Anna-Fiona Cooke is an ad tech enthusiast with a passion for emerging trends and data science, but she finds the most joy in her family. She is our #WCW because of her dedication to her career, wife, hobbies, friends, and family.
1. What's your story? What makes you unique?
I come from a large, supportive family. I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up with a strong support system that taught me the importance of giving back. Because of this, I’ve taken risks in my life that have paid off, and my success comes from my personal drive and a strong support system. I believe in working hard and playing hard. Life is too short--- traveling, charity and spending time with friends and family are huge passions of mine. I believe in surrounding yourself with people that make you a better person. My close friends are considered my family because they share the same values of support, respect, hard work and giving back. Life always comes full circle, and I want the right people in my circle.
2. What motivates you?
My biggest motivation is the people that rely on me: my family, my clients, my colleagues. I've always had high expectations for myself as an individual. Even as a kid I would push myself in school with grades and athletics. I want to make my colleagues and my boss proud. I am also an extremely competitive person, so, my competitive drive is a huge motivation. I want to exceed expectations- not just meet them. I want my clients to not just be happy, but to enjoy working with me and to trust me. Sales is a relationship business, and I fully believe in cultivating those relationships through trust. I am motivated to set a good example for my daughter and to make my wife proud.
3. Who is a hero of yours?
My personal hero is my mother. She hasn't always had an easy life, and she's really been a rock in our family's life as well as her siblings' lives. Another hero to me is Ruth Ginsberg because she has paved the way for women, human rights, and advocated for civil liberties even when it was unpopular to do so. I want my daughter to learn about her and look up to her as a leader.
4. Give us a road map of your career. How did you get to where you are today?
I started my career in tech after graduate school. I finished my MA in Communication at the College of Charleston in 2009. Shortly after graduating, I moved to NYC hoping to work in advertising. 2009 was a hard time to find work, and I ended up taking an internship opportunity with a startup tech company called OpenSky. That was a very short-lived journey, as I found myself unable to find a more stable position and NYC was not the place for me. I packed up my small bedroom in a first-floor East Village walk-up apartment, loaded my belongings and my pup into a rental car and drove to Atlanta to live with my parents. That was an extremely humbling time in my life. As a very aspirational person, It was a hard pill for me to swallow. I was a 25-year-old with a MA degree living with my parents. I began bartending while I searched for work. Little did I know then, bartending turned out to be the single best sales training that I ever had. As someone that has built a very successful career in sales, that is something that I always remember when asked about my career path. Bartending taught me communication skills that could not be learned in a classroom. I learned to relate to people from all walks of life. I learned to connect with people and form relationships that kept customers coming back. It was truly a gift that I did not realize at the time. I was a bartender for a short eight months before I finally got a position in sales. I was offered an Account Executive position for a newspaper group in Atlanta. I had no idea how to sell and I knew nothing about newspapers, but I wanted to start somewhere. I remember during my job interview the interviewer asked “Why should we hire you? You have no experience in media sales.” I looked at her and said “everyone has to start somewhere.” I got the job, and three months later I was the top sales person at the company. I attribute that success to my hunter mentality; I wanted to be the best and I wanted to exceed my goals. I found the adrenaline from closing a sale to be addictive. I went from strip mall to strip mall with newspapers in my hand, walking into small businesses and selling them square spaces inside our newspaper. It was not glamorous, I was told “no” a lot, and it was surely a dying industry- but it was the perfect place for me to get my feet wet with sales. I became a scrappy seller and I still have that sales style today. Newspaper ad sales is hard, and they say if you can make it in newspaper ad sales, you can make it anywhere. I was in the newspaper ad department during the industry transition to website display ads; it was a tremendous time to be there and see the industry shifting. After two years at the newspaper company, I got a call from an AOL recruiter and ended up transitioning to digital media sales which was the logical next step in my career path. I have been working in ad tech sales since then. I’ve never had to apply for a single job since that first position at the newspaper group that gave me a chance because I’ve always been recruited. I am forever grateful for that first position because everyone needs to start somewhere. Since AOL, I have worked in ad tech research, display media, publisher media at BuzzFeed, and now I’m working as the Director of Sales for the Southeast at Nativo. Nativo is the leader in true native advertising: brand content served within publisher editorial streams, matched to the look and feel of each publication, fully integrated and consumed on the publisher site. I love what I do every day- and I love the company that I work for.
5. What's your future plan? Your goals?
Professionally, I’ve been looking for a company that I can grow within for a long time and I believe Nativo is that company. I love my colleagues, the company culture, and I believe in the product and the CEO’s vision. My goals are to advance my career and help Nativo grow a larger presence within the Southeast. I want to continue to build stronger relationships with my clients and exceed their expectations. Personally, my goals are to be a great mother to my daughter and my dogs and to be a supportive partner to my wife. I think having a supportive partner is key to success at work, and I couldn’t ask for a more supportive family. I also want to continue volunteering with animal rescue, a cause that is a very near to my heart.
6. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
This might speak more to animal lovers, but I’ve always relied on two pieces of advice: “be the person your dog thinks you are” and “ be here now.” Both of those sayings are meaningful to me both personally and professionally. I believe in being kind and empathetic, honest, trustworthy, dependable and savvy. Your dog (or child, or pet) looks up to you; they believe in you, see you as doing no wrong, they rely on you and they trust that you have everything together. I remember this everyday, and I strive to be exactly the person that they think I am. I am responsible because they depend on me, as my boss does, as my customers do and as my family does. I am kind, honest and trustworthy because I believe that if I do business this way, others will see that and it will build lasting relationships. I am savvy because I have people that rely on me, so I strive to never stop learning to advance my skills and to invest in my career. I know that I do not know it all- and I always have more to learn. “Be here now” is something my dad always told me growing up, and it is especially applicable in today’s world of screens and instant gratification expectations. I try to live by this advice because it is so easy to think ahead to the next big thing, to work ahead to the next meeting, or even to think about what you will say next while someone else is speaking. All of that “living and thinking ahead” removes us from the moment that we are in now, and thus we miss a lot. We miss what the person we are with is saying, thus we are not actively listening. We miss teachable moments where we could have learned something important. We even miss moments of bliss because we were too busy worrying about our next meeting. “Be here now” means soaking in each moment to the fullest because life is too short, and we miss a lot when we spend too much time being distracted.
7. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?
I am very passionate about animal rescue. I am huge animal lover, and donate a lot of my time and resources to local rescue organizations like Angels Among Us, Lifeline Animal Project, Lasky’s Lucky Ones, Two Tailz, and Puglanta. I’ve worked in rescue for a long time now, and I’ve found that awareness is a huge undertaking for these organizations. So many people do not realize how important animal adoption is or how harmful puppy mills and breeding can be. Spaying and neutering makes a huge difference in the animal population and it’s something I’m constantly pushing. There is more that people can donate besides give money; the rescue organizations need help with donated blankets and dog food. They need volunteers to come spend time with the animals; taking the dogs on a walk makes a huge difference in their demeanor. They also need transport help which involves volunteers driving dogs to the vet or to their new homes. Fosterers are always needed, and fostering saves lives. We have four rescue dogs at home and we consider them our children. It’s a full house, but it’s a house full of love and adventure! My wife and I are also passionate about the Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU, organizations that make a huge impact on the lives of LGBT people and their families.
8. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?
It’s hard to choose one. I’d have to say that the top three coolest things that I’ve ever done are joining a roller derby team, getting married and becoming a mom. Roller derby played a significant role in my life, allowing me to experience the joy and the rush of being a part of such a strong female movement. Roller derby is a powerful movement; it brings women of all walks of life together and forms one of the strongest families I have ever been a part of. Roller derby is empowering, and I’ve seen the sport first hand ignite fires inside of women whose souls have been dimmed. I met my wife through roller derby and marrying her was the best decision that I’ve ever made. When we first started dating, it was illegal for us to get married, but during our engagement gay marriage was legalized and our wedding day was one of the best days of my life. The other best day of my life was the day that our daughter was born. My wife and I did not want kids when we first met, but as time passed we felt like a child would be a wonderful addition to our family. We are not “baby people,” so it was shocking to us that we wanted to have a child. We could not be crazier about our daughter. Seeing my wife deliver Lincoln was the coolest moment, and when that little baby first grabbed my finger, I was in heaven. We are so grateful that she is here and we are enjoying the adventure day by day!