Long Island native forged an impressive career spanning multiple industries before landing at her current gig at FreeWheel.
(Photo Courtesy of Megan Baker)
FreeWheel has offices in San Mateo, London, Beijing, and Paris, so Megan has had the chance to travel around the world representing the company, in addition to managing a bevy of employees, clients, and responsibilities from the company’s New York office where she is based.
Read on to learn how this articulate, razor-sharp manager extraordinaire leveraged a background in romance languages, finance, and media into a senior position in a male-dominated industry.
Name: Megan Baker
Hometown: Locust Valley, NY
Current Location: NYC
Job Title: Senior Director, Program Management
PayScale: What do you do and what makes it your dream job?
Baker: I manage a team of 12 Program Managers. Think traditional project management, across the technology stack that FreeWheel represents. The “dreamy” part of my job is that I get to work with the most intelligent, humble and collaborative people I’ve met thus far in my career.
PayScale: What’s an average day on the job look like for you?
Baker: Days can vary greatly depending on what programs we are running at the time. Additionally, given the size of the team, what may be happening in the individual lives and workloads of the team members is also a factor. Mornings are usually spent checking emails for any urgent issues, late mornings are often earmarked for interdepartmental meetings, and lots of individual 1:1 sessions with my team members are sprinkled throughout the week.
PayScale: How did you end up here? What interesting or unexpected jobs did you have before that prepared you for this role?
Baker: I arrived to this industry by way of a very entry level ad trafficking position years ago, once I realized that finance (my original industry) was not something I wanted to pursue. I had more jobs that I can count in my younger years, including but not limited to: pizza delivery girl, insurance rep, and an office manager for an electrical contractor. What they all have in common is that they taught me the art of customer service, the tenants of which are the same across all industries.
PayScale: What is unique about what you do?
Baker: Essentially, what I do is ad serving.* It’s something that most of us come across everyday, but no one outside of the industry even knows it exists.
PayScale: Are there any challenges about your job that may surprise people?
Baker: What we do at FreeWheel is all very new, and sometimes we make mistakes. That can be frustrating, but what we do with those lessons is what’s really important.
PayScale: Best word to describe how you work.
PayScale: What’s your workspace setup like?
Baker: We have an open layout and shared space. There are no offices for individuals, which can be tricky, but does foster an environment of openness between the various teams.
PayScale: Tool/device you couldn’t live without:
Baker: My iPhone and MacBook Air. A big part of my job is communication, so really any device that allows me to stay in contact with the team.
PayScale: What’s your best time-saving shortcut?
Baker: I have a tendency to have a million (only a slight exaggeration!) open windows on my computer screen, which makes for great fodder for my co-managers, especially when I am projecting my screen! To call me a multitasker is an understatement!
PayScale: Did you go to college? If so, what school and what did you study?
PayScale: How did school prepare you for what you’re doing now and how did it not?
Baker: Studying language taught me to think about communication in different, valuable ways. I learned to take my approach to speaking with or convincing people of something into account, not just from my own seat, but also from the perspectives of others depending on their language, culture, etc.
PayScale: What is next on the horizon for you and your company?
PayScale: What would you tell someone who wanted to follow the same path as you?
Baker: Be flexible and open to new experiences. Where you end up at 30 is not necessarily where you imagined you would be when you were 18, but it might be better. Embrace that. Lastly, technology needs talent! Just take a look at our job page.
* Editor’s Note: Per Wikipedia, “ad serving” describes “the technology and service that places advertisements on web sites. Ad serving technology companies provide software to web sites and advertisers to serve ads, count them, choose the ads that will make the website or advertiser most money.”
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