This Woman’s Work: Belinda Smith, Electronic Arts

Welcome to This Woman’s Work, a series highlighting how different women are advancing the tech industry, both professionally and personally. Working women receive a slew of advice — lean in, lean out, be aggressive, but not too aggressive. We’re constantly inspired by the women who are paving the way and taking charge in the ever-evolving world of technology.

This month we showcase Belinda Smith, Electronic Arts’ Global Director of Media. You may know Electronic Arts for its popular video games, including The Sims, FIFA and more. Belinda opens up about the challenges that come with balancing motherhood alongside a career, what it’s like to work at an entertainment company, how to believe in yourself, and so much more.

Read about Belinda’s fascinating career, insight and advice below:

IX: Tell us about your role at Electronic Arts

BS: I manage all Media at EA. We have media organizations for both our HD (game console and PC) games as well as our Mobile (free to play, app-install) games, which report into me. I also oversee our Global Media Agency. I have teams of in-house buyer/planners in the US and UK as well as teams of media strategists and campaign leads in both the US and EU. As the Media Center of Excellence, we oversee media investment across all products and channels to create the best plans and campaigns to promote all of our games.

IX: Wow. Doesn’t sound like you have any shortage of things to do. What’s the culture like in this fast-paced environment?

BS: The culture at EA is unreal. EA is a video game publisher that makes games for PC, Console and Mobile, such as: Madden, FIFA, Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes and Battlefield. Everyone works as a team, works really hard, has a lot of fun and takes a lot of pride in being innovative.

IX: While the adtech industry definitely has a reputation to be more of a “men’s field” – you also work at an entertainment company that creates products geared more toward men. What’s it like to be a woman in such a men’s focused entertainment/media space?

BS: EA has been, hands down, the most inclusive work experience I’ve ever had. When I worked at start-ups or with adtech C-level executives at other companies, it was hard to break out of gender stereotypes. I was often expected to take notes at meetings, write articles for other people, help with event planning and generally not piss off any of the “big wig” male CEOs. At EA, there are no stereotypes or expectations. Your career here is what you make of it.

IX:  I love that. Tell us more about the gaming industry – what’s involved in media buying for an entertainment site like EA?

BS: You said it – we are an entertainment company. And that makes my job incredibly exciting. We create immersive games, emotional content, and entire worlds of fantasy for our players to get lost in. From a media buying perspective it’s really exciting to work with the type of assets we have – dramatic story trailers, interactive display units, stories that resonate and integrate with timely cultural content. To do our creative justice we get to think BIG about how and where we buy ads and how we partner. There’s a lot of art to it.

IX:  You recently penned an AdExchanger blog post about marketers dealing with a “the transparency hangover” from 2016 – 2017. In your opinion, what are you focusing on for the rest of 2018 / what do you think marketers should be focusing on this year as we recover from that hangover?

BS: I think all marketers need to get back to focusing on what really matters – their brands. Definitely sales and revenue are important but in this very crowded landscape of endless brands, services, content providers, entertainment companies, and more. Nailing the basics of measuring and improving brand health has never been more important. This is our focus for 2018 – we have the science of attributing media to things like sales or acquisition, now how do we pivot that to better understand, quantify, and replicate the impact media has on the health, success and longevity of our brands. I talk a lot about fraud and transparency being a side effect of marketers measuring media and partner success on things like clicks and digital conversions.

IX: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how have you dealt with it?

BS: Becoming a mom. When I was pregnant I had a male boss who was awful to me. At 8 months pregnant commuting from Bed Stuy to Midtown in the winter each day was rough, on top of having a difficult pregnancy as well. After giving birth I left that job and started working at an agency. So while my son was 4 months old, I was working almost 90 hours a week, traveling, getting home very late and taking him with me into the office on weekends. Those two experiences really made me feel that I had to choose either a great career or a healthy personal life. It wasn’t until I found EA that I realized I could grow quickly in my career and be challenged while having dinner with my family every night and my weekends to myself.

IX: I noticed on your LinkedIn profile that you’re an aspiring Champagne sommelier. Tell me more about that! ☺

BS: For some reason wine makes me really sick, but I absolutely love champagne. I used to go to the classes at Flute Bar when I was in the city to learn more about champagnes. Just before we left NYC I started a champagne sommelier course and decided I wanted champagne sommelier or craft tequila distiller as my next career move. Those are the only two things I drink (besides water, of course).

IX:  So before we celebrate your career over a glass or two of champagne, can you share some final advice for women wanting to grow within the tech industry?

BS: Don’t doubt yourself – ever! I spent so much of the early part of my career always feeling inferior – often – feeling like I wasn’t as smart, or tenured, or experienced, or networked as the other people in the room. I carried that chip on my shoulder while working extra hard and reading everything I could learn about programmatic, shadowing engineers, product managers, perpetually harassing my ad ops team to learn every single thing about how everything worked.

It wasn’t until I got to the IAB and started working with people from all over the industry that I realized that the people I was intimidated by actually knew less than I did. Never think you’re not as good as others around the table and NEVER be afraid to ask for the clarity you need to learn, grow and succeed. Believe in yourself and the people around you will do the same.

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