Bitly

Why I’m at Bitly: Featuring Chief Data Officer Amy Bolles

LONG BEFORE AMY GERSHKOFF BOLLES BECAME THE CHIEF DATA OFFICER AT BITLY, SHE WAS A SELF-PROCLAIMED BITLY POWER USER.

But more on that later. To skip past Amy’s career highlights would be unfortunate given the number of incredible opportunities she’s pursued leading up to Bitly.

For example, after earning her Ph.D. in political science and quantitative methodology (AKA data science) and starting a successful ad tech business, Amy was referred to work on a high profile political campaign. The client? President Barack Obama.

Reporting directly to the campaign manager, Amy ran media planning and analytics for his 2012 re-election campaign, determining how the President’s 600 million dollar advertising budget would be spent.

Shortly after that, she went to work at WPP, a large advertising conglomerate that owns around 350 different advertising agencies. There, she started out in a subsidiary agency and worked her way up to chief data scientist, working across advertising companies and coming up with ways to optimize, drive impact and measure communications.

“Back at WPP, a huge part of my job was helping chief marketing and communications officers at Fortune 100 companies create strategic marketing plans—and Bitly was one of the tools I used to design massive, effective advertising campaigns. And it worked! Really well, in fact.”

After holding leadership positions at eBay, Zynga and Ancestry, Amy decided to join the team at Bitly, which brings us back to today.

What brought her to Bitly? We’ll let Amy tell you herself.

SO AMY, WHY BITLY?

Two reasons: the people and the product.

My Bitly coworkers are good human beings who try to do the right thing for customers and employees. That’s a big deal to me.  As for the product, I’ve been a power user of Bitly for many years. I think it’s unique and impactful, and it plays such a large role in so many different and exciting use cases.

What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?

I don’t think most people realize how powerful and important it is to say “thank you.” It doesn’t happen as much in the business world as it should. And sometimes those two words can go such a long way, whether it’s a business negotiation, employee motivation or working effectively with colleagues.

Many many years ago, I had finished a piece of analysis I had worked really hard on and I handed it to my boss. It was a very large assignment that needed to be done really quickly, which required some late night hours. Later on, in a team meeting, he made a big deal of thanking me for my work and that really meant a lot to me. It’s something that has stuck with me and that I’ve tried to carry through, whether it’s my team, my colleagues or my clients. There’s a lot of power in the words “thank you.”

What are your top 3 leadership principles?

#1

The first is by far the most important. It’s the golden rule: treat people the way you want to be treated. If in every interaction you did this, then you’re going to land in a good place the majority of the time.

#2

All work is a team sport. I believe there are very few situations in which game-changing things can be accomplished by one person. We all need the collaboration, interaction, energy and ideas from other people to be able to deliver great things. I try to only hire people with this mindset.

#3

Have fun. Yes, this is work but collaborating together on new and innovative ideas is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to deliver value, yes, but it’s also supposed to be enjoyable.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

My husband and I adopted a puppy that’s really cute and has a lot of energy, so he takes up a lot of our time outside of work. We take him on hikes up in Marin [County] and on urban adventures in San Francisco.

How do you approach solving big problems?

I believe that every big problem is like writing a dissertation. When I got to the part of graduate school where I had to write my dissertation, if I had said to myself, “Wow, I have to write a book from a blank piece of paper,” that would have seemed insurmountable. Instead, I divided the work into chapters, and each chapter into sections, and each section into subsections. And then, on any given day, I would say to myself, “today, I need to write one subsection,” and that seemed very manageable. And I kept doing that every day until I finished.

When you break up big problems into discrete, bite-sized chunks, they suddenly seem much more manageable to accomplish.

What’s one thing you cannot do?

Survive without coffee.

What’s your favorite Bitly value?

Do or do not, there is no try. Both because it’s a great value and because it’s from Star Wars.

In your line of work, where does the magic lie?

I think for anyone in a leadership role, it’s successfully helping your team members become their best professional selves, while also helping the team function as the best team it can be. So the magic is in striking that balance.

This or that

Pandora or Spotify? Pandora
East Coast or West Coast? Both! I love them both.
Red wine or white wine? That one’s easy. Red wine.
Speed or precision? That’s a toughy. Can I say yes to both on this one, too? They’re both important in different situations.

Tiffany Fowell @