Do you want to get started in Marketing Ops? Have you seen job descriptions that list every possible skill, certification and degree as requirements for the applicant? Have you asked yourself if such a person could really exist? Do you wonder if you should apply to the job if you don’t meet all the requirements? Well, you’re not alone! About 60 Marketing Operations professionals just like you had these and other questions answered at the most recent MOPsTalks where hiring managers shared their views of the hiring process, what they look for in a candidate, and how to succeed in Marketing Operations.
MOPsTalks is a great way to have an open and easy discussion with Marketing Operations professionals around the globe. As moderator Kelly Jo Horton, Principal Engineer, MOPS & Technology at ROOM, clearly stated, MOPsTalks is not a “death by Powerpoint” experience. Instead, MOPsTalks is a refreshing and invigorating discussion between speakers and attendees where nobody is selling and the discussions aim to be platform agnostic. MOPsTalks is a free open forum for people who are passionate about MOPS and for those who want to enter the profession and even for those who might want to get out!
A total of six speakers were featured over two different online sessions so MOPsTalks could reach the widest possible global audience. On July 28th, the first session started at 9am Eastern Time and featured Michael Hartmann, Aqeel Akbar, and Zack Blois. The second session started at 4pm Pacific Time and featured Chelsea Kiko, Elicia Chen and Max Maurier. You can watch both talks in their entirety here.
Question: Everybody seems to approach MOPs in a different way. How did you get your “MOPs chops” and how do you describe your job?
Michael Hartmann sharpened his MOPs and tech skills at Freeman as the Director, Marketing Technology, Demand Generation and Analytics. He describes himself as platform agnostic and believes that getting processes right should come before any technology is implemented. To help explain what his job entails, he compares MOPs to accountants who used to use ledgers and pencils but who now use computers and software to do their jobs. Marketing Ops is the same.
Zack Blois is the Director of Marketing Technology and Automation at JellyVision, an organization that benefits education and decision support software for B2B. He started in digital marketing, moved to demand generation and was then exposed to the sales ops side of the business. He describes his MOPs role as one of maintaining robots that tell people about his company.
Aqeel Akbar is a Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Spirent Communications. He’s new to Spirent, but previously led MOPs at Cvent. He’s been in Marketing Ops for 6-7 years and describes his role as helping other people do their jobs and helping do more with less.
Elicia Chen, Sr. Manager, Marketing Operations at Zuora, started her career in email and lifecycle marketing. She quickly learned that you can make a career in marketing automation and technology, so she dug her heels into both sales operations and marketing operations. She describes herself as “the woman behind the curtain” -- the one pulling the levers to make wonderful things happen.
Chelsea Kiko, Marketing and Operations Manager at McGraw Hill, started working in event management for a PR firm. She has a PR degree, but as soon as she started using different automation platforms, she kept running with it, fell in love with it and kept going. She describes MOPs as connecting things together, supporting marketing and sales, and making things easier behind the scenes.
Max Maurier, Director of Marketing Operations and Analytics at Malwarebytes, worked as 911 dispatcher for the city of Santa Cruz before moving into Marketing Operations several years ago. While working as a dispatcher was stressful, that stress helped prepare him for the stresses in the everyday life of a Marketing Operations professional. He describes his job as “everything that happens after you fill out a form online.”
Question: Are certifications important?
Hartmann states that more than a certificate, a candidate’s ability to learn and their work experience is important. For example, he has worked with people who were certified in project management, but they were not the best project managers. Certifications are nice to have, but it doesn’t make all that much of a difference.
Akbar doesn’t look specifically for certifications, but if a candidate has a certification, it shows that they are excited and willing to learn. He also adds that there are other questions you can ask that show somebody is willing to learn.
Blois states that certifications are a pure value add and they show that somebody has taken the time to learn. It’s important, but not the “end all.” In terms of hiring, if you’re a person of 1, what have you built?
Maurier says that, yes, certifications are important, but they can sometimes overstate the actual skillset of a candidate. Just because a candidate is certified doesn’t necessarily mean they have a lot of experience in the tool.
Kiko believes that certifications show a willingness to learn. However, for a more strategic role, certifications may not be necessary.
Chen says that the need for certifications really depends on job level. For highly technical roles (such as a systems architect), certain certifications are helpful in that they validate that you have a full picture of the platform and therefore can build for scale. And they provide a communication shortcut, which is especially useful if you work cross-functionally with engineers. On the other hand, for management or strategic roles, business acumen is more important and certifications don’t hold as much weight. Either way, candidates having or not having certificates has never stopped her from meeting with a candidate, therefore they are not necessarily a requirement and it should not let it stop you from applying.
Question: Should you bother applying to a job if you have experience in specific tools, but a job description asks for something else?
According to Blois, you should definitely apply. Technologies become obsolete and change and ideally, you’re looking for somebody who is versatile and who can adapt. It’s typical that organizations switch tools from one to another for different reasons.
Blois and Akbar agree —Marketing Operations often requires somebody who can be a jack of all trades. They look for somebody with that type of mindset.
Hartmann adds that the job requires somebody who has a careful eye for detail. There are simple clues like spelling and grammar to look for in a resume to see if applicants are detail oriented or not. Applicants need to have a notion of best practices and hiring managers need people who can solve problems in different ways based on experience they’ve had even if that’s different from what the job description asks for. It’s true many paths lead to Marketing Operations and that the profession attracts a certain process-oriented mindset.
Chen, Kiko and Maurier say yes, you should definitely apply. Chen adds that being platform agnostic is super valuable and Kiko adds that if they’re an expert in one they will have the ability to learn another one.
Question: As a hiring manager, what are you really looking for? Many job descriptions seem to describe a mythical unicorn. Job descriptions can be super intimidating and include an endless list of requirements that they seem ridiculous. If somebody has 50% of the skills in the description, should they apply?
Akbar states that he’s looking for people who are willing to expand in areas and willing to be agile in those areas. job descriptions for specific use cases. Traffic cop for campaigns. And a marketing technologist. Marketing operations job changes every day. Employers need somebody who can ride the waves through the job and who have a knack to pick up skills. He advises to ask questions that pull back the curtain and get involved in strategic initiatives.
Blois sums it up nicely. While job descriptions are a top line negotiation document, they can be intimidating. Many hiring managers are actually looking for 7 out of 10 things. Blois finds value in aspirational job descriptions, but they can be too narrow and weed out too many people. Looking for confidence. As an applicant, you can usually tell by the description if the person who wrote the job description has done the job or not. He adds that a team-of-many makes a different environment than a team-of-one. Speaking from his own experience, starting as a team of one, Blois picked up skills outside of his job and tried things like demand generation. He advises that you determine the parts of your job that you like. Somewhere there’s a job that includes what you like doing. Conversely, you can make a career of doing things people don’t want to do. The opportunities are massive, and with patience and curiosity, you can find a niche for yourself.
Chen says that absolutely you should apply. She winces when she sees an overly-inclusive job description as it may be a sign that the team doesn’t understand the focus of the role, which is common given marketing operations is still in its infancy. Sometimes, they may actually need your expertise to define that function. Not every job description lists what is a “must have” and “nice to have,” so don’t let it stop you from reaching out. In addition, smaller organizations sometimes have the flexibility to craft the role to fit a good candidate.
Kiko wishes there was a better way to hire. Your skills don’t always have to map to the job description. Showing initiative by investing in the time to learn a platform and to continue building a skill set is always a positive. If possible, she will try to mold the job to the candidate if the fit is right.
Maurier says that an unreasonable job description is clearly indicative of who’s hiring. More likely than not, the hiring manager may be an executive who might not be familiar with the details of the day to day. A job with a unicorn description will expose you to a lot of competing priorities.
Question: Hiring managers want to hire someone that cares and takes ownership in their role. How do you articulate that in a job description and or questions during an interview?
Hartmann suggests that you articulate the important characteristics you’re looking for. Ask how applicants handle situations when something goes wrong. For example, “Tell me about a project or campaign that went sideways and what did you do to solve it?”
Other panelists suggested crafting the phone screens carefully and paying attention to what questions you give a recruiter. It’s ok to ask, “Tell me about a time that you knew you were right even though others disagreed.”
Question: What are Marketing Ops hiring managers looking for in a LinkedIn profile and resumes?
Blois looks at key words for descriptors that are based around basic tools, the type of wording you might find in KPIs. He’s not looking for admin, but for somebody who can relate experience to business goals.
Akbar looks for marketing operations platforms and marketing automation experience. Looking for somebody driven to finish things. With the current hiring environment, there are a lot of applicants blindly applying to many jobs, so it’s important to modify your resume for each job. Look for specific ways to set up resumes to feature experience in different systems. Specific skills related to the job description need to be at the top of resumes. Great people fall through the cracks because their resumes aren’t optimized.
Networking is important as well and will help you find a way around the ATS (Applicant Tracking System). Sometimes it’s hard to find who the hiring manager is, but getting in front of the hiring manager helps a ton.
Kiko doesn’t rely on tracking systems and automated systems and suggests that hiring managers should look at every resume. Applicants should have keywords that apply to the job description.
While Chen looks at the headline and experiences (the more outcome-oriented the better), Kiko looks at how active a candidate may be on LinkedIn. She likes to see what candidates engage themselves in and if she’s really interested in a candidate she’ll dive into LinkedIn posts.
Question: Besides technical skills, what are the top skills a person needs?
Kiko says that being detail oriented and innovative is key. Also, since you’re going to be working with so many team members, being a team player is also very important.
Maurier says that empathy is essential to understand why somebody in a particular role at a particular time may be communicating in the way they are.
For Chen, communications is important as well as resourcefulness and taking ownership. While you may not have all the answers, if you can share your vision and ask the right questions to figure things out, you’ll do great!
Question: Would you be willing to hire remote employees if we weren’t in a pandemic?
Hartmann says the pandemic has changed a lot of thinking about remote work. Pre-pandemic, remote hiring was not seriously considered; however, he brings attention to the conundrum that remote work was already happening all the time by agencies working all over the place. The pandemic has helped us adopt a new view to remote employment and it requires skilled managers who can be flexible and work with different working styles. There are more challenges now and an openness to remote work changes hiring practices a bit.
Blois states that while any job can be remote, the PERSON has to be able to work remotely. Some people thrive in an onsite work environment and many will thrive remotely. Remote work does introduce a new interview question: “Tell me how you keep yourself driven.”
Before the pandemic, Horton’s experience has been that employers would not hire remotely unless they had somebody who did it before. Everybody has had to learn how to be productive at home, now, so the question of hiring remote workers has now changed.
Chen says that at this moment, yes she would be very open to it. Due to the pandemic, many employers have evolved their technology and working style such that remote work can be just as productive, so it’s less of a concern. Though she does miss the cultural/casual aspects of seeing the team in person.
Maurier doesn’t think employers should have a problem with a team being remote. Since the pandemic, his experience with his team has been positive working remotely. There’s definitely value to face time in the office, but no significant downsides to remote team distribution. A split approach to working from home, with some time in the office would be Maurier’s preferred approach moving forward.
Kiko is pro-remote. Some companies that are not open to remote are missing out on a lot of talent.
Question: What can an applicant say if they don’t have years of experience?
Chen shared a story about a candidate who was an SDR applying for a junior email marketing role. The SDR spoke to the parts of their job that related to the job description and mentioned that they were looking for a mentor. It was an effective way to relate past job experience to the job and show interest and willingness to learn.
Maurier says don’t be afraid to ask questions. Show a desire to learn and admit when you need help. You have to be ready every day for something new and different and saying that out loud helps. Marketing Ops is full of uncertainty and unknowns. Embrace it.
Kiko says that you can tell if an applicant’s passion is real. Applicants should also show resourcefulness and show how they’re going to solve problems. She promotes being a lifelong self-learner.
Question: How do you find people?
Kiko works with recruiters but remains a very active participant in the process. She is copied on all applications in case recruiters miss anything. She also utilizes LinkedIn profiles. Recommendations mean a lot . When working with a recruiter, she adds that you need to do your due diligence in explaining a role to the recruiter.
Maurier suggests keeping your LinkedIn profile current and updated. He suggests that you list specific projects in your profile. While he works with recruiters, he doesn’t rely on them 100%. Some employers may also look for people in junior roles nearing their one year anniversary which may be when people start to look for alternative opportunities.
Question: Once past the recruiter, what questions are you asking to find and vet out if somebody has the experience they’re looking for.
Chen asks applicants to talk about a project they are proud of, and to describe their process as well when things didn’t go as expected. How they deal with problems is telling. She also asks about their one superpower, since having a team with diverse skill sets is a great way for everyone to level-up.
For specialist and manager roles, Maurier asks very specific tool questions. This helps the candidate know what kind of training they will need and helps him understand how quickly they can start supporting stakeholders. He also asks about infrastructure projects and marketing strategy experience.
Kiko states that the questions she asks depends on the role. She is big on process and documentation so she will focus on that.
Attendee Question: Do you need a college degree to get hired?
The panelists generally agreed that not having a degree is not a deal breaker. They care about experience and skill set and sometimes hire people who don’t have a degree and they didn’t even notice. One attendee pointed out that some professions—like a doctor—need a degree. For MOPs, there isn’t a degree. Smart managers hire for potential and look for candidates who can hold their own and get along with difficult people. Critical thinking is key, but a degree isn’t necessary, and it never stopped them from talking to someone. As fast as technology moves, we’re all learning on the job. We’re all evolving fast.
However, degree or not, if writing and communication is weak, that can be a problem when communicating to stakeholders since bad writing is distracting and reflects on your own personal brand as well as your department.
Question: What is the onboarding process like? How have teams changed?
Depending on the organization, onboarding processes vary. Some hiring managers set 30, 60, and 90 day goals and the onboarding details depend on experience. By the end of a full quarter, new hires should be able to do every type of request and know all the stakeholders.
Other employers offer peers as an onboarding mentor. It’s important that hiring managers have reasonable expectations about what new hires can take on and to make them feel welcome.
And then some “teams of one”—like in a startup—will have no mentoring and no onboarding. In that situation, you have to come in with your own experience. For a team of one, you are expected to come in and figure out who your stakeholders are and how to navigate through your tech stack.
This MOPsTalk offered a refreshingly honest view of the hiring process. The discussion of unicorn job descriptions sparked a lot of healthy discussion. It was especially informative and reassuring to hear fairly consistent views on the all-encompassing job descriptions. Unfortunately, a topic was introduced late in the second session that may indeed require another MOPsTalks: Is a hotdog a sandwich?
MOPsPROs is the professional organization for MOPs and has a few supporting components: MOPsJOBs (for all your hiring and job-seeking needs), MOPsCON (our annual virtual conference), and MOPsEDU (our training and education resources). Learn more at: https://mopspros.com/ and on the very active Slack Channel, MOPs Professionals at mopspros.slack.com
Stay tuned for details for the next MOPsTalk!