Most people that know me, know me as the affable guy that is always willing to help everyone out. That is me in a nutshell and it is definitely genuine and sincere every way you look at it. I’ve lived by the motto that if you help someone, you will receive the same in return some how. I feel like the world balances itself out like that.
When I started out in this industry, I never asked for favors, I didn’t start networking just to get a piece of the pie. I started by working hard and learning everything I could about technology, sales, and marketing. I struggled to survive at points and would not trade it in for the world. I wouldn’t consider myself a rockstar by any means, nor would I ever put myself on the same level of Neil, Brent, Todd, or Chris, because I still think I’m just an average guy that made it by working hard, kicking ass, and taking names.
Who is Tony Adam?
I was born September 10th of 1982 in a suburb just outside of Chicago, Illinois called Naperville. The son of two Armenian immigrants, a father from Egypt and a mother from Turkey. I think that I knew from a young age that I would always have to live through some sort of struggle or fight just to survive. The reason being is that until the age of 5 I had over a dozen convulsions/seizures and suffered from many very serious ones. My parents had come to a crossroads in life and a major decision to make, but, an easy one in their minds. The doctor let my parents know that for some reason by body was reacting to the cold weather of Chicago. At that point, the doctor told my parents that our family had two options, Los Angeles or Florida.
Education and School:
Once we settled in LA, my parents had little saved and no extra money. Somehow, they always managed to get by and make us all happy. I can’t be anymore thankful for that. But, based on the fact that my parents were immigrants, they never wanted to push boundaries. We were taught to live in fear, taught that we should obey everything anyone tells us to. From everything I remember, I was always fighting against this theory. I learned that if you want something, you have to go out and take it yourself. I never understood the educational system and got involved in what the average person would call “the wrong crowds”…meaning…I would constantly get into arguments, fights, and in a couple brawls in Middle School and High School. I didn’t understand living up to “others expectations” and wanted to get involved in music. At the end of the day, I graduated from High School, but barely.
College changed me. Technology changed me. Bottom line. Up until then, I worked full time in retail and at some point realized I really enjoyed technology. I was always fussing with anything technical, that said, I still didn’t understand and couldn’t comprehend spending 3-4 years in a community college and moving on to get my B.S. in Computer Science after another 2. So, I did some research, found Mt. Sierra College and enrolled in Computer Information Technology. This was probably the biggest turning point for me in life.
Getting into Technology:
While going to Mt. Sierra College I took weekend classes because I wanted to get a job ASAP. I literally left everything behind, some friends understood my decisions, some didn’t, either way, it was a much needed step in my career. But, it was 2001, lets be honest, it was basically like Nuclear Winter in technology. So, I came across a job as a telemarketer for a company by the name of Fame 1 Computers, Inc. I literally struggled to survive, not wanting to take a penny from the parents, I earned less than $7/hr and my expenses eclipsed that.
What I learned from that experience? I learned that I was again, struggling to survive and attempting to break boundaries. So, I was Cold Calling and selling computer hardware in 2001 to local businesses, it was like selling ice to eskimos, Good Luck. Still, I hustled and realized, I really enjoy it. Wanting more, after a few months, I managed warehouse operations and helping with diagnosing technical issues with computers, servers, networks, etc. A few months later I moved Technology Consulting for multiple Los Angeles Small to Medium Sized Businesses. I closed deals, worked on client projects and took a consulting business and increased it by 5x. To me, seeing those numbers at the end of the year was amazing. I felt validated. I was realizing that I was going out and “taking what I deserved.”
Next, I led the building of the company website and our last attempt of selling hardware while building a Computer Leasing business. That is where I got my start in SEO. I did a search for “get website traffic” or something along those lines and stumbled upon a few sites and Webmaster World. I worked my ass off attempting to get us to rank for terms like “computer leasing”, “server leasing”, “technology leasing”, etc. These were not high volume terms and were not extremely competitive. That said, it still required tons of work, tons of link pitches, a little bit of gaming, and…well yes…a little bit of shadiness. I was hustling to bring in Sales and I was going to do it by any means necessary. End Result: Without disclosing financial information, I increased the business by an order of magnitude. This changed me forever, again, I never intended to be a marketer or a user experience/product guy. I was very much tech centric and only wanted to be a software engineer and web developer. I despised sales, I despised marketers, I was very “Anti” in that I hated anything that was focused solely on making money and not for the “good of the web.”
Becoming “Mr. Social”
While working at Fame 1, I started going to .NET User Groups and other small time networking events. I went to learn was I was in full on geek mode and was there to learn new techniques and tips. At the time I left Fame 1, I told the owner of the company that I wanted to use my degree to its fullest and really wanted to get more involved in software engineering. He actually told me, “Tony, no matter what, please don’t be an in-the-box engineer, you are a natural salesman and marketer…one day you’ll realize…” Either way, I decided to leave and join NBC Universal via Plutus Enterprises. After a few months of trying to be an engineer, I hated it and wanted to literally “shoot myself in the face,” as I have said many times. That said, I moved more into a client focused project management role and turned around a horribly flagging relationship into a positive one. I did this by being social, by establishing solid relationships with key people, and kicking ass.
At this point, I realized that my boss was right, I started going to more “Media and Entertainment” mixers and meeting tons of people. Then I attended PubCon and met even more people, things were starting to pick up and I realized where my true abilities were: Sales, Marketing, Ideating, Products…it was most definitely not being a software engineer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a geek and get excited by sexy markup and CSS (yes, I said sexy), but it was not my calling to be a software engineer by any means.
Make it or Break it time:
But, I didn’t realize my natural ability until PubCon 2006, I started talking to more and more people, I found out I actually knew what I was doing in SEO and Web Strategy. I met tons of great people, started establishing some GREAT relationships and started working towards a goal. I wanted to be a “player” in the Internet Marketing and Product Development space and just like before, I was going to go out and take it. Went to more conferences like PubCon, SMX, and SXSW. Met tons of people, went to local meetups, talked to people, and straight up did my thing. I set a goal and in 2007/2008, I set out to achieve it.
I think I did pretty well, I intended to meet tons more people in 2007 and did. I started organizing Geek Dinners in SF, took part in SEO meetups, worked with startups on SEO strategy and consulted Pro-Bono for those startups. I worked with for PayPal and helped them develop some SEO and ORM strategies and I launched Visible Factors, my consulting company. I started actively writing on my blog, talked to tons of people about the things I loved, started getting my name out there, that was my goal. I even had to get the courage to put in my first speaking proposal, and, I was SCARED SHITLESS to do this.
Finally, I came to a decision point, I was ready to leave PayPal, and move on. I just didn’t know if it was time for me to go on my own, start affiliate marketing and consulting on SEO and product experience full time or work for another big company. I had already met Laura Lippay and we had hung out a few times, but, at SMX Advanced, she announced an SEO position at Yahoo! and I jumped at it. I realized this would give me the opportunity to get yet another large, and quite possibly the largest, Internet Brand on the Resume. I felt like this move would validate everything I had worked for and be a step in the right direction.
Being in the NOW:
Today, I work for Yahoo! as an SEO Manager for it’s Audience Marketing group. I have looked for opportunities and developed Vertical SEO, Social Media, and overall Web Strategies for teams like Yahoo! Games (some of which are soon to come!). Horizontally, I have created “SEO Hours” for any team to bring SEO issues to our team to address on a bi-weekly basis and “Brown Bag” lunches to spread knowledge and increase the conversations around SEO, Social Media, and Innovation. Outside of Yahoo!, I continue to write on the blog, I have spoken at various conferences such as PubCon, SMX, and SXSW Interactive.
Where does it all go from here?
At some point, I know that my entrepreneurship and ability to lead will shine through in my own ventures. It is a big jump for me that I know will happen someday. I have invested in businesses before and tried starting my own company in the past. Some of these were successful and lucrative and others have cost me thousands of dollars. Either way, they were all a major learning opportunity for me and have lead me to where I am today. Not to be conceited, but, not many people can say that have increased businesses by an order of magnitude, developed Multi-Million Dollar Strategies, created products from ideation to launch, and worked for two of the largest Internet Brands (PayPal/eBay and Yahoo!) all by the age of 26. I am proud of what I have done.
I started off talking about struggles and fighting for what I have and being someone that is willing to help anyone and everyone. Although I don’t know what the future holds, I am ready to take it by the horns, struggle if necessary, and fight for what I want, no matter what it is. My dedication to helping others is also there, as I will strive to always be as helpful as possible, and I am dedicated to evangelizing SEO, Social Media, and overall Web Strategy.
Feel free to add me on Twitter: @tonyadam or email me (tony at tonyadam dot com) anytime!