Where unicorns come from — feeder roles for marketing technologists

Previous Roles of Marketing Technologists

The following is a guest post by Erica Seidel, founder of The Connective Good, a recruitment firm focused on marketing leaders with deep analytical and technical skills. Erica also serves on the advisory board of the MarTech conference series.

Marketing technologists have burst onto the scene in recent years. These professionals can pinpoint the right technologies and unleash them to make marketing run better. As I’ve noted before in this piece on What Marketing Technologists Want, the right marketing technologist can be the secret weapon for a CMO looking to drive growth — both top-line and bottom-line.

As a recruiting expert for senior marketing roles, I’ve followed the rise of the marketing technologist closely. I was curious about where marketing technologists are coming from. What are the breeding grounds for them?

I figured that some quick and dirty research would be helpful to me as I help companies scout great martech talent. So I fired up LinkedIn, and looked at the profiles of 100 professionals whose current title includes the term “marketing technologist.” That was my only search criteria. I did not filter on industry or experience level or geography. And I simply looked at the title each one had just beforehand.

Here’s what I found out:

#1. There’s a huge variety of feeder roles to the marketing technologist function, but digital marketing/e-commerce roles are most prevalent. I jotted down the previous job titles for my sample of 100 marketing technologists (see below). Then I grouped them into the following categories:

  • Digital/e-commerce
  • Straight-up marketing
  • Other marketing
  • Tech
  • Independent/entrepreneur
  • Media
  • Sales and support
  • Other

This sheer variety of feeder roles shows the breadth and uniqueness of the skills that marketing technologists have. It’s not surprising, since we see this variety when almost any new role emerges.

#2. Some of these precursor roles are really cool! Check out the list below to see which ones stand out to you, but some of my favorites are:

  • E-commerce Production, Content & Operations Leader
  • Marketing & Sales Information System Analyst
  • Manager, Digital Innovation
  • Manager, Global Sales Enablement

#3. While marketing tech is a hybrid function, there are far more marketing technologists coming from marketing than from tech. Almost half (47%) of my sample had a previous role in marketing, while only 18% had previous roles in tech.

Previous Seniorities of Marketing Technologists

#4. Marketing technologists appear to skew junior to mid-level. Before becoming marketing technologists:

  • 25% of this sample held manager-level titles
  • 19% were previously at levels typically associated with an early career phase, like analyst, specialist, coordinator, or assistant
  • 11% were previously Director-level

This range of previous titles isn’t too surprising, as there were a variety of current job levels represented in the sample. Remember that the sample was of people with current titles that include the term “Marketing Technologist.” So this includes titles like “Chief Marketing Technologist” and “Senior Marketing Technologist” and “Consultant/Visionary– Marketing Technologist” and “Marketing Technologist and Marketing Operations Leader,” as well as the straight-up “marketing technologist.”

My observation based on the data and based on my experience is that some people are moving up, while others are rechristening themselves as marketing technologists, laying claim to a title that accurately describes what they do and that has increasing traction and legitimacy.

#5. At the same time, 17% of this sample had previous titles of “entrepreneur” or consultant of some stripe, representing a range of seniorities. Some of these consultants have moved into companies as full-time marketing technologists. Others have stayed independent, and added the “marketing technology” moniker, likely in an effort to describe and differentiate their skillset.

#6. I didn’t see as many people with histories in marketing operations as I had expected. My hypothesis from this research and direct experience is that in many companies, “marketing technology” and “marketing operations” refer to pretty much the same set of responsibilities.

The List

Here’s the list — verbatim — of previous roles for today’s marketing technologists, categorized as I saw fit. (You will likely see many other categorizations that make sense.)

Digital/eCommerce:

  1. Digital Marketing Manager
  2. Sr Dir Digital Marketing
  3. Sr Dir Digital Marketing
  4. Sr Dir Digital Marketing
  5. Sr Dir Digital Marketing
  6. Web Manager
  7. Social Marketing Manager
  8. Organic SEO Manager
  9. Web and Email Marketing Specialist
  10. eMarketing Specialist
  11. Digital Marketing Strategist
  12. eMarketing Manager – CRM
  13. Social Media and Brand Manager
  14. SVP of Operations/Digital Marketing
  15. Social Media Manager
  16. Head of Digital Marketing/eCommerce
  17. IS Digital Marketing Project Manager
  18. E-commerce & Online marketing manager
  19. Web Analytics and Data Senior Consultant
  20. Head of Digital
  21. SEO/SEM Specialist
  22. Digital Project Manager
  23. Social Media Analyst
  24. Head of Digital Channels
  25. Chief Digital Officer
  26. Campaign Optimization Manager
  27. Digital Marketing Project Lead
  28. Head of SEO/SEM
  29. eCommunications Manager
  30. E-commerce Production, Content & Operations Leader

Straight-Up Marketing (not explicitly digital):

  1. Sr Dir of Marketing
  2. Marketing Specialist
  3. Marketing Manager
  4. Marketing Assistant
  5. Marketing and Communications Associate
  6. Marketing Analyst
  7. Marketing Manager

Other Marketing:

  1. Growth Marketing Manager
  2. Marketing Support manager
  3. VP, Marketing Information Management
  4. Director, Technical Marketing
  5. Senior Web Producer
  6. Content Marketing Specialist
  7. Marketing Automation Coordinator
  8. Brand and Marketing Coordinator
  9. Marketing & Sales Information System Analyst
  10. Manager CRM and Business Analytics

Tech:

  1. Solutions Architect
  2. Director of Technology
  3. IS Department Manager
  4. Lead Developer
  5. Senior Interactive Developer
  6. Developer
  7. Applications and Processes Manager
  8. Software Developer
  9. Sr UI/web developer
  10. CTO Senior Developer
  11. Technical Architect
  12. Development & Technology Manager
  13. Multimedia Developer
  14. Facility Engineer
  15. Software Entrepreneur and Developer
  16. Web Developer
  17. Development Lead
  18. Chief Solutions Architect

Independent Consultant/Entrepreneur:

  1. Entrepreneur
  2. Entrepreneur
  3. Entrepreneur
  4. Entrepreneur
  5. Entrepreneur
  6. Entrepreneur
  7. Principal Consultant
  8. Consultant
  9. Consultant
  10. Consultant
  11. Consultant
  12. Marketing Consultant
  13. Marketing Consultant
  14. Marketing Consultant
  15. Marketing Consultant
  16. Technical Consultant
  17. Digital Strategy & Marketing Consultant

Media:

  1. Senior Digital Media Producer
  2. Creative Media Manager
  3. Interactive Media Specialist

Sales and Support:

  1. Senior Coordinator, Sales
  2. Sales Support Specialist
  3. Manager, Global Sales Enablement
  4. Associate Account Director
  5. Associate Account Director
  6. Client Support Specialist
  7. Sales & Marketing Director

Other:

  1. Manager, Digital Innovation
  2. Director, Project Management
  3. Product Manager
  4. SAP/HR Payroll Co
  5. Process Specialist
  6. Innovation Manager
  7. Senior Business Systems Analyst
  8. Business Intelligence Analyst

So…

If you’re hiring a marketing technologist, prepare to turn over many leaves. Exploring talent with digital marketing experience is a no-brainer, but just because someone has been a digital marketer doesn’t necessarily make them the right marketing technologist for you.

What other conclusions do you draw from this quick-hit research?

Thank you, Erica!

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Comments

  1. I love that “straight-up marketing” is a selection. Solid post again.

  2. Erica – Nice post.

    As i’ve seen many times in early tech markets (and new roles), there’s always a bunch of people who deem themselves to be the hot new title, whether or not they have the skills. Problem is always separating those with the real chops from the pretenders. We see this in spades in the ‘big data’ and ‘data science’ worlds as well – everyone claims to be an expert – few have really dealt with the growing pains of big data technologies. So it is with Marketing Technologist role.

    Also makes sense they’re coming from individual contributor roles and are less senior – Marketing Technologist role is fundamentally a subject matter expert role. Given how early space is, these folks need to figure out what the role is before they can rise up the stack and build teams in their own image…

  3. Hi Andy! Thanks for your comments. Totally agree that this is a ‘buyer beware’ situation. Step 1 is to figure out what you need to hire for, step 2 is to scout out that talent in a bunch of places, and step 3 is to carefully evaluate the candidates against your needs. Just because someone has the right keywords doesn’t necessarily mean they can solve your problem. I am reminded a bit of social media specialists from several years ago — many companies started by having interns “figure out this social media” thing. And then of course that specialty grew and professionalized, though there is still plenty of variety in skillsets from one social media person to another.

  4. Really dig the variety in 66-71.

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