MarTech Salary and Career: Saidah Abdulhaqq on the making of a unicorn

As part of the MarTech Salary and Career Survey, we interviewed people about their experiences in marketing. Today we’re talking to Saidah Abdulhaqq, senior digital architect at Enterprise Holdings. Her career path has been “typical” for a marketing technologist in that it’s atypical and results in a specialist who has also done some of everything. 

Q: How did you get to where you are today?
A: My career path has been an irregular one, to say the very least. I have a degree in English, which certainly works towards marketing, but since I work in marketing technology, it kind of makes less sense to most people. After I did my degree, I worked a lot in early internet communications, like the keyword stuffing type of online articles and things to bring people in to websites.

I moved more into generalized content and then, through the recommendation of my husband, into more of an analytics role. This made use of some additional training for understanding programming languages, not necessarily being able to be a programmer but to understand the context around them. And from that moving into more specific digital marketing, which is very data-driven experience. 

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I’ve been working in really highly privacy-focused marketing, for Medicare and Medicaid organizations before getting into the role that I am in now, which is specific to marketing technology, but also still very much focused on the privacy operations kind of element of marketing. 

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself truly a marketer because I don’t do any of the brand content, SEO, e-mail, marketing automation or anything like that. It’s more of the foundational elements 

Q: What’s the biggest challenge for martech?

A: The biggest issue that I’ve seen in marketing technology truly [at previous places I’ve worked] is a lack of understanding and awareness of the value at the leadership level. In my experience a lot of leadership will be very operations focused. It’s kind of like the short term wins focus mentality. The thought they have about marketing is that marketers make things pretty. It’s a long-term perception that marketing and advertising are the same thing, which they are not. 

Bringing in the data and the analytics is a really important layer that a lot of leadership are only just starting to understand. Not having that understanding means that they don’t give the buy in, they don’t invest in the technologies. They don’t think about the foundational marketing tool strategies or governance strategies and things like that. 

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As a result, it winds up being very reactive when it comes to marketing technology. That’s not the case with the work that I’m currently doing because [Enterprise has] much more of a proactive take on the importance of marketing technology. They’re starting to really look at it as an important foundational element and putting in the budget. 

Q: I know you want to expand your team, are you having trouble finding people with the skills you need?

A: Yes. The reason why there are very few people who can do marketing technology in the way that it needs to be done is because we tend to be very much unicorns. There’s a certain subset of us who grew up with the internet and who saw the changes and worked in them. 

I personally have worked in just about every part of digital marketing technology and digital marketing from content to wireframing websites, to implementation, access management, implementation of advertising and implementation of an analytics platform. Because I’ve had this much experience, I’m able to look at the privacy operations part of it from a very different lens. 

That’s the way things went for every member of my team. We’ve got some members of the team to focus on tagging and analytics operations, some that focus on site speed, some that focus specifically on how best to optimize content on the site.  Each of us went kind of in our very, very unique paths and there’s not a lot of people who have that experience or knowledge or even interest in doing many different things to get that one particular focus.

There is the potential for that to happen with training, but I think it will take some time. It will also take a unique subset of individuals who are interested in both marketing and technology and are willing to do that super deep dive into one very specific area. It’s hard to be a generalist in marketing technology. You definitely have to be a specialist to really do the work that we do well.

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Download the survey here (no registration required).

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