Where Do Marketing Technologists Come From?

By Anna Whiting, ITSMA, awhiting@itsma.com

Where do marketing leaders find marketing technologists with the right mix of technology skills, marketing savvy, and business experience? That is the question that stood out in my mind at the Martech Conference in Boston. Presenters from SapientNitro, PR 20/20, BitTorrent, IBM, and others emphasized the need to improve the reach and performance of marketing to master the disruption caused by digital transformation.

The Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO) role is not new: The majority of large enterprises already have a CMTO and small- and mid-sized organizations are catching up.  Many, however, still struggle with finding individuals and building teams that are able to successfully marry technology and marketing. Marketing organizations need to hire technologists who also have a passion and form allegiance to the marketing mission. They need to hire marketers with heads for software algorithms, business rules, and analytics. They need scrappy innovators who are capable of mastering scale and complexity. It’s not easy to find this combination of interest, skill, and experience in one individual. So where do we find these rare people?

Scott Brinker Marketing Technology LandscapeLogically, we may look to hire marketing technologists outside our organizations.  Unfortunately, we can’t rely on hiring millennials out of business school.  There are few, if any, MBA programs that specialize in blending marketing with technology. So schools aren’t providing new talent for this area.

We might consider grooming talented employees to become marketing technologists.  Some organizations are successfully doing this. SapientNitro, for example, has developed a Chief Marketing Technology Officer University.  This rigorous in-house program only draws from its most successful employees, and of those, only those that have already completed an MBA or executive business degree. Students attend weekend and evening classes taught by SapientNitro employees. At the end of the one-year executive development program, the candidates take a final exam, answering questions in front of an audience of 300 or so colleagues. SapientNitro’s CTO is thrilled with the outcome and new breed of technologists who “get” marketing.

Not all of us are large enough nor have the right resources to create our own in-house university programs. And until higher education catches up with business needs and develop programs to address the talent gap, we need to take on the job of finding and training our best marketers and technologists to morph into this blended role.

On the job training might just be the best way to get started. Think about rotating technologists who demonstrate the interest into the marketing department to build competencies and an understanding of the job. It might just stick. Some of these hybrid marketing technologists could eventually step up to lead their companies as CMTOs.

ITSMA would like to know what you think. Where are you finding marketing technologists?

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