Meet Ray Ghanbari, Chief Technology Officer at Index Exchange

In December 2021, we welcomed Ray Ghanbari as our new CTO, overseeing our engineering, IT, and infrastructure organizations. Ray brings nearly 30 years of technology and leadership experience and has served as a technology executive for companies like Overture/Yahoo!, UnitedHealth Group, FICO, and several high-growth early- and mid-stage companies. 

I’m so excited that Ray has joined Index, as his leadership and deep expertise will help us continue building solutions that ensure our customers can future-proof their businesses for our ever-changing industry.

Ray’s coming on board at a critical time for the company—we’ve just debuted our completely modernized exchange platform and are entering into our next phase of accelerated growth—so we sat down to chat about why Index piqued his interest and what’s in store for 2022. 

Mike McNeeley: Welcome, Ray Ghanbari! Tell us a bit about your professional background. And what led you to choose Index for your next role?

Ray Ghanbari: Thank you Mike, I’m really excited to be here. My professional background is primarily with industries that are going through large-scale data and analytics transformations—from marketing and ad tech to healthcare to financial services to transportation. As a technologist, I’ve always had a very strong bias for platforms that can not only operate at industry scale, but that can also leverage their privileged industry position to reduce friction and improve business results across all industry players.

Index’s platform, market position, and history (and the team that built it) checked all these boxes for me. I’m absolutely delighted to return to ad tech and join the team just as the company’s starting this next S-shaped growth curve.

MM: What will your focus be for the next year? Specifically, given your deep experience in machine learning, how do you foresee that playing out for Index and for programmatic advertising?

RG: Machine learning (ML) will certainly be a focus as we build solutions that continue to increase efficiency and advance the industry. For example, ML can help optimize impression value or yield management, unlocking more insights for media owners and buyers to enable more efficient campaigns. 

ML is all about giving computer systems the ability to learn with data, without explicitly programming them. Done wrong, it can be a frustrating journey, where things may demo well, but fall far short of expectations in the real world. Done right, it’s magical as systems basically run and optimize themselves, and the users of the system teach and train the system to perform better and better. 

Winning with ML is not about who has the most data—it’s about who has the most quality data with the most relevant signal for the problem you’re trying to solve. Index has been operating as a single integrated platform for decades. For a data and analytics wonk like me, that gives us data assets and market telemetry that are simply incredible. 

But beyond having the most relevant and signal-rich data, winning with ML requires the ability to build, deploy, validate, and tune new models as quickly as possible. I am incredibly excited by the capabilities of the new Index platform, and how quickly we’ll be able to iterate, learn, and teach our exchange to be the most efficient, the most effective, and the most expansive exchange in the market.

MM: There are major changes happening across the ad tech ecosystem, from the growth of omnichannel to preparing for the post-cookie future. How are you thinking about some of the challenges and opportunities we’re seeing today?

RG: The most notable changes we’re seeing today—from the delayed but forthcoming deprecation of third-party cookies on the web, to the evolving paradigm in app environments where the longstanding waterfall model is showing cracks in the foundation, to the incredibly fast-growing connected TV space that is still building upon its fundamentals—all present significant opportunity for the ad tech ecosystem.

I’ve long believed that when everything is changing and evolving, the best platform will rise above the others. Our challenge at Index will be not only to adapt to these changing forces, but to ensure our exchange seamlessly and efficiently operates in the hybrid of old and new, allowing spend to follow performance. Our exchange will enable our customers to effectively learn and optimize for the future landscape, while efficiently operating their businesses in the current one. 

As stewards and architects of our exchange, by doing our jobs right, we will not only support the most efficient markets, but also enable the most effective evolution of those markets.

MM: With those changes in mind, how do you envision the engineering organization at Index growing? 

RG: This next wave of transformation for the ad tech industry introduces challenging, but very exciting, complexities for our technical teams to tackle. We aim to foster a creative and innovative culture where engineers can confidently push the status quo and deliver better outcomes for our customers. 

Index handles hundreds of billions of global transactions every day in an environment where each and every millisecond counts. That level of scale and speed presents complex challenges that are truly exciting for any technologist to wrap their head around, but our data assets and privileged position as stewards of our exchange really give us a unique opportunity to take our exchange and platform to the next level. 

As an engineering-first company, we’re continuously investing in building talent and growing our team across all roles and levels. We plan to double the size of our engineering team over the next two years—we have nearly 50 technical roles open right now. We’ve moved to a more flexible and remote-friendly approach to working, which means we’re focused on hiring the best and brightest engineers regardless of where they might live. 

Despite our global reach and decades-long position as an industry enabler, we are still a team where every engineer knows and works with and helps each other. For technologists that want to see their work make a difference every day, and be part of building both a world-class global platform and technology team, please reach out—we have a place for you here.

MM: Looking ahead to 2022, what excites you the most?

RG: It’s a special and rare opportunity to be joining a company at just the right moment, where platform scale and reach, market opportunity and growth, and the right team and talent all come together.  

Our focus will be to build on the capabilities of our newly launched exchange platform, while leveraging our considerable global reach and service delivery capabilities, to deliver advanced ML-enabled optimization and market efficiency to all of our customers and partners.

This is a very exciting time, and I can’t wait to see what we and our partners will be able to accomplish together.

Our engineering team is growing quickly across all levels and roles. If tackling large-scale challenges in an environment where milliseconds count sounds exciting, we want to hear from you.

Mike McNeeley

Mike McNeeley

Senior vice president, product

As a major technology leader in the programmatic space, Mike holds nearly 15 years of experience in the online advertising industry. As senior vice president of product, Mike leads Index’s product division—overseeing the company’s product roadmap and direction, user interfaces (UIs), reporting, and technical industry group involvement—unlocking addressable buying opportunities across all screens and ad formats. Prior to joining Index, Mike worked at several technology companies including AppNexus, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and Right Media. During his tenure at AppNexus, Mike was responsible for the team that created and launched Prebid and, as well as the strategy, pricing, go-to-market, and roadmap for its SSP product.

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