I did my degree in event planning and therapeutic recreation, but I quickly realized that the industry didn’t leave much room for work-life balance. I shifted into a sales ops administrative role at a tech company. My now long-time friend and mentor hired me for a marketing operations position and introduced me to Marketo and other instrumental tools.
What’s great about having an event planning background is that you have to organize both the micro and macro—meaning thinking about the why behind the event as much as all the little things (like the layout, the look, etc.). It’s the same thing managing multiple functions of marketing ops. From martech, to analytics and campaign operations, to project management, they all require the type of brain that can flip between minute details and larger strategic themes.
I’m currently running a massive martech evaluation. We were publicly traded and then purchased by a private equity firm, but then we’ve also acquired a range of other companies in the last few years. Making sure all those teams, products, and systems mesh together requires using a lot of the creative side of my brain. I’m evaluating everything in the collective marketing tech stack, deciding what we should continue using, and thinking about what’s the best fit for our situation. It’s not just about the coolest, shinest tools—or even best practices—it’s about what is going to impact the business the most.
Lots of women let imposter syndrome keep them from the roles that they’re absolutely qualified for. We think we have to match every single qualification or have everything in place before we take that next step. If you want to be in a leadership role, I think the first step is evaluating whether or not you’re holding yourself back in the first place, and then shaking that off. Go for the role, if you want it. Even if you’re underqualified or think you are. Own what you’re good at, and you can even declare how you would go about learning what you think you don’t know.
The next point is to have an inquisitive mind but to also be proactive. A lot of people have big ideas but have no fortitude behind them, and so they never achieve those goals. This is essential too, as you move up in leadership. You have to be able to make things happen for yourself and your team, as well as be able to find and hire others who are going to do the same.
Lastly, you have to learn how other people communicate. Don’t just assume they know what you’re talking about or that they’ll even understand things the way you do. You could learn visually, while they learn audibly. Understanding how to effectively communicate, as well as effectively understand others, is a massive skill necessary for a leadership role.
Prioritization is your saving grace when there are resource constraints and fewer people on your team, but you’re expected to stick to the same production schedule. Take stock of all of the projects you need to get done and then go through with a fine-tooth comb (and maybe a glass of wine) to find what truly needs to be done to impact the business. Oftentimes people get stuck over-indexing on “best practices” when that may not be the best for their business.
Once you have clarity around your goals, walk through the milestones for each team or team member to support the movement. Giving folks direct ownership of a particular business goal leads to an uplift in engagement and satisfaction of the job. Lastly, I would recommend taking the time to check-in with your team (including skip-levels!) to make sure that you’re aware of individual roadblocks and can find ways to maintain engagement and support their individual goals.
I don’t think my 23-year-old self knew just how smart she was. For a long time, I’d thought of myself only as a task manager. Somewhere along the way that shifted, and I unlocked the side of me that makes decisions and comes up with good ideas. Suddenly, I was okay with failure. In that sense, my best advice would be to have more self-confidence and just go for it. Even if you fail, you’ll have learned something.
A Slack community to share strategic marketing operations best practices