Ambassador award winner Chelsea Kiko’s ‘caring type of hustle’

Meet the Experience Makers

Chelsea Kiko has many titles.

In her professional life, she is the marketing operations manager at education publisher McGraw Hill. On the personal side, she is a fiancée, Cleveland Browns fan (sorry), and mom to both a fur-baby and her 4-year-old son.

Professionally, it is Kiko’s prowess in all things marketing operations that has earned her a slew of accolades so vast, they wouldn’t all fit into the character limit of this year’s Adobe Experience Maker award nomination form.

Her designations include: four-time Marketo Champion, 2019 Marketo Revvie award finalist, 2015 Marketo Revvie award winner, and a member of the coveted Fearless 50.

But, it is her 2020 Adobe Experience Maker award win that Kiko is most proud of.

“This is about helping the community.”

Chelsea Kiko, marketing operations manager, McGraw Hill

At this year’s virtual gala event, Kiko secured her rightful place among the Marketo Engage Marketing Nation legends as the winner of the 2020 Ambassador award, a category recognizing the person who has gone above and beyond to share expertise and thought leadership with her community of peers.

As I have through all of my winner interviews to-date, I wanted to understand the secrets to her success, and the tricks of the trade. But, as Chelsea explains, “there are no tricks.”

(Although, having 20 Gmail accounts by which to test campaigns may be a hot tip!)

Instead, Kiko says her success is due to others who came before her in the Marketing Nation Community, who shared their learnings, their wins, and their failures.

The trick, it seems, is in knowing you only get what you give.

“I want to give back to those who gave to me. It's as simple as that.”

Chelsea Kiko, marketing operations manager, McGraw Hill

Watch our conversation below and read on for more of my takeaways from the 2020 Ambassador award winner, Chelsea Kiko.

Learning at the core

The learning-first ethos of her employer, McGraw Hill, is close to Kiko’s heart as a mom whose 4-year-old is navigating virtual schooling during COVID-19.

As we spoke, I realized learning itself plays many roles in her world.

Internally, Kiko explains, “many people get confused about marketing automation, marketing operations, campaign operations … there are many different titles.”

To help the marketing operations (MOPS) team be seen as more strategic, she is keen to lead with teaching, empowering her colleagues with an intake process (for example) that helps them understand her own team’s responsibilities better.

Externally Kiko is heavily involved in Advocate Nation, the educational and support communities surrounding the Adobe Marketo Engage platform, including the Cleveland MUG (Marketo User Group), Slack channels, and Marketing Nation online community. She spends much of her time dedicated to helping other marketers use Marketo Engage to build their careers and create greater business impact.

It’s this community, and her willingness to educate others within it, that led to her well-deserved Ambassador win.

Listening for change

But, it’s Kiko’s ability to listen and learn that she feels makes her most successful.

Experienced in enterprise settings, Kiko is no stranger to the dynamics of corporate behemoths. I asked her about driving digital transformation at a 130-year-old company.

“When I came onboard, I didn’t start by saying ‘This is what I’ve done before and the changes I want to make,’” she explains. “I actually took a step back and listened to what they had to say. Often, people are not going to change unless they know you did the due diligence, and you took the time to listen to them.”

This is such a critical part of Kiko’s success — sharing what she knows with her peers, while remaining open to what she doesn’t yet know. A balance of teaching and learning.

“It’s a personality trait that I think a lot of marketing ops professionals should carry. Don’t just come in thinking you know it all. Come in willing to learn and willing to adapt your processes for how the company operates.”

Good corporate team member

“We have to be social beings, but also tech beings,” Kiko explains of the ideal marketing operations pro, who manages far more than SaaS technology and spreadsheets. Just as important are the relationships built throughout the business.

She believes a unified customer experience requires all teams to be working together — marketing automation, CRM, sales, and more. Marketing operations sits at the core of the backend processes like planning, workflows, and ultimately the advocacy for this seamless customer journey.

It’s this blend of good internal collaboration and relationship-building that has helped Kiko, as she puts it, become a “good corporate team member.”

“I try to make sure that when people work with me,” she explains, “they know I’m committed to my work, that I deliver at a high quality. They know that if I’m owning it, they have that trust with me.”

This trusted reputation is one she’s earned outside of McGraw Hill as well.

It’s all about the community

When Kiko posted about her win on LinkedIn, the comments poured in. I added my kudos to the thread and in that moment, noticed something heartwarming.

Her “competition” for this year’s award, Jenny Robertson and Grace Brebner, had both commented to say they were proud of their fellow community member.

That is what the community behind the Adobe Experience Cloud and Marketo Engage is all about — helping each other through a fast-changing industry in the name of continual evolution.

That is the peer-led support that has enabled innovators like Kiko to continue to push the limits of what’s possible with marketing technology and the customer experience. It’s an unpaid job done outside of “working hours” and in addition to the rest of life’s responsibilities.

Grounded in a deep sense of doing what’s best for others, it truly is, as she described it to me, “a caring type of hustle.”

Honoring the movers and shakers. Learn more about the Adobe Experience Maker Awards.