How did you get started in advertising? What's been your career road map?
My career path hasn’t been that of a typical sales professional. I completed university ready to start a career as an electrical engineer but, like my father and mother, sales kept calling my name.
I grew up in Silicon Valley watching my father sell his way through the semiconductor industry with companies like AMD, LSI Logic, and iWatt. And on top of that, I received very early training from my mother, as early as while I was in the womb, as she mastered sales in the technology space at IBM and Digital Equipment Corp. while growing our family.
I gave database and tech work a solid try at Quinstreet, an advertising agency in the Bay Area, but quickly learned that I was more interested in advertising than tech. I quickly developed my knowledge of online advertising, lead generation, and email marketing, enabling me to transition into a business development role. From there, I went on to develop my career in sales working with the best-of-the-best in digital to continuously build lasting relationships. The one thing I learned early on and carried with me is that our industry operates like a small town and every knows everyone, so put good out in the world and it will come back to you.
Do you have a personal motto?
My motivation comes from the fast pace of the digital advertising and working alongside some of the brightest minds in the industry. The second you slow down, you get left behind, so I make sure I keep things moving, stay on top of the latest innovations and technology, and do my part to help advance the industry landscape.
Ask anyone on my team and they’ll all give you the same answer when asked what my motto is -- “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” I always ask for the sale, help, perks, discounts, etc. I’ve got nothing to lose, only gain.
What excites you most about this industry?
The limitless possibilities for the future. From a product perspective, I can’t wait to see where virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality takes us. Not only the technology behind new innovations, but also the people. Not a day goes by that I don’t eagerly research new ways our industry can build emotional connections between brands and consumers. I myself am fortunate to be heavily involved in ThinkLA, where I get the opportunity to experience first-hand the great work of our community’s talent.
What's the most important lesson you've learned?
Learning never stops; you have to have an open mind. Our industry is constantly evolving and if you close yourself off from new ideas, thought, and technologies, you’ll get left behind.
It’s also good to remember that there is absolutely more than one way to accomplish a task. I run into too many people who feel that they know everything there is to know about sales, the industry, or a product. In my mind, life is a giant math problem and there’s an infinite number of ways to solve a single problem.
Where is advertising heading? What do the next five years look like?
Exciting things await the advertising industry. Take blockchain technology for instance. Not only is it an interesting investment, but it’s a vehicle for placing power back in the hands of consumers. We have seen social media networks in the news for the misuse of consumer data. With blockchain, there are decentralized solutions that would allow consumers to monetize the data shared with advertisers, giving them a choice in how and when their data is used.
As far as the next five years -- well, as we’ve seen, a lot can happen in five years! Mass adoption of blockchain technology by consumers and advertisers/agencies similar to what we’ve seen with programmatic advertising could change the face of the advertising landscape as we know it.
Photos: Don Lupo
What advice do you have for those just starting their careers in advertising?
The best advice I can give to up-and-comers is to work with a mentor that will not only share their successes, but also their failures. Make it a point to get together as often as possible and absorb the information like a sponge. A trusted mentor is also a great person to bounce ideas off of or find ways to overcome challenging situations.
Second, attend as many networking events as possible. You never know who you’re going to meet and when they’ll be able to help you as you grow your career.
You are the father to two adorable children. How do you balance your family and personal life with work obligations?
I constantly remind myself that I can do it all, I just can’t do it all alone. When it comes to family, my wife and I are a team: very similar to the team I rely on at GlobalWide Media. We develop a strategy, settle on a plan, then execute. As I mentioned before, there is more one way to accomplish a task, so I do my best to stay agile and work with my team to divide and conquer the task at hand, whether it’s at home or work.
I also do my best to be home for as many nighttime snuggles as possible.
Any closing thoughts?
Always strive for perfection, but be sure that your idea of perfection is attainable. There’s no perfect product on the market, and people aren’t perfect either. But if you’re always striving for perfection, then you’ll undoubtedly perform better and better each time. You’ll also learn what your strengths and weaknesses are. A good friend helped me discover my strengths and weaknesses early in my career. From that moment on, I worked on improving my weaknesses and focused on using my strengths to overshadow my weaknesses. I once read a quote by Carlos Castaneda that said, “We either make ourselves miserable or make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Focus on the things you can control and stay positive.
Lastly, do the right thing: the right thing for yourself, your team (at home and at work), and your clients. There is a lot of pressure to push business in a specific direction, to raise your family a certain way, so it is easier said than done. But if we all try to look at things more objectively and choose to see the good, then only good will come from it.
Mike Chu is VP, of Media Sales at GlobalWide Media, and has been an active member of ThinkLA since the organization began in 2007.