MOPsTalks Recap – The Path to MOPs: How did I get here?

June 30, 2020
Thomas Viano

June 11, 2020, was a busy day for MOPsPROs, a community of Marketing Operations professionals where you can “connect with the cream of the crop of like-minded professionals.”

MOPsPROs, in partnership with MOPsJOBs, held two online MOPsTalks—the first in the early morning and the second in the late evening–to explore and discuss different answers to the question, “The Path to MOPs: How did I get here?” Each MOPSTalk was attended by 25 or more and provided a great chance for people to hear from fellow MOPs-ters, to laugh a little, and to learn a lot. In case you missed it, you can access recordings for each session here:

This MOPsTalks covered many topics but focused primarily on the speakers’ paths to marketing operations as well as training and certifications. These two topics are summarized below.

Kelly Jo Horton from ROOM hosted both sessions. The morning session featured Tyson Jurgens from Newsela and Courtney McAra from Mustang Martech. The evening session featured Veronica Holmes from BluprintX and Jamye Breidenbach from Etumos. In addition to discussing their path to their MOPs careers, the speakers also shared their views on certifications and training.

Surprisingly, a simple question like, “How did you get started in MOPs?” has many different answers. As noted by all the speakers, there isn’t a degree in Marketing Operations that one can major in. At best, you may pick up a course in marketing operations as part of a marketing or sales degree or as a professional development class. Sometimes, our college degrees are related to marketing operations; sometimes they are not. Regardless of how one has entered the profession, it’s clear that most enjoy the challenges and the tools needed to solve problems and to enable the rest of the organization to succeed.

Courtney McAra is the principal at Mustang MarTech. Her approach to marketing operations started at what she described as a “perfect storm of opportunity,” being in the right place at the right time. Her adventure into MOPs started when she began working as a marketing assistant for a small tech company focused on websites for dental and orthodontic professions. She volunteered to dust off an underused Salesforce installation and the rest is history. Adrenaline rushes and dopamine hits were common as she did more and more with tools and data as her work showed positive results.

While McAra and the other speakers have learned many skills on the job, she believes certifications are important, especially for an agency. While there are new certifications coming out all the time, there isn’t a magic wand for everything. Focusing only on certifications won’t get you very far. While her path to MOPs includes a business and marketing degree and an MBA, her experience working in a small marketing group doing everything from writing copy and creating images to creating forms and managing databases. McAra suggested that another question that should be asked is how long have you used an application? She also imagines a time when there may be two types of certification: strategy certification and technical certification.

Tyson Jurgens of Newsela started work in marketing operations in 2013. His degree in theater directing is strangely relevant to marketing operations since there’s no better preparation for delivering a product under-budget and on-time than preparing for opening night. I thought this was a great analogy. How many of us have had the pressure that “the show must go on” and we push forward with a smile on our faces and our fingers crossed behind our backs? While working on a project to train school principals on how to evaluate teachers as mandated by new legislation, he inherited a database that was in dire need of attention.

Jurgens stated that certifications in marketing technologies help “shorten the conversation” when interviewing a client or potential employee, much to the delight of the interviewer and interviewee.

Veronica Holmes, Principal Consultant for BlueprintX, calls marketing operations her “third career” but I’m sure some of you may find similarities to her path to the profession. She started as a technical writer and moved into IT-related roles, usually working on projects for communicating with customers like websites, community building, and online help systems all while managing a fan fiction database for Xena: Warrior Princess. Renaissance Pictures. Her interest in building automation began before platforms existed to do so and worked as a product manager and marketer when, in the downturn of 2008-2009, she suddenly found herself as the head of the marketing department.

Holmes is a huge believer in certifications. She notes that the best you can hope for in terms of “formal” training is a course or a section about Marketing Operations or Marketing Automation in a more encompassing marketing degree. So where does that leave MOPs folks with no “official” training? Certifications fill that role since they do prove that a person is dedicated and capable enough to obtain a certification. Certifications teach constructive thinking, the ability to communicate, and a commitment to learning. Anybody considering working in MOPs should consider certifications. If you work in an agency, then you certainly must have your MOPs staff certified. If you work in house, certifications serve to build confidence and helps you beat “imposter syndrome” (a topic that was discussed in both morning and evening MOPsTalks).

Jamye Breidenbach, Platform Operations Consultant at Etumos, started working as a BDR making cold calls while attending college full time at night, ultimately earning her degree in Business Management and Leadership from Portland State University. Her job shifted into distribution channel and email marketing for a regional field marketing team due to an org restructuring. She never said no to an opportunity to grow within the company and try something new regardless if she had the experience or not. Through support and exposure to marketing operations from her mentor, Kelly Jo Horton, her responsibilities grew into owning the marketing automation platform and a number of other tools used by the global organization. She found working in systems enjoyable and fascinating; right in line with her process-oriented desire to operate efficiently, simplifying the level of effort and timeliness to go-to-market.  She was very happy to find herself in that role and even happier today working for Etumos. She says there is a lot of opportunity in marketing operations, not only as an individual contributor but for a MOPs person to be in a C-level leadership position.

Breidenbach believes certifications are great if they are relevant and challenging; requiring experience and skill set to acquire them. Given that there are over 8000 platforms, how does one find the right certification to pursue? Having just completed a Marketo certification, she sees the value in what’s needed to do your day-to-day job or grow your career. The people she works with daily have a higher level of confidence in her abilities with a certification more so than the number of years of experience working within the tool. Generalized certifications that don’t require you to have an in-depth, strategic understanding of the tool are great for platform introductions to retain the information or topic of interest learning but are not that helpful in terms of career growth in the long run.

Various topics, ideas, and humor during both sessions really helped show the human side to the work we do and indicated, at least to me, that while many in the profession are analytical and data-driven, we’re all human and an awful lot of fun to work with. Clearly, the MOPsPROs community provides a place for people to stay up to speed on skills and tools.

This MOPsTalk was a great way to meet different MOPs across the globe as speakers and attendees came from a variety of time zones. 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: and on the very active Slack Channel, MOPs Professionals at

Stay tuned for details for the next MOPsTalk!