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Digital Skillscast

How Elissa Fink is Building a Workforce of Marketing Technologists

By Nate Riggs on Jul 7, 2017 9:00:00 AM |


How would you define a "Marketing Technologist"?

The truth is, this post may be the first time you've come across that exact term, but chances are that your company is in dire need of at least one of these incredibly difficult to come by professionals.  A lot of folks say they're unicorns.  But our guest this week disagrees -- she's been able to identify and recruit them for their talent, ensure a culture fit and retain them as employees for a widely popular big data company named Tableau.  

Click inside to listen to her interview. You might just come away with an understanding of how and why you will need one of these Marketing Technologists as part of your workforce.

We had the chance to talk with Dana Stephenson last week. Dana is the Co-Founder and Director of Academic Partnerships for Riipen, a technology platform that connects the greater business community with higher education students, recent graduates, and educators through meaningful project-based experiences.  

Marketing TechnologistRiipen is an online marketplace that has brought together organizations, students, teaching professionals in order to close the skills gap and create relevant work experience for students. The mission is to eliminate graduate underemployment.

For students, it's free. Riipen is free for students. Organizations post open challenges which students from any school can complete to build up their portfolio. Instructors can try it out for their class at no cost.

The best place to learn more about Riipen is riipen.com. You can see everything from students, employers, and educators, available webinars and newsletters. For educators, simply sign up and a connecting associate will contact you right away to set up an exploratory call. For industry partners, sign up directly and you'll also be contacted by an industry partner specialist who can help match you to the right projects.

 Elissa Fink - Chief Marketing Officer of Tableau Software

Building a Workforce of Marketing Technologists

Marketing TechnologistsElissa holds a B.A. from Santa Clara University and an MBA in Marketing and Decision Systems from the University of Southern California. She started out her career by advertising for the Wall Street Journal and has spent over twenty years helping companies improve marketing through applied data analysis. She's held executive positions in marketing, business strategy, product management, and product development.

Before she came to Tableau, she was the Executive Vice President of IXI Corporation. They're a firm that specializes in marketing information. In her role now, she reviews and consults on a variety of projects to determine the best way to evangelize Tableau's products. 

Big Data

Elissa is a self-proclaimed data junkie because she says that’s what you have to rely on in today’s world. While preparing for a meeting and reviewing the slide deck, she realized that they hadn’t answered the key question. She called the statistician and the database programmer and couldn’t find either so she went in search of the answer online, leading her to Tableau.

Marketing Technologists

Not even twenty minutes later, she was given her answer to the key question. Three hours flew by before she realized that she had been playing with her data for so long.

She went into the meeting with such confidence the next day because each question she was asked, she had an answer for. She was able to work with data in a way that she always imagined she could - fluid, freeform, where she knows the data and what it stands for. That’s when she knew she wanted to be a part of the company.

Big Data

Elissa has never been a stranger to big data companies, however. She worked for IXI Corporation (later bought out by Equifax), Tele Atlas (later acquired by TomTom), and TopTier Software (later acquired by SAP). But why big data? 

There are answers within big data. If you use data well, filter through it, ask the right questions and increase your understanding, it’s just a shortcut to gaining experience. But it’s also difficult to get the right answers out of the data or even to ask the right questions. Once you know the questions and the answers, the impact is astounding.

That’s Elissa’s favorite part of her role. She can make a difference in someone’s life just with the data she uses. Before her current role, Elissa observed that collecting data was the bulk of the job. There wasn’t much left over to actually use your brain and think about the data and what it means.

Tableau maximizes the opportunity for people to use their brains and make significant contributions, allowing you to feel like you’ve made an impact. Imagine the change that could be made if everyone felt they were being utilized to the best of their capabilities. 

Marketing Technologists

These are people who use both sides of their brain. They combine marketing creative interpretation with an understanding of technology and how data is represented. A marketing technologist can piece together how to better appeal to someone while leveraging a technology platform that is fast, smart, and easy. They are bridging the gap between the technology involved with marketing and the substance, content, and emotion of marketing.

What is preventing marketers from adopting technology? Marketers can get thoughts of only being the “creative person” trapped in their mind, keeping them away from the numbers. On the other hand, the “numbers people” can get trapped in their own corner as well. But that’s extremely unfair to both.

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Some of the software programmers that Elissa works with are some of the most creative people that she knows. Even some of the marketers that she knows, though creative, are extremely analytical. People get cornered into thinking you’re one or the other but that is not true at all. We need to break through those preconceived notions, embrace weaknesses and learn from them, and change what you expect of yourself.

There are some marketing technologists that are just basically unicorns (even Forbes agrees that marketing technologists are a necessity in the digital age). They’re the ones that you can talk to about marketing, the science and the psychology behind and know that they’re intuitive about that side of marketing. Then there’s the technology skills that they also exemplify. Many people are like this but aren’t fully shaped yet. Given the opportunity, they will grow into that unicorn they were destined to be.

Remember the Mar-Tech stack we talked about in The Rise of Marketing Technologists? That's what a unicorn masters. They are able to keep up with the fast pace.

Marketing Technologist

If you're in search of a unicorn, look for something that isn't yet one. You need to look at those who show a little spark and are unafraid to tackle anything. They will have a passion for learning new things and show obvious interest. Most people that Elissa works with did not start out their career as a fully formed unicorn. 

Even if you are well into your career, it is not too late to pick up on your interest in marketing technology. The industry is changing fast and if you can keep pace with it, you’ll go far. But how do you do that?

Just get started. Take action. You don’t have to wait on the right data or for IT to catch up. By the time we can fully understand the new capabilities that are being introduced, you’re outnumbered again. So start basic, ask questions, and you’ll build a platform for advancing the technology stack. It’s a continual process of learning for your people and the technology.


DOYOLive Registration We are just over one month from DOYOLive - a digital marketing and sales conference that takes place in Youngstown, Ohio in August. We are doing a live interview with Dr. Mike Sevilla on how digital marketing and sales skills are impacting Healthcare. If you’re in the area, you can register at doyolive.com and use the promo code: DOYO2017 to save 20% on your pass.

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Nate Riggs

Written by Nate Riggs

Nate Riggs is the Founder and CEO of NR Media Group, a Certified HubSpot Partner and inbound consulting firm. He leads a team of experienced strategists, content marketers, creatives and technologists that help organizations deploy and use HubSpot’s marketing, sales, and service software to operate more efficiently and accelerate growth. Nate regularly presents keynotes and workshops at top industry conferences like INBOUND, Content Marketing World and Oracle’s Modern CX. In 2017, Nate was recognized by HubSpot for his contributions to the development of the HubSpot Education Partner Program. Nate regularly presents keynotes and workshops at top industry conferences like INBOUND, Content Marketing World and Oracle’s Modern CX. In 2017, Nate was recognized by HubSpot for his contributions to the development of the HubSpot Education Partner Program.