AdTech Reboot

Trust Web Times Interview Series: Rose Steinberg; People Obsessed

Marc Goldberg

Marc Goldberg

Author at The Trust Web Times
Marc Goldberg

Marc Goldberg

Author at The Trust Web Times

Marc Goldberg is a contributor for the Trust Web Times. Marc is also the Principal at Stages Collective. Stages Collective helps companies at different life stages in a variety of ways. Business Development, go-to market strategies, Landscape analysis and as an additional recruiting resource.

Rose Steinberg s the Founder of Talent & Recruitment Agency + Advisory , People Obsessed

We exchanged emails for this interview and it has been slightly condensed and edited.

Marc Goldberg: Rose, tell me a little about your journey.

Rose Steinberg: Where to begin?! Should I admit that I was in AdOp before AdOps was even a thing? But really, I grew up in the space – I think I was 25 years old when I got my first people management role – and I’ve been building and leading teams, primarily within the digital and marketing industries, ever since.

My professional career began in the Bay Area, where one of my first leadership roles was the director of advertising operations and client services with Snowball (IGN Entertainment was one of our brands).  After that, I went to Yahoo!, where I worked for three years in the US before moving to Hong Kong to oversee operations for the advertising business across APAC and the Emerging Markets regions. I’ve done the startup thing at DoubleVerify (circa 2010) and later Innovid, I led a large customer team at Microsoft, and my last full-time role was with Vox Media, as their vice president of client success.  I won’t list them all, but along the way, there were quite a few different positions with various technology and media start-ups. And I’m currently serving as an active Executive in Residence with Progress Partners, a US-based M&A investment bank that works with emerging technology companies.

The best years of my career were probably the ones spent at Yahoo. This is the place I had the most rapid professional and personal growth in a short period of time – it was uncomfortable likely the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been in a role. From a finding fulfilling work that matters point of view, the only thing close to rivaling it, would be the work we are doing now at People Obsessed and the common thread is doing work that matters with fantastic humans. 

I’m still in regular touch with the majority of my former colleagues from across the span of my career, many of whom are now customers of People Obsessed, which I am very proud of. 

MG: So, what made you decide to start your own recruiting business?

RS: Well, it’s actually pretty funny because, truly, the thought of starting my own business NEVER crossed my mind. I’d had a keen interest and been deeply ingrained in the space for years, but there was never an entry point that made sense until a few years ago.

In 2012, I launched People Obsessed as Lotus Solutions to do some business consulting work. But as the business grew and our focus evolved from part-time consulting to full-time recruiting and talent advising, it started to feel like the name had stopped fitting what we were doing.

We really felt like the work we were doing deserved a brand name that stood out and embodied what we love about working in the recruiting industry. A name that clearly reflected our passion and obsession for working with incredible people and businesses.

My team and I are obsessed with finding the best people for the best opportunities at the best companies. So, earlier this year, when the time came to finally make the change, People Obsessed was the perfect fit.

MG: You’ve had a ton of success with your recruiting and talent business, but now that it looks like we’re heading into a recession, does that have you worried?

RS: Well, we actually launched the recruiting side of People Obsessed right before the entire globe when into a pandemic. Overnight, we went from having to turn down projects to having almost none – with no idea when hiring would start again. So what’s a little recession compared to that, …right?

But in all seriousness, thankfully, the combined knowledge, experience, and relationships my team and I have built during our time in the industry allow us to navigate these downturns pretty successfully. In particular, our malleability allows us to adjust our focus to areas that will continue to hire despite difficult economic outlooks. Having this flexibility helps ease my mind and keeps me positive that not only will we be able to help people land well, but we’ll also be able to help hiring organizations identify the best talent needed to grow their businesses and support those teams by providing the opportunity to work on exciting projects during a downtown.

It’s a wonderful position to be in, but that doesn’t mean I won’t still be cautious, planful, and continually listening to the market, as I always do.

MG: So, in a way, we might consider you… recession proof?

RS: That’s flattering, but I think a lot of it has to do with having the experience and understanding to truly have a sense for what is happening in the job market, of which the downturn is one of several factors.

In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons for the current job market situation is that the hiring landscape had reached an untenable position. Though undeniably painful, at its core, what we’re seeing is a natural correction to an imbalance in the marketplace. The value exchange between what employees provide companies and what companies provide their employees needed to be rebalanced.

And while times like these most often cause big companies to pull back, I believe smaller, growth-oriented companies that have committed to hiring and building out their companies, willl flourish. These companies have received money to grow and hiring is an important conduit to growth. If you’re a candidate with what it takes for an early-stage environment, you’re in an incredible position.

I also believe that times like these represent a significant opportunity for talented people who find themselves out of work to create a powerful turnaround story for themselves. Look to identify the right value that you can offer to fit a company’s specific needs.

MG: What have been the hardest positions to fill recently and why?

RS: Over the last 6 months, the hardest positions to fill have definitely been some of the more junior or mid-level positions, but the reasons are mixed.

Hiring managers are always wary of “jumpiness,” and there’s been a lot of movement for this population over the last few months – in no small part because of how favorable the hiring landscape had been towards skilled job-seekers. And on top of that, already bloated salaries make it hard to attract interest.

Another area where it’s been historically tough is in sales roles for enterprise SaaS businesses in AdTech. If you’re a challenger business where you’re trying to unseat tech that’s already in place, and you’re dealing with a long sales cycle, it can be very hard to attract salespeople to those roles. It’s pretty obvious why – it’s going to be hard to make money.

Organizations that fit this mold need to have strong compensation plans that can entice the right people to these positions.

MG: Are there any other areas of the industry you see as broken or needing correction?


For one, the interview process is completely broken. Hiring managers and companies are so often stuck on candidates ticking boxes they feel are important, it causes them to miss out on candidates with tremendous potential.

The “safe hire” is rarely the best hire!

Whenever possible, I encourage hiring managers and companies to focus on POTENTIAL. What are the skills, capabilities, and other indicators that create a high probability for the person’s future success? What about someone’s past experiences increase the likelihood they will be successful in the future?

Finding and hiring someone who is safe is really not often the best hiring decision. Someone with a little less experience, but who combines their experience with significant drive, curiosity, hunger, and grit, may surpass the more expensive candidate in terms of productivity, creativity, and ultimately, results.

MG: What about remote work? Are the roles you’re filling becoming more location specific now that people are starting to go back into the office?

RS: This is also something that, like the job market, is a wide-swinging pendulum – between both candidates and hiring organizations. But it does seem like remote work is finally starting to normalize after seeing some extremes.

We’ve seen Elon now mandate Twitter go back to the office. And Apple is back to office. But the majority will settle into hybrid work. The bulk of the startup and tech workforce wants and demands the flexibility hybrid work allows for.

MG: So, is there anything that does worry or keeps you up at night?

RS: There is definitely a rush of talent on the market and it’s tough meeting amazing candidates and not having enough opportunities that fit their talents. I’m looking at new ways to reverse-engineer the current model, to help these folks land well.

There are not a lot of very senior roles open right now. That’s partially just this time of year, but also partially the economic climate. We saw businesses collapsing management layers in Q3, and we saw businesses hiring a level below what they wanted to in order to constrain budget.

But on a positive note – as usually happens during fiscal planning cycles like most businesses are in right now (2023 planning), boards, CEOs, and executive management teams are asking themselves, “Do I have the right team to get this done in 2023?” And, with that, just as we see every annual planning cycle, there will be opportunity and movement. I just don’t think there will be quite as much of it in a down economy.

MG: Okay, enough of the dark stuff – what are some things that bring you joy? Where do you find happiness?

RS: Travel! Using my passport gives me the perspective, energy, and experiences that increasingly make me better at what I do at People Obsessed.

This year I had the privilege of going on a girls’ trip to Harbour Island with 3 other female executives I am lucky to call some of my closest friends. I spent three weeks immersing myself in South Africa, a life-changing experience. I attended Untapped Global’s Africa Showcase, where the expanse of potential was truly incredible. During the showcase, we visited/heard from promising South African companies, dined with local investors and entrepreneurs, and saw some of the most beautiful things Cape Town and the surrounding wine country have to offer. It was a learning experience that has forever changed me. Africa is in many ways the future. One thing that stuck out to me was that in the US, if a company wants to acquire a skill, in most cases, it can hire it. In Africa, you have to create it. Supporting Untappped’s mission has been a rewarding way to enable growth in Africa. 

In 2023, I hope to find the opportunity to get back to Asia. I spent three years living there and working across APAC, so I’m excited to get back to spend time with friends and former colleagues.

MG: Who is going to watch Lulu and Goosie when you leave?


MG: Um no.

RS: Yes, I have two rescue cats, Lulu and Goosie. No, they don’t like each other… yet. But there’s hope, right? Rescuing animals and animal welfare is something I am very passionate about. I support numerous rescues such as Animal Haven, Bidawee, Beth Stern’s Beth’s Furry Friends, Mississippi Horses, Little Hooves Rescue, North Shore Animal League, Cauz for Paws, ASPCA, and Rising Starr Horse Rescue.

And I’m sure I’ll soon be donating to a few more!