Tough Talks Made Easy | How To Hire The Right MOPs Leader
Written by Manasi Gaje
One of the growing pains of Marketing Operations is that many organizations are hiring in the dark. Hiring teams with a hazy understanding of MOPs as a discipline struggle to design roles with realistic skill requirements that candidates find fulfilling—and nowhere is this disconnect more blatant or consequential than with leadership positions in the space.
If your Hiring Manager or CMO is searching for a MOPs leader, look no further than this Tough Talks Made Easy. We’ll help you articulate the fatal flaws to avoid when hiring a MOPs leader, and the qualities and experience your organization should instead prioritize. By having this conversation, you can advocate for a strong vision of what it means to lead a MOPs team, help your hiring team to identify credible candidates, and position yourself to grow into a leadership role.
The split problem
Many job descriptions for senior management positions in Marketing Operations tell stories of confusion. Companies look for candidates that must have current platform certifications, a wealth of data science experience, will manage day-to-day campaign tactics, own the tech stack—and somewhere, in the middle of the technical work candidates have already done in more junior roles, they’ll find time to strategically lead the same functions they’re performing.
This is both unviable and uncompetitive. Your CMO may recognize the value of stellar technical skills and reportability, and budget to offer candidates high salaries, but the price too often means doing three different jobs in one. For candidates who are ready to set strategic direction, roles with heavy platform administration and hands-on tactical work do not represent meaningful career progression.
If your hiring team’s idea of a MOPs VP or Director resembles an “upgraded” platform admin role, encourage them to reflect on other leadership positions in the company. Do any other senior roles have a comparable share of tactical responsibilities?
Probably not, because a 50/50 split between tactical and strategic projects is simply ill-fitting for a leadership position. In a marketplace where the demand for high-level MOPs skills outstrips the supply, it’s unrealistic to attract and retain good candidates with roles that don’t play to their strengths or career goals.
Here’s what to advise the hiring team: focus your MOPs leader role on setting the strategy, and leave the tickets and data pipelines to team members who’re still learning the tools of the trade. If forced to flip flop between two very different sets of competencies, your unicorn candidate will end up a master of none.
From “management” to “leadership”
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in many businesses. To stay resilient and competitive, companies race against the clock to hire candidates with the digital prowess to optimize their technology and data. The urgency for MOPs skills has increased in kind, and we’re seeing companies bump up middle management MOPs roles to leadership status and pitch them to candidates with around 5-10 years of experience.
Just as the tactical and strategic split in these roles is ill-fitting for prime leadership candidates, neither does it work for those who’re still learning about management. Your CMO will relate to this: the graduation from “manager” to “leader” is more than a change in title, and that’s no different in MOPs.
Becoming a MOPs leader is a development from knowing all the corners of Marketo to understanding what drives revenue and growth in your business, setting a vision for the department’s operations and priorities in step with the future direction of marketing and technology. Candidates with 5-10 years of experience are, broadly speaking, still nurturing that skill set.
For your hiring team: giving someone a leadership position with high expectations who is still learning what it takes to be a leader, on a steep learning curve, is a recipe for disaster. You have two viable alternatives. One is to downgrade the role appropriately, giving your new manager the time and space to develop their leadership skills; the other is to hire someone who’s truly ready to lead.
The right MOPs leader
Your Hiring Manager and CMO may need a hand to identify what leadership really means in MOPs. This is where you come in. You know that MOPs is all about efficiency; rather than putting out fires, a leader should demonstrate the proactivity to set processes up for success and prepare to mitigate risks. They also need a strong grasp of how marketing operations as a function is evolving; enough to see through the spin of vendors and get to the real value of each tool.
From your experience at the crossroads of the company, you’ll know that MOPs demands exceptional communication skills, and nowhere more so than at the leadership level. Your MOPs VP or Director will lead the team that orchestrates data, so they’ll need to interpret insights, share feedback, and sell decisions at levels from C-Suite down to Business Development reps.
In a space that’s constantly changing, a Marketing Operations leader should also be a passionate student; someone who learns through adaptation rather than prescribed beliefs about how the industry works, and is prepared to take new developments in their stride and apply them to current and future plans.
These are the traits you want to advocate for as a MOPs leader, in a role that’s focused specifically on setting direction for the team rather than manning the same tools. By having this talk with your CMO and Hiring Manager, you can set your MOPs function up to succeed with the right talent in the appropriate roles, and position yourself as someone who understands what it takes to lead.