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How to Build (& Keep) a MOPs Team

Posted November 17, 2021
Jeff Kew

Who to Hire First

Jeff has a strong background in marketing technology and has built many teams in different roles over his career. At the beginning of our chat, Jeff pulled from earlier team-building exercises to summarize what he looks for in a MOPs professional and how he decides which role to fill first.
“When I was hired by Magnitude, they didn’t have a marketing operations team. Instead, we had a single marketing automation specialist who was being pulled apart by conflicting or overlapping requests. Everybody wanted a piece of her. Finally, the company realized it needed to build out a marketing ops team. However, they first needed to bring in somebody with team-building experience. I was fortunate to get hired to fill that role. “My first hire actually had minimal Marketo experience, but plenty Salesforce Marketing Cloud experience. I wasn’t looking for a smooth talker. Rather, I wanted someone who could best answer my questions visually in a flow chart style. The candidate started drawing out the solutions I was looking for, and I hired him. He’s still with us. “What I look for in a new hire is less about specific platform proficiency. I once told our internal recruiter that I’m fine with hiring someone who has a few months of experience using MailChimp. If they possess strong logic skills, they’ll be able to figure out Marketo quickly.” “Logic skills are really important because they can make or break how fast your programs are going to run. Those are the best people to hire.” Logic skills help people figure out how to prioritize work, unravel system bugs, and connect the dots in underlying data. With so much data thrown at us every minute, understanding how to filter out the background noise and focus on what’s important is essential. Hiring Priorities Jeff also recognizes that changes in the market necessitate a focus on employee satisfaction. “In marketing ops, the salaries are up. If you have people on your team doing a good job and are knowledgeable, let them know you value them. You don’t want to lose them. If you do, you’ll be forced to hire somebody new, start the process anew, and still pay market rates. So, why not pay the market rate to the person who is well versed in your systems and has a good working relationship with your business?” With the “Great Resignation” raging on, many companies are beginning to see the value of employee recognition and retention. Jeff shared a recent experience on social media. “I saw an interesting comment on Linkedin from a large platform. Essentially, it was a VP-level executive complaining they’d gotten so many over-qualified applications for a director role that it made choosing the right person a challenge. I think that says there are people out there who are currently employed but are still looking for new opportunities. They recognize they can get a promotion or a salary increase. This same VP said, ‘You need to pay attention to the staff you have.’”

Coaching Others to Avoid Burnout

We’re now wrapping up the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and sometimes things don’t feel any easier. People are tired and, frankly, depressed. Burnout is more than a threat, with 52% of people reporting that they’ve already reached their breaking point. Burnout isn’t new to Marketing Ops. People have sounded the alarm for years, and yet not much has been done to address the issue. Marketing Ops tend to be people-pleasers, and we can struggle with establishing boundaries. Jeff shared some coaching strategies he uses to help guide his team away from operations fatigue. “Having empathy is extremely important. I like to believe I’m a servant-leader. I always ask for feedback. I’m the one who takes the heat when something goes wrong. On the other hand, when something goes right, I make a point of recognizing the team member who created that success. I give credit where it’s due and do it publicly. If you have to admonish somebody, do that privately. People want to work in a safe environment, both mentally and emotionally.” Retention Priorities Leaders need to model key behaviors. For example, how do you want your team to handle mistakes? If they watch you sweep some unfavorable data under the rug, they may feel like it’s better to hide a problem. As a manager, it’s important to acknowledge an error publicly and take responsibility. Mistakes will happen. Make your team feel safe to admit that there’s a problem. “People need to understand they’re part of a team and not lone wolves. You don’t solve the problem by yourself. You keep everyone informed. You maintain communication. That’s part of building empathy for one another as well.”

Advice for Newbies

Are you thinking about joining the Marketing Ops community? It’s a great time! Positions are in high demand, and salaries have skyrocketed. Jeff offered some advice to help people considering this career get a running start. “I’m not an advocate of unpaid internships, but paid internships are a great foot in the door and fabulous experience. “I’ve got a couple of boys, and one just started taking up autobody repair. He’s doing his apprenticeship, but it’s a paid apprenticeship. He’s fortunate to have found good mentors, and he’s learning how to work with some cool systems, equipment, and vehicle brands.” Frequently, universities establish relationships with large businesses in their region and offer exclusive access to some great programs. “Here in Vancouver, Simon Fraser University (SFU) has a very good partnership with SAP. I also know Salesforce does something similar in San Francisco. If you know where you want to end up in the technology industry, find out what companies you want to work for and what internship programs are in place. Then, look at partnered universities and do your best to participate in those programs. The people I’ve seen start as interns have either ended up being hired full-time at SAP, gone to Salesforce, or some startup. They’ve done well for themselves.” Starting in Ops Lastly, you should be on the lookout for excellent mentors. There are many online communities, and members are vocal about promoting each other’s skills and helping one another learn. Find someone who strikes you as a good person and strong leader, and look for mentorship opportunities. “Watching someone’s online behavior is very telling. Are they helpful within online communities? What’s the vibe you get from them? Do you see them giving feedback? Find helpful people, pay attention to them, and reach out to them. But also be mindful and respectful of their time.”
For more on building and keeping a MOPs team in today’s challenging market, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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