No one ends up in ad ops on purpose. But once they get there, they love it.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times folks working in revenue operations have told me that they didn’t end up here on purpose. For instance, take Pilar Prassas, Vice President, Revenue Operations at PGA Tour, who after studying journalism in college intended to move to Belize to become a travel writer but ended up working in ad ops and now here they are 20 years deep in the game.
To move up the ranks in rev ops, Prassas advises that attending AdMonsters’ conferences and taking part in the community is a must. It’s not only for the learning that people show up to the AdMonsters’ Publisher Forums and Ops events, the networking is invaluable. In their case, building long-lasting relationships at the conferences landed them in their current gig.
As PRIDE month comes to a close, I wanted to learn more about Prassas’ career ascent, their film In Sickness and in Health about same-sex couples fighting to marry their partners, how hooping in college taught them the importance of team building, their advice for young LGBTQ+ women looking to get on the leadership track in ad tech, and what PRIDE means to them.
Lynne d Johnson: You spent about 19 years at Reuters, consistently moving through the ranks of revenue operations to now leading revenue ops at PGA Tour as the VP of Advertising Revenue Operations. Can you tell us a little bit about your career trajectory and what you’re responsible for in your role at PGA Tour? And how did what you do at Reuters prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Pilar Prassas: I was planning to move to Belize to be a travel writer after studying journalism at Boston University. I booked a one-way ticket and with the support of my older sister, Kelly, a technical recruiter in NYC at the time, she found me a temp job working for Reuters to save money before my move to Central America. After five months, Reuters offered me a full-time position in Ad Operations as a junior trafficker.
I was part of the original six-person consumer team who decided to make Reuters.com a commercial offering. We contacted Double-click, got the ad server up and running, and we were off to the races creating thousands of line items and uploading hundreds of creatives for our clients. Every two years, Reuters organically presented me with my next opportunity and my trajectory from entry-level to executive began to take flight.
By the end of my run at Reuters, I was the Global Head of Revenue Operations. I oversaw our Ad Ops, Programmatic Ops, Ad Tech, Yield & Pricing & Business Development teams. My favorite part of the job was managing people across the globe. I love building connections and trust with my employees no matter the difference in culture or distance. There was never a dull moment and I always thrived on being pulled into a fire drill. Reuters gave me the most incredible foundation that I will always carry with me and all it cost was an unused ticket to Belize.
An essential MUST DO when pursuing a career in Ops is to attend AdMonsters Conferences and I attended all of them. It’s about networking with your peers and ten years ago, I sat down for dinner next to Raef Godwin, and we became fast friends. Whenever our paths would cross at these events, we would discuss trying to work together. Last August, Raef made that happen and I joined the PGA TOUR team.
As the VP of Advertising Revenue Operations, I oversee a broad portfolio of owned, operated, and partner platforms, including PGA TOUR, DP World Tour, GolfWRX, Tomorrow Golf League, and USGA ShotCast. I lead ad product research, decisioning, integration, optimization, and measurement. I also ensure the insights and analysis related to our products and platforms prepare the Sales teams for client conversion and retention. I create intelligence around pricing and packaging, and inventory management that leads us to full revenue recognition. The PGA TOUR business is very complex, so I am lucky to be surrounded by an incredibly supportive team that has been helping me get my bearings this last year. For me, it always comes down to the people.
LdJ: I heard that you recently screened and discussed your film, In Sickness and in Health, a documentary that chronicles the lives of seven same-sex couples fighting to marry the partners they love, with your Employee Resource Group, PRISM. First, why was it important to make this film? And what did it mean to you to bring this film to work and share it with your colleagues?
PP: In 2002, I started filming what I thought would be a historical documentary chronicling the fight for gay marriage within this country. I came out of the closet a few years earlier so there was something inside me screaming to pick up my camera and start filming. I was living in NYC working for Reuters and I saw my best friend’s Mom (Marilyn Maneely) and her partner on the cover of the newspaper. There were seven same-sex couples who joined up with Lambda Legal to sue the state of NJ for the right to marry. I don’t think any of us knew this would be the start of a five-year journey for civil rights.
During the pursuit, Marilyn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). This fight became one against the clock. They needed the rights of marriage in place to protect their family and their shared assets. Unfortunately, we lost Marilyn before gay marriage was legalized but my hope is that her legacy continues to live on through my film. She dedicated her entire life to this cause.
In Sickness and In Health was released in 2007. It traveled across the film festival circuit and even won Best Documentary in Philadelphia, New Mexico, and Washington DC. The film was picked up by the distributor Women Make Movies in NYC and it had a beautiful run in the educational market — screening in many colleges and universities across the country.
Sixteen years later, PRISM asked to screen my film at the PGA TOUR headquarters, which was exciting but elicited questions to me as a filmmaker: Would audiences today connect with the struggle for marriage equality? Would the film hold up over time and have an impact? I was nervous but the organization was beyond supportive, and the screening room was completely packed with colleagues and leadership. The feedback I received reminded me of why my instincts were telling me to pick up my camera and start shooting.
My goal in making this film was to humanize a civil rights struggle. The resurgence reminded me that this story still has a place in educating viewers about the importance of the rights gays were not afforded before this fight began. One person from the audience told me that if I didn’t have dates listed throughout the film, they would have thought it was happening right now. Sadly, the country’s political divide continues to place these rights at risk. My goal is to continue to share this story as a reminder of what we are fighting for, which for Marilyn, was to protect her family.
LdJ: Let’s change tracks a little bit. I did some sleuthing and learned that you played women’s varsity basketball during your days at Boston University. What are some things you learned during those years playing basketball and being part of a team that you still carry with you today both in life and at work?
PP: Growing up with three siblings and an extended family with 27 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild, it’s no surprise I love being part of a team. I started playing competitive basketball at five years old and I would spend long hours working on my ball handling. I loved the concept that the harder I worked individually, the more it would collectively bring up the entire team. All my teammates had the same mentality, and we were determined to be successful together. Between hard practices, long road trips to away games, and the balancing of our schoolwork — our bonds ran very deep because of our shared experiences. My teammates became family. We were there to support each other on and off the court.
When I started my career, I carried that same mentality to my Ad Operations team. I built a team of people who wanted to work hard and support each other. It has always been important to me to build trust and relationships with my team members. Knowing and understanding their experiences outside of work helped me better understand their individual needs at work. I listen to and guide people to shape the work-life for each person, so they thrive as individuals and then collectively as part of the team.
LdJ: What advice do you have for young LGBTQ+ women looking to embark upon a leadership track in such a male-dominated field as ad tech?
PP: First and foremost, find a mentor. If you don’t have one, I would love to be that for you. I love helping people navigate their careers and understand their value within an organization.
The most important thing is for you to always have a voice at the table. Be curious and always ask questions. Even when you are first starting your career, proactively step up and share ways to improve the process. Try and keep that same mentality as you progress in your career once you have a more holistic viewpoint. You will become a valuable asset to any team.
My second piece of advice is to KNOW YOUR WORTH. As awkward as it can be to bring up compensation, you NEED to be your strongest advocate. No one is going to go to your boss and say, “So and so should get a raise!” This has to come from you.
Think about where you want to be two years from now and start planting the seeds now. Expose yourself to all the different teams around you so that if an opportunity arises, you don’t miss out. Know where you want to move next and what your expectations are on compensation. You should bring up compensation every six months at a minimum with your boss. I am happy to help you practice these conversations, so it becomes more natural for you. I do this with all my team members.
Folks in the queer community are used to having difficult conversations. Lean into your strength in this area and use your voice to propel your career forward.
LdJ: What does PRIDE mean to you?
PP: PRIDE means to show up as my authentic self, unapologetically, so I can contribute toward progress, for our community. For me, it’s being a storyteller. I believe that every person has the power to make an impact big or small.