Marketing Operations Manager


What do you do & where do you work?

My name is Jacob Filipp, and I am the Marketing Operations Manager for LexisNexis Canada. I am based in Toronto, Canada. LexisNexis is a company that creates several lines of SaaS software aimed at lawyers. The main product is a search engine for finding historical legal decisions (case law). The company also publishes physical books and textbooks.

My team is responsible for publishing content on several corporate sites and administering an email marketing system. We are also the "first line of defence" on technical matters that affect our e-commerce store (errors, datafeed campaigns, improvements).

Tell us what an average day looks like. Try to be as detailed as possible.

This is what my day looks like. Because the field of "Marketing Operations" is a new one, every employer will require their own unique mix of tasks.

My typical day would look like:

My atypical day may look like:

How often are you interacting with people?

Whenever a new initiative is launched, I have to interact with many people. I meet the key stakeholders and discover their needs. This is done before proposing a technical solution that accomplishes their goals. Then, I typically enter into a period where it is possible to focus on executing the work. There are several interruptions each day, though. Usually emails about small issues/questions.

The hands-on work of Marketing Operations requires focus. But, because your position is at the intersection of marketing, technology and sales, small interruptions are always coming in. A big part of succeeding at the job is finding ways of handling people's needs while carving out time for execution, retrospection and future planning.

On a typical day, I would be interacting with about 5 people and meeting with 1 or 2.

My personality is not very outgoing - I like working with people, but I often hesitate to reach out to new people / interrupt them. Marketing Operations work has been a great way to meet new people and learn more about what is going on in the organization, because you are always talking to people and exploring issues. The job is often similar to detective work - discovering why XYZ happened, or which parts of request ABC are actual "must haves".

Are there things you don’t like about your line of work?

Because Marketing Operations is a new field, it doesn't have a defined career progression. There is no "expected path" that a capable marketing technologist can settle into. This means that it is your job to decide on the kinds of skills you'd like to learn and the kind of direction you'd like to take.

There is a part of Marketing Operations that took me a long time to come to terms with. I don't relish doing project management work, but larger projects require a lot of organization and PM work. A dedicated project manager may not be available to help. Or, you could disagree with your PM on how to approach the project. What I learned is that this is the reality for any tech project (which is what marketing operations projects are) - relax and lean into it. Learning more about project management has helped me with this challenge (recommended readings below).

How did you fall into this line of work (did it just sort of happen or did you have to be intentional about it)?

I definitely fell into it. I've been coding since I was a teenager, but for my secondary education I got a Business Administration degree (focusing on Finance and Entrepreneurship).

During university, I was very clear on wanting to start a business in the digital sphere. I started doing SEO work for small local businesses and also promoting affiliate products with digital display ads. The skills I built up there resulted in work at a digital ad network, another venture (in e-commerce), analytics work and landed me as the marketer at a small SaaS startup. At this startup, I was put in charge of the CRM system and introduced to Marketing Automation - a class of email software that is the main tool of "Marketing Operations" professionals.

From there, a past colleague recruited me to become a Marketing Automation Consultant. That work was a crash course in enterprise-grade email marketing systems and campaigns. It provided me with an opportunity to build valuable technical and interpersonal skills. There, in 2015, I first worked with a man who had the title "Marketing Operations Manager". Until then, I hadn't considered that a large organization could hire someone like me in-house to focus exclusively on marketing technology.

Being a consultant gave me a wild variety of work - I had to learn about clients' businesses and systems very quickly. That was great. But I also felt that I was flitting from project to project, rarely getting to see the long-term impact of my work. I was ready to move in-house, to focus on building long-term relationships and multi-year marketing technology initiatives.

In 2016, I made the move to LexisNexis Canada and have enjoyed the company's culture immensely.

How much of a technical background is needed to do your work?

Marketing Operations is essentially "technical marketing" - it requires more technical skill than the average marketing job.

It is very important to have HTML, CSS and Javascript skills. The main tool in your toolbelt will be the Marketing Automation/Email Marketing platform at your company. At the moment (2020), you will have to learn these systems on the job. It helps to have another skill that sets you apart, like experience with data management/Excel/ETL systems/SQL, CRM systems, Zapier etc.

Aside from technical skill, you should be able to explain technical concepts to laypeople. Making people comfortable with new technologies/tools is a big part of the job.

How’s your work life balance? Do you find it difficult to unplug?

This is one of those things that depends on your personality. I have always worked at companies with great balance - a regular Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 schedule. But that's because I specifically looked for that. During job interviews, I asked about the kind of demands that managers place on employees. After office visits, I noted whether employees work elbow-to-elbow at long tables and declined those firms. Once hired, I made sure to decline having an always-on company cellphone. There's a tradeoff there that's not for everyone: I've had to pass on several fantastic positions, and job searches took 6 months on average.

What advice do you have for someone young (or old) looking to build a career in Marketing Operations?

Go for it. Marketing Operations is a lucrative and mentally stimulating field.

If you are not a marketer:

Start a personal project involving Wordpress, MilChimp, analytics and some javascript. You could also seek work in a marketing agency - this will give you a chance to use many relevant tools (although, in general, this is not a great long-term employment option).

If you are a programmer:

Working in Marketing Operations will give you more autonomy and a bigger picture of how the organization works. You may find marketing too "wishy washy", though (more on that below).

If you are a marketer/copywriter:

Marketing Ops gives you more opportunities to do hands-on work, and a chance to better understand email marketing. Try to add email to your marketing mix, or to copywrite for email. Slowly, take on more responsibility around the creation of emails, uploading email contacts, list segmentation and building email automation paths.

Need more specific advice about the Marketing Operations industry? Reach out to ask me directly, or reach me through Shikhar.

How to know if this career is not for you:

One disaster scenario I've seen several times is when a Marketing Operations manager sees themselves as a gatekeeper to a precious resource. Says "no" all the time to requests (as opposed to showing a menu of alternatives for how something can get done). Feels that there is one correct way to do things. Who keeps their work mysterious and opaque to others. This kind of approach doesn't work within a digital marketing team.

In this line of work, you have to work with people who have varying levels of knowledge of marketing technology. That means that you have to constantly educate and inform others. You can't rely on a basic level of shared understanding/rigid industry standards. If you like to get to execution, without having to explain what you're doing to others, then this career would not be a good fit.

This field is not for people who need a lot of structure or guidance. The kinds of work you are expected to do change fast and you are expected to adapt.

The marketing field itself might strike you as "wishy washy". There are no concrete truths, and there is a lot of jargon and fluff. If that kind of vagueness is a deal breaker for you, then Marketing Operations is not a great fit. I've worked with a kind and capable project manager who moved from running mobile device hardware projects to projects in Marketing Automation. Working with marketers was too much of a change for him - it required lots of hand-holding from him, clients changed requirements all the time, there was more on-the-fly scope creep than in engineering projects, etc..

What are some productivity tools you use?

I'm a raving fan of Toggl - a tool for tracking how you spend your time. I've used Trello and Asana at times. Currently, my organizational system is a physical notepad for notes, and a new sticky note that I start each day. I put down 3 to 4 important "to do" items on the sticky. When I'm in overwhelmed with tasks, I re-focus my energy by looking at those items. At the end of the day, I have a ceremony for mentally "checking out" of work. of ripping up the note and throwing it out - regardless of whether I completed the items or not. I intentionally treat these items as suggestions, and try not to stress out if I don't accomplish everything.

Any helpful books that you’ve read over the years?



Better project management:

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