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Incubeta’s Zoe Hall on Building Effective and Inclusive Working Environments

The Crunchbase “Female Leader Series” is comprised of stories, Q&As and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.


Zoe Hall is chief strategy officer at the digital marketing group, Incubeta U.S. She is responsible for driving technological innovation and advancement across the group’s adtech services. 

Before joining Incubeta, Hall was instrumental in launching an early-stage investment platform, Antler, where she worked as director of marketing. With nearly two decades of multifaceted experience encompassing marketing technology consulting and brand management, she is passionate about driving efficiency through innovation and is recognized across the industry for her ability to develop networks and build strong and meaningful business relationships.

In this Q&A, Hall describes her career journey, her current role and experience in management, and how she navigates the rapidly changing adtech market. She also shares how she networks, finds communities and makes the connections needed to succeed while focusing on building an inclusive and diverse working environment throughout the agency.


Q: What brought you to your current profession—what is the backstory of how you got started and your career trajectory to date?

My grandfather had a favorite saying: “Success is when ability meets luck.” He claimed this axiom as his own wisdom, but we all noted the similarity to Seneca’s philosophy that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Regardless of the origin, both versions are applicable to my career trajectory. For example, I once sat next to a CEO at a dinner party and offered my “too brutally frank” thoughts on, and subsequent recommendations, for his brand. Another time, I presented for my department during a potential M&A audit and shortly afterward—after the non-solicitation clause ended— the adversarial firm contacted me with a  job offer. In another instance, a former client with whom I had built a strong relationship called me unexpectedly to refer me for a job they knew I would love, and that I happened to be a great fit for. All of these moments brought me to my current profession. 

The intersection of “luck” and “ability” has been my entry point for each of my pivotal career junctures. I have taken these opportunities to intently pursue, seek and develop paths, goals and strategies; whatever it took for me to mold a potential challenge into a concrete role.

 

Q: Can you tell us a little more about your role at Incubeta?

Incubeta was originally a holding company that acquired three top-tier specialist brands across media (NMPi), creative (Joystick) and technology (DQ&A). As a global company increasingly growing it’s client base and footprint, Incubeta recognized the advantage of consolidating and integrating the previously siloed specialists, so that each could enhance one another’s tactics and performance. 

However, while both the creative and media teams already had a presence in the U.S., the technology company did not. I was hired to launch and build an integrated technology division for Incubeta U.S. More specifically, my role is to help our clients—brands, publishers, and agencies—improve the collection, analysis and activation of their data, so they can better understand and provide for their customers. In turn, this helps them evaluate the performance of their marketing efforts and campaigns to personalize content based on audience segments or individual users.

 

Q: What are the biggest problems you are trying to solve—both for your company and your customer?

The biggest challenge currently is the privacy debate. It catalyzed regulations and restrictions on data collection via cookies, as well as device and cross-web and app identifiers. These challenges are so pervasive that they have macro and micro impacts on our entire industry; Incubeta aims to provide solutions for new obstacles facing our customers and clients. 

While I believe these changes are necessary and they present an opportunity to refresh and rebuild consumer relationships and corporate data, solutions and infrastructure, we urgently need to respond to what these changes mean to our industry and for the value exchange presented to consumers. 

While the impending cookieless world mandates a large-scale shift in focus to first-party, opt-in data, I do not believe focusing on privacy-driven measures are adverse to performance, nor are they inversely corollary.

Incubeta’s viewpoint is that digital responsibility is critical to the success of all businesses, and improved data regulation is a much-needed opportunity to reset and provide data solutions that are more effective for both consumers and companies.

 

Q: How do you network, find communities and make the connections you need to succeed?

Even though I’ve often been labeled as gregarious, social and extroverted—the truth is that I, like most people, feared networking. However, while I managed to evade it for most of my career, networking has become a large, and necessary, part of my job. 

We’re all too familiar with the abundant cliches and axioms about networking being critical to success, but it is. And it’s something I wish I’d invested in sooner. It will help you grow as an individual, in your career and, most importantly, it’s nowhere near as scary as it is in your mind. My advice around networking is threefold:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask. Most people are more willing to help than you would imagine.
  2. Networking is like any other relationship. It is built on mutual interest, trust and human connection. Nurture your connections, even when you don’t “need” things from them. 
  3. Reciprocity is key. You’ll have an “ask”, but remember to “give” what you can (be creative) in return. And always remember to pay it forward.
 

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

An ex-boss once said to me “Nobody is going to die if this doesn’t get done,” when I was inundated with work and untenable deadlines. That advice stuck with me.

I was beyond stressed one day when he very calmly entered my office and asked, “Are you currently operating on a terminal patient?” When I replied no, he laughed and said the aforementioned. It was one of the kindest and most necessary responses I’ve ever received.

Sometimes the details and the daily stresses amount to a level where you start to lose sight of the overarching picture. Take a step away, take a breath, realize there is a broad spectrum to the words crisis and mandatory’, and get back to doing your best with a renewed perspective. 

 

Q: What is your advice for other women looking to succeed, especially those who may not see themselves as tech-savvy?

Women traditionally have been socialized to view themselves as lesser than we are, and to shy away from non-people-pleasing-activities. There are countless studies on gender inequities in high-level roles, the disparity in comfort with self-promotion, and the feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt and impostor syndrome that highly accomplished women frequently struggle with, even those who’ve broken the “glass ceiling.”

Insecurities, self-criticism, self-doubt and self-imposed pressure will impede you and hamper your ability to not only perform in your current role but also to grow and succeed. 

It’s much easier said than done, but get out of your own way; there are likely already more than enough obstacles without you second-guessing your skills, capabilities or success. Focus on your distinct skillset; own your strengths and your work ethic; and realize where you’re best able to add value and how your skills are effective. Finally, lean into your team—foster communication and connection and realize you’re stronger as a whole than as individuals.

 

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or “personal mantra” you use to keep yourself motivated?

I wish I did. I really love quotes, as may already be evident from my answers, but I find them equally impactful and fleeting in their ability to motivate and inspire me.

Instead, as I continue to grow and ascend the corporate ladder, it feels more incumbent upon me to not let my team, or the people who have given me opportunities, down. It’s also recently dawned on me that I’ll need to represent women in senior roles and feel “worthy” of being looked up to.

 

Q: What challenges are you most proud of overcoming in your career?

I’m most proud of learning how to reframe my failures. After 14 years in the industry, one fact of life I’ve learned is that some degree of failure is inevitable for all of us.  But what we learn from these failures can become our success. 

I would not be where I am today if I allowed the anxiety of my previous missteps to weigh on my conscience. Rather, I’ve used these moments as opportunities to learn and grow and, in turn, my work stays vibrant and engaging. When I shifted my outlook to proactivity, I gained a huge amount of confidence and renewed vigor for my work.

 

Q: How have you integrated your values and mission into the work you do?

I value transparency, communication, authenticity and trust, and I have always aspired to work for companies that are aligned with these principles. In previous roles, I’ve worked to integrate these attributes into the company cultures where they weren’t present. 

I’ve also always championed a hierarchy-blind approach to decision-making and project management. Certainly, experience and industry knowledge is crucial in any field of work, but more often a collaboration—where each person is able to offer their unique perspective regardless of seniority—produces some unexpected and satisfying results. We can learn from every level of our organizations, and I’ll continue to pursue this practice throughout my career.

 

Q: What qualities do you possess that you think have contributed most to your success?

I have a profound interest in, and aptitude for, communicating and connecting with other people. I feel comfortable building working environments where different individuals’ strengths can be unlocked and flourish. 

I achieved a masters in psychoanalytic developmental psychology in 2010. As a result, I have a fairly solid understanding of the complexity of human beings. In my work now, this foundation allows me to lead with empathy and to leverage and align the different personality traits of my teammates. Alongside my humanistic approach to business, I believe that my versatility lends itself well to an industry that is constantly changing. My ability to wear multiple hats across any given day allows me to overcome whatever obstacles that day presents.

 

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your career experience so far?

It may sound trite, but it’s the intelligent, quirky, charming and diverse people and communities that I have had the opportunity to meet, interact with and contribute to along the way. 

On a more personal level, each successive job I’ve had has represented a progression toward a different phase of my life. Each step forward has been rewarding in its own way and highlighted different strengths and weaknesses that required leaning in to.

My role at Incubeta is not only the apex of my career progression thus far, but also the most complex, responsibility-driven, compelling role I’ve had to date. 

  • Originally published February 10, 2022