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"Share your brand's vision with the world and be proud of it" - With the Senior Manager of Innovation at Xaxis | #GettingToKnow

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In her previous role, Julia Rast helped brands advance in the digital space by harnessing new technological solutions and innovations in the programmatic scene. Her open-mindedness and expertise as a leader in the scene is unquestionable.

Julia admires brands that push the envelope and have no fear of taking risks. No matter how bold a brand's vision can be, you should always be proud to share it with the world. As a professional in the marketing scene, Julia is focused, driven and passionate, with a range of great stories to support her strong character – a figure of inspiration to many, a leader and innovator in spirit.

Today we are Getting to Know Julia Rast, Senior Manager of Global Solutions & Innovation at Xaxis.

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Tell us a bit about your role! What is one typical day like?

I love to wake my body up with exercise – running, weightlifting, or, if the forecast is right and the swell is on, surfing at the beach. Activating your body and brain is an excellent way to start the day with a fresh mindset. 

Once I get to work, no day is the same. I meet with APAC in the morning and LATAM and North America in the afternoon. In between, I meet with vendors and publishers, brainstorm with cross-functional teams, facilitate training, nurture global partnerships, hold product strategy sessions on everything from conversational ads to gaming, or mentor incubator teams to foster innovation in our organisation. It’s an exciting and very dynamic role.

What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?

I was very operations-focused in my previous role. As a programmatic specialist, I helped brands to advance in the digital space, educating them how to use their data to build custom algorithms that could enhance performance. Product development requires a different skillset, and it took me a while to master that. I’m grateful to the talented team I got to work with and learn from in recent years, which gave me the opportunity to grow into this role.

What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?

As part of the post-WWII repatriation from Indonesia (a Dutch colony) to the Netherlands in the late fifties, my grandparents started a new life in a country they had only heard or read about in school. They worked hard to build this new life and adjust to a different culture – they were humble, never complained and always looked out for each other and their community. This spirit was channelled to me through my father, and it’s reflected in how I navigate my career and work with others.

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What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?

I’ve always had a slight fear of public speaking, but it was my goal to be able to recite a great story to a big audience. This year, I got the opportunity to talk about violence in gaming at Adweek. I was blown away by the positive feedback I received, as well as invites to discuss the topic in private sessions. The experience itself was scary, but I did it and it made me more self-aware and gave my self-esteem a big boost. I was also invited to host NextM, a marketing event organised by GroupM agencies. Letting go of my fears brought me a lot of amazing new opportunities.

What is one top marketing tip you learned on the job?

Find a mentor or someone who inspires you and helps you progress your career. I’ve been fortunate to meet those who take the time to guide me through my personal development, career challenges and opportunities. The relationship doesn’t always have to be a formal one – anyone you trust can be your mentor. The more honest they can be about your ideas, choices, or work trajectory, the more productive your sessions will be. Peer-to-peer coaching, where you exchange experiences and learn from each other’s way of working, is also great for personal and professional development. 

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Which individuals and/or brands do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

I admire brands that push the envelope and call for society to do better. For instance, Nike has been rocking it for years and speaks out on a number of social issues such as racism. Meanwhile, P&G is well-known for supporting and empowering girls and women. And Heineken is committing 10% of media spend to responsible consumption campaigns.

How has COVID-19 affected you?

I’m based in Amsterdam, while most of my team is based in London or New York, so that created challenges of getting the team together in person – something we’d do regularly before the pandemic hit. On the other hand, Xaxis is a great organisation, well-prepared for remote work because teams have always been encouraged to source talent from other regions. It meant in the past 18 months we’ve easily adapted to more virtual meetings with  tools such as Teams.

There were times when I found it a challenge to keep motivating myself, but creating structure in my day and taking good care of myself (healthy meals, exercise and team walks via our phones) kept me going. 

What is your biggest hope for your company in 2021?

We celebrated the Xaxis tenth anniversary this summer and have already achieved so much over the past decade. But as we grow at a rapid pace, I hope we can continue to use our brand influence on the media industry to promote positive change. Not only in terms of enabling brands to create high-quality, outcome-driven media campaigns, but in terms of inclusivity and diversity in the workplace. As I touched on before, we actively recruit talent from across different regions and cultures, which has proved a large part of our success so far.

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What is your one piece of advice to aspiring marketers?

Each year, share your brand’s vision with the world, no matter how bold, and be proud of it. We often have these inhibiting beliefs about ourselves and other people which we drag along with us, and which limit what we think we can achieve. Write your vision down as if it already happened (past vs. future tense). It is not important how you get there; it’s about getting into the right mindset and believing in yourself.

How do you recharge away from the office?

I like the science of cooking and really enjoy making food for friends and family. Both the passion you put into a dish and the outcome becomes your personal signature. My Indonesian specialty dishes are part of this personal signature as they help me connect with my roots… as well as tasting great. 

When I want to take time off, I travel to warm climates with great waves for surfing. It’s this time I spend on the ocean where I do a lot of reflecting on challenges and expectations, as well as feeling a deeper connection with mind and body.  I’ve taken many of the learnings from this time surfing and applied it to working life.

What’s your one big dream for the future of brands?

Brands have so much power and influence to change the world so I really hope they set an example of how we can become more inclusive. This means changing the way we behave and engage with each other; whether that’s virtually or in the physical world. One way brands can do this in practice is by focusing on how they can reflect and represent the population across their organisation, which serve as an inspiration for others and creates a positive association with their products and services.

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Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

I consume news daily from all different perspectives, whether in marketing publications like The DrumCampaign and Creativepool or business sources like The Economist. In terms of books, I would recommend reading Lawrence Hill’s Someone Knows My Name, which, although uncomfortable to read in places, is a rich story about perseverance, grief, purpose and forgiveness. And I’m probably not the first to recommend Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, a self-help book which will stand you in good stead for whatever.

Header image: Chris Lewis Lee

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