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JoAnn Covington: Leader Responding to Her Instincts

Most influential journeys start when a person’s instinct suggests a different path. Believing and following her instinct, JoAnn Covington, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer of Rocket Fuel sets an another example of such a story.
JoAnn started her career as a litigation attorney representing software and technology companies. In litigation, her responsibility was to negotiate the end of business relationships or resolve conflicts involving intellectual property rights or consumer products. JoAnn realized that she wanted to be on the front end of creating business relationships and strategizing the intellectual property development for technology companies. Confident that her litigation experience would help her create better deals and better strategies to ward off costly disputes that distract businesses from focusing on value creation, JoAnn took her legal career inhouse.  After a long career at Electronic Arts, in 2012, JoAnn joined Rocket Fuel as the first General Counsel.
Rocket Fuel: Marketing That Learns
Rocket Fuel is a technology company that serves advertising agencies and marketers. Rocket Fuel’s mission is to make marketing meaningful by using the power of big data and machine learning to deliver the right marketing message to the right person at the right time. The company offers a technology platform that is designed to help marketers and their agencies connect with consumers through digital media at moments when that connection is most likely to be influential and most likely to achieve the marketer’s objectives.
Responsibilities at Rocket Fuel
JoAnn joined Rocket Fuel when it was a fast growing private company in 2012, and oversaw its journey through an initial public offering in September 2013 and its acquisition of a well-respected provider of a data management and demand-side services in 2014. During her time at the company, Rocket Fuel has navigated stiff competition in a complicated ecosystem while also transforming its business into a Software-as-a-Service platform offering. JoAnn advises the company on navigating complicated business relationships and new ways to do business successfully with the company’s customers and partners.
As Rocket Fuel’s Chief Privacy Officer, she is also responsible for the company’s compliance with data privacy regulations globally. Rocket Fuel’s technology enables publishers and advertisers to interact with their consumers through delivery of digital marketing. However, Rocket Fuel itself is not a consumer brand and does not have many opportunities to address consumers directly. JoAnn and the Rocket Fuel team strive to showcase the company’s privacy-friendly practices and demonstrate to consumers that their advertising technology benefits them through the creation of engaging, relevant advertising that complements their online experience.
Creating Environment which allows Continuous Learning
At Rocket Fuel, JoAnn and her team, strive to enrich their professional experience every day. JoAnn shares that one of their core values is “Rocket Fuel Smart”, which means being passionate about understanding Rocket Fuel’s technology and customers, and understanding how they can help their clients achieve their goals. They have numerous resources internally to engage, including product demonstrations and new release previews, and “huddles”, which are meetings open to the entire company in which employees share their expertise. “The result, we believe, is a team of informed and engaged employees who identify with our customer needs and are committed to quality,” adds JoAnn.
Role of Women at Rocket Fuel
JoAnn is proud to say that her company values a diverse workforce and strives to create equal opportunities for all employees. She further adds, “Women at Rocket Fuel contribute, as men do, to all aspects of our business from legal to finance, from engineering to product development, to marketing and sales.”
‘We Don’t Need Automatons’
When asked about her work-life balance, JoAnn shares that, at the beginning of her career, her mentor once told her to make time for her outside interests, commenting, “We don’t need automatons at the office”.  She took that to heart, and notes that  “experiencing life outside of the office environment is just as critical to developing  a career, as your daily work experience.“She also believes that it is important to make time for work, to make time for family and to make time for yourself. “I do that by reserving time on my calendar not only for work obligations, but also for my family and myself. I focus on those activities, and always try to be present in the moment,” adds JoAnn.
A Chance to Start Over Again
As a college and law student, JoAnn engaged in non-profit work. In law school, she started a pro-bono resource center for law students, worked for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and for Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Recalling those memories, JoAnn shares that if she had to do it all over again, she would worry less about student loans and car payments, and take time after graduating to pursue non-profit work in areas that she was passionate about.