Skip to main content
Bold PerspectivesMarketing & Advertising InsightsTalent Development Insights

Bold Voices on Inclusive Management & Marketing: Elise James DeCruise of MediaMath

By February 19, 2020No Comments
Elise James Decruise Bold Culture

Elise James DeCruise  (00:03):

Oh, thanks for having me, Darren. This was amazing.


Tell us about your role in MediaMath as the Head of Multicultural Marketing and Inclusion? 

Elise James DeCruise  (00:09):

MediaMath is within the ad tech space. We have a platform that enables companies, brands to manage all of their digital marketing through our platform. I joined the ad tech space a little over 15 years ago now. And I started out in the space heading up education. I think there’s a big opportunity to transform the industry through the lens of education and I know, we’ll talk a little more about that later. I’m really excited to be at a company that embraces diversity and inclusion and also to think more intentionally about the role that multicultural marketing plays within the broader ecosystem. So prior to the the role that I’m in now I headed up the New Marketing Institute, which was educational arm of the company which I founded in June of 2012.

Elise James DeCruise  (01:09):

In the last year, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my passion areas where the intersection of education, diversity, inclusion, and multicultural marketing , met and I started to craft a job description shared it with our CEO and our COO and other internal stakeholders. And we decided that , this was the right point in time to start to do the work internally and externally around multicultural marketing and diversity and inclusion. The roles are are separate, but there are a lot of intersection. So through the lens of multicultural marketing looking at creative, looking at how we’re positioned within the market ensuring that our technology can help transform a company’s business through the multicultural marketing lens. And then on the diversity inclusion side looking at it through a lens of workforce, workplace and marketplace.

Elise James DeCruise  (02:14):

So looking at the makeup of our company the workforce, really looking at the data as well. , like how many women in engineering in the New York office, right? That granular. And then also looking at how people show up at work through work place. Right? So are we creating an inclusive environment for our employees to thrive regardless of where they are , in the world. And then lastly, marketplace. So I think marketplace is interesting because you’re looking at all of the components within our ecosystem and what the feeling what the intersections are there. It can be vendors can be like clients or traditional partners or, could be on trade associations, right? Like, , the, the IAB, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, right? The governing body around digital marketing could be the ANA. And it could also be nonprofits as well, and making sure that we’re being good stewards of the role that digital marketing plays and multicultural marketing plays within our industry.


Given that dual focus on marketing and inclusion, how can we prioritize both authentic marketing and advertising in the short term while also working to add more diversity to the inside ranks?



Elise James DeCruise  (03:50):

Well, I think, I think they’re both happening in parallel, , and I, and I, and it’s hard to to prioritize one or the other. , I think that they both important, right? But the way that I, the way that I view both entities, it’s like through education, great. Like we have an opportunity to meet the audience where they are through multicultural marketing and we have, , we have an opportunity to meet, whether it’ clients or stakeholders where they are through the diversity and inclusion lens. So by that, I mean, when I’m focusing on diversity and inclusion, I’m working with cross functional teams, obviously including HR to prioritize and align like different goals around DNI. And then in multicultural marketing working with , product, working with marketing, right, to make sure that we’re doing more listening than we are talking with our clients to see what their needs are, what audiences they’re trying to reach and how we can be really thoughtful about the types of images that they see.


Prior to this role you were the founder of Media Math’s New Marketing Institute. How did that commitment to educating the industry on the changing landscape of marketing come about?


Elise James DeCruise  (05:13):

Yeah. So I joined I joined media math in January of 2012. I worked really closely with our CEO Joseph Zawadski board member and advisor and internal stakeholders to really look at the market. After we after we did some research in that, in that regard we came to the conclusion that we had an opportunity to transform the industry through education and solve for two problems. One was the skills gap and the other one’s the talent gap. So the new marketing Institute essentially was , born to educate, engage and empower the next generation of marketing professionals. Regardless of your industry experience. We wanted to make sure that we could level the playing field and create a safe space to have conversations about technology that for some could be very intimidating.

Elise James DeCruise  (06:16):

I think for us as learning and development practitioners within within the space, it was our responsibility essentially to create a safe space for people to learn and grow. Regardless of what your title was, where you were located in the world. So our cornerstone of New Marketing Institute with meeting the learner where they are in location, language, learning style and level of experience. So we wanted to create that space for people to get the information that they needed about the ecosystem and the technology that underpinned it. So that they can upskill themselves or upskill members on their team.


How important is education within the diversity and inclusion conversation–particularly for hiring and retaining diverse talent? Can companies do more?

Elise James DeCruise  (07:03):

I think education is a gateway to access to opportunities for individuals that are new to the industry, individuals that are transitioning from other industries, right. And being able to identify those transferable skills that carry into , digital marketing and programmatic and also provides access for underrepresented groups who are, , spending a lot of time using the technology and, , using the tools. But they might not be in a position to , think, think critically about the underpinnings of the technology that they’re using. So it was really important to me not only to create a diverse team to help support the New Marketing Institute’s mission and vision but also to create experiences that are intentional and hands on. So in 2014 we created the marketing engineer program.


Elise James DeCruise  (08:07):

That was an amazing experience to be able to not only bring folks in who might not have had enough opportunity to obtain full time roles within this field. But also spend some time with our clients and partners and companies that were looking for top talent but didn’t know where to go to get it. So this program was, and still is , a, foundation for individuals to learn about the ecosystem and get hands on experience in the tools that field. It’s been a little over 40 have obtained training through our program and certification globally. We’ve also partnered with Penn state university. They’ve adopted our, our curriculum within within their university.


Darren Martin Jr (09:14):

Was there any intention in making sure that those individuals were from diverse backgrounds?


Elise James DeCruise  (09:42):

Definitely. It definitely was top of mind. We wanted to make sure that we were , thinking, thinking outside the box, right. And bringing individuals in that were not from traditional backgrounds. It might not have had access to our industry what I’ve found since being , not only in my role, but just being a professional within tech, Particularly people of color, they don’t see themselves represented in leadership roles and even outside of leadership roles. And it was important to me to make sure that we had diverse groups and cohorts that were going through that program.


Darren Martin Jr (10:27):

Do you have a favorite moment in those seven years?


Elise James DeCruise  (10:33):

I mean, there’s so many favorite moments, but I would say being able to build something from the ground up and from like the content to the people that I lead, right. The training. So I think, , for me, one of my favorite moments was like the launch of the New Marketing Institute and probably getting our first award.


Darren Martin Jr (11:03):

That’s big, big!! It’s great!


New Speaker (11:08):

Yeah, it was great!


Elise James DeCruise  (11:12):

We were recognized by the IAB in excellence in education.


How important are nuanced talent metrics important to a company’s D&I strategies and policies?



Elise James DeCruise  (11:30):

I find that for other functions within an organization they will come to the table with data to support their business case. And oftentimes for D & I, and in HR groups specifically the data can be in some instances and unable to have data to support where we currently are and where we want to go. It’s important to. D&I is very sensitive to begin with. And I think in solving for it is hard. And everyone is on a different spectrum of this D&I journey, right? So I think it’s really important to have the numbers right, to support where you currently are and where and where you want to go. And being able to celebrate those milestones along the way is equally as important because it’s not going to be fixed overnight. But I think for most companies, they want to solve it.


On the necessity for meaningful conversations in addition to data collection 


Elise James DeCruise  (13:09):

It really depends on where the person is or where the organization is within the, within their DNA D and I journey. I do think that data is important. I also think that having meaningful dialogue and storytelling around the data to support and what type of initiatives that you’re trying to deploy internally around diversity equity and inclusion is equally as important. So as we’re going through this journey and recognizing the role that data plays, it’s also important to understand that you have to have conversations. And you have to support, support individuals that are going through this journey because it is scary. And I always say like get comfortable being uncomfortable and build trust so that you can have those uncomfortable conversations. Cause like in my lifetime, the most uncomfortable conversations are the conversations that have really stretched me the most. So I think it’s important.


How can others help their companies or themselves approach Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?


Elise James DeCruise  (14:36):

It was important for me to jump in and not wait for the perfect opportunity to talk about diversity and inclusion. , but instead have those hard conversations about where I saw my role in solving for D and I and doing like really doing a gut check to see where your organization is and taking, , just taking the time to really assess, right? Like, , what the culture is, what the climate is of your organization. Because what might work for another one company might not work for your company. So I think, , really being intentional about doing , listening tours internally, right? Making sure that you have a strong grasp of how you can contribute based on your skillset and your passion areas with the internal D&I conversations.


What are some of your tips for current DE&I practitioners within a space?

Elise James DeCruise  (15:53):

For D&I practitioners that are trying to solve for this , whether it’s inside or outside of tech, one of the biggest things is just having the conversations with other professionals within the space and not isolating yourself to try to solve for it all by yourself. I think, , with this work, because it’s so, like emotionally draining and it’s just, it’s hard stuff, right? It’s important to have that group of, , board of directors, if you will. Right. Or , trusted advisors to lean on and share best practices and next practices right around this work.


What inspired you to take on DE&I within your company as a core function of your role?

Elise James DeCruise  (16:45):

I think it’s both. I think for me, having been at MediaMath for seven years when I transitioned into this role. And, and not seeing the representation that I think should have been there was kind of like my moment of, like if not now, when? So I just felt like I really needed to step up and I thought a lot about the people of color and underrepresented groups within MediaMath and also like outside of MediaMath that might not have had a voice. And I felt like I could be that person to bring folks together internally. And also raise the conversation a little bit. , internally about the role that diversity & inclusion plays. My advice, any individual that’s going through this journey, whether or not they had the title of, head of D&I or Chief Diversity Officer is to keep going and strengthen your network and take time for you as well. Like wellness is really important.


Aside from the work that you’ve done, what are other things that interest you?

Elise James DeCruise  (18:30):

Outside of trying to spend time with my children who are growing up so quickly 14 and 10 — crazy. As a former student athlete, I feel like it’s so important for athletes to have access to career opportunities and career exploration while they’re playing. So I spent a lot of time and I still do working with high school and college athletes and preparing them for life after sports. It’s never too early. So I work with them on resume writing, interviewing skills, how do identify transferable skills that carry over from athletics into the corporate world or entrepreneurial world. Right. And that really like brings me a lot of joy and a lot of satisfaction on because , athletes give so much of themselves on the court, on the field, right. And oftentimes they don’t get that the level of support that they need to receive to really thrive after sports. So I put together some curriculum that levels the playing field for athletes to to thrive and be celebrated off the court, off the field, the same way that they would be with an athletic environment.

Elise James DeCruise (20:18):

I’m also the president and co founder of a people analytics company for diversity, equity and inclusion called, called Dandi. And it’s been an amazing experience, humbling experience and being able to focus on the data layer within D&I work that I’m doing and being able to do that with an amazing group of people is awesome.


What does inclusion mean to you? 

Elise James DeCruise:

What does inclusion mean to me? Inclusion to me is a feeling, I think when you feel included, you feel safe, you feel celebrated, and you feel like you matter. So, for me, it’s a feeling that you get when you have psychological safety, right? When you can bring your full self to work or to play. Right. and that you feel like you matter.