Managing Across Industries: Three Things to Steal from Engineers for Marketing Technology

I came to SHIFT almost a year ago after working 10+ years managing engineers and the software/system development life cycle (SDLC) as a Technical Product Manager. As I’ve stepped into the Marketing Technology team here at SHIFT (believe it or not), I’ve noticed quite a few skills that transfer between engineering and marketing. Marketing Technologists and engineers are cut from the same cloth. Both are animals born into the wild and won’t thrive if fenced in. What are those similarities and how do you transfer your skill set?

Be Agile

Agile is a common project methodology in the engineering practice. The benefit of Agile is the iterative nature and flexibility it allows. Agile allows you to pivot your strategy with little consequence to your project and see immediate results. Marketing Technology relies on software, servers and databases, so borrowing the Agile methodology from engineering is a logical step.

It’s easy to implement some of the basics of Agile and become more iterative. Start small with morning scrums. A traditional scrum is a 10 minute stand up (literally – standing up) meeting where the “scrum master” goes around the room and asks people, “What did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? Do you have any blocks?” Ask your team to check in for 10 minutes each morning, in person if able, and go through those three basic questions. You’ll find transparency will increase and by knowing all the puzzle pieces, re-prioritizing in the moment will become easier. You’ll be able to identify issues before they become real problems and you team will stay flexible.

Stay Organized

You can’t be flexible if you’re not organized. Project plans, requirement documents and timelines are universal (and your key to success). Engineers don’t start new development without a plan. To be agile, you have to be three steps ahead and be able to plan for different outcomes on the fly.

It might be challenging to see where engineering project management fits into a marketing team, but fear not! Don’t get bogged down with terminology. Ask yourself and your team these questions before starting a new project:

  •  -Do we have the information we need to move forward?
  •  -What are the potential pit falls of this project?
  •  -What can we do to prevent these pit falls?
  •  -If the pitfalls happen, how do we adjust?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions, take a step back before you start your project. Take the time up front to do your documentation. Trust me – the implementation and analysis phases will run much smoother.

Encourage Curiosity

Engineers are curious by nature. They like to take things apart to figure out how they work. They like to check out new tools and new methods. Anything is fair game if it means making your product more efficient and less prone to breaking.

As a manager that might make you crazy because “come on guys, just follow the process!” We as managers often make the mistake of letting process get in the way of creativity. It can be scary to remove the guard rails but I promise, you’ll survive. Set aside time for your team to be creative and break things. Is there a new tool on the market? Sign up for a trial. Is there a new ad platform? Invest a few dollars to see how it performs. Set aside an hour a week to brainstorm new ideas. Let your team take risks and you’ll see big rewards. Team members feel more motivated and inspired when you let them roam free.

As you integrate these learnings into your day-to-day managing, I want to emphasize one character trait that’ll be your best friend throughout these changes: patience. Change is hard. If you’re stepping into a new team, don’t try to make big swooping changes all at once. Conversely, you don’t have to ditch all the tools and techniques just because you’ve switched industries. Start small with some of the suggestions above. Still stuck? Give SHIFT a call!

Katie Lioy
Manager, Marketing Technology

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Posted on May 13, 2016 in Marketing Technology

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