A Glimpse into the Life of AdRoll's General Counsel
I recently caught up with Stephanie Adamson King who serves as general counsel at AdRoll, which is an ad technology company best known as a leader in retargeting products across platforms and devices for Facebook, Twitter, Apple iAd, and millions of other websites. King, who is also a mother of three, has a remarkably inspiring perspective about what it means to serve clients well, balance family obligations and a demanding job even when there are not enough hours in a day, and finding happiness and a satisfying career in the process.
What are you working on right now?
Every day is different and involves supporting Sales, Product, Engineering, HR, IT, Operations, and Finance at AdRoll. We just rolled out a new product, Prospecting, and along with it a new terms of service, privacy notice, and sales and marketing collateral. These projects involved close collaboration with groups throughout the company and outside counsel. We continue to focus on making sure our teams, especially Sales, Product and Engineering, are supported from a privacy and data use perspective. We work closely with these teams to provide guidance on how to build products in a privacy-aware manner and how to communicate our position to clients.
In your own words, describe your current role.
As the general counsel at fast-growing AdRoll, my job is to help the business identify, understand, and assess legal risks and to find business-minded solutions. Our role is to navigate tricky and unclear legal issues and find the "yes, if" answer whenever we can. Because of where legal sits, we have visibility into a wide range of areas of the business. A major part of our job (and value add) is to help get the right people are in the room to solve problems and address challenges when we see them.
What makes your job interesting?
Ad tech straddles advertising and technology, so our world looks like a mix of Mad Men and Silicon Valley. Every day is different and there are rarely clear-cut answers. Most facets of my job — tech, competitive and regulatory environments, operational issues — are changing constantly. We don't have a big red book to look up answers, so we partner with the business to identify, talk through, and solve problems across the board. We also get to work with strong self-regulatory groups like the National Advertising Initiative, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and others in the advertising and technology industry to participate in the public discussion about how ad tech works and addresses issues like privacy.
If you did not work at AdRoll, but could have any other job in the world, what would it be?
Growing up I really wanted to be an architect, dolphin trainer, or doctor. I was really lucky to be able to travel before I started my career and come from a long line of people who moved great distances from family and built amazing lives. I want to instill a sense of adventure, confidence and resourcefulness in my kids — so right now, if money were no object and someone actually wanted to read what I wrote, I would love to be a travel writer sharing family tales from the road.
What is the most unusual job you ever had?
While in college I volunteered to tutor in two local prisons in Vermont through the Prison Project at Dartmouth. I taught Current Events, Creative Writing, and Spanish over three separate quarters. Folks were very engaged and insightful and had really interesting points of view. I also participated in the Death Penalty Caravan in law school where we went to New Orleans over spring break and worked on death penalty cases. We visited death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola Prison) while there, which raised a lot of conflicting emotions. Through these experiences, I learned about how I handle uncomfortable situations and how incredibly complex the concepts of punishment, rehabilitation, and justice are.
What are your hobbies or interests?
Aside from traveling, I love to garden (neither of which I do enough). It allows me to use my hands and get dirty outside and create beauty. I actually have a picture in our house for our kids (but really for the adults) that says "Don't forget to go outside and play." Gardening reminds me to be patient and allows me to be creative without rules (since I am far from an expert gardener, I practice gardening through serendipity). I also feel a real sense of accomplishment when I can see the fruits of my labor often months or years later or complete surprise when a plant that I have ignored flourishes. Currently I have a grape vine that I bought from Costco a few years ago and planted in a forgotten pot that has about six bunches of grapes growing! And it's pretty neat when we make dinner and use veggies, herbs and fruits from the garden.
What books or magazines are on your nightstand right now (that you're reading)?
On the management and parenting front, I am a big fan of Carol Dweck's Mindset and Brene Brown's Daring Greatly. I have Teddy Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech posted in my team's pod at AdRoll and also had it posted for my team at Zynga to remind us to roll up our sleeves and dive in with the business rather than stand on the sidelines and criticize. Sometimes we will succeed and sometimes we will fail; we will celebrate the successes and learn from the failures. We can't grow as individuals or a team if we don't participate fully. I regularly read a16z's weekly email which curates interesting and relevant business media whether it be an article, podcast, or blog. Finally, for fun, a recent read was Ready Player One which is a dystopian future fiction novel centered around 80's video games. It is a well-written ride down memory lane for those of us who grew up with Atari, Nintendo and Sega.
Finish this sentence: The world would be a better place if….
People had more empathy for one another. I have to work at this concept, but when I do, I find outcomes are generally much better for everyone across the board both at work and on the home front. There is always another point of view. Even if you don't agree with it, trying to understand where someone else is coming from and why can re-frame a conversation and reduce unnecessary and resource-consuming churn and frustration. It doesn't always work, but it is a good place to start.
What else can you tell us about yourself?
I work hard, but I am also incredibly grateful for the people around me who have supported me throughout my career. People have consistently taken a chance on me, advocated on my behalf, and trusted me to take on jobs and roles I had little or no experience in. And I try to pass it on for those who work with me.
Originally published by the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Docket.