LiveRamp Engineering is all about connections.
My name is Laura Davis and I’m the Head of Engineering Branding. This is the first in a series of interviews of Engineering Tech Leaders to share their unique personalities and management style in order to shed light on LiveRamp Engineering.
Today, we connect with Marcos Morin, who leads LiveRamp Engineering’s Technical Program Management team, to gain some insights about his role and how technical program managers (TPMs) play a crucial role in LiveRamp’s success.
Marcos, what made you choose LiveRamp?
It was 2019 when an executive from LiveRamp reached out to me based on a referral she had received. When she called me, I happened to be on a wine tour in Paso Robles, California. As I began to explain that I was in the process of wine tasting, without missing a beat, she said it was the perfect time to learn about LiveRamp, the Advertising Technology (adtech) industry, and her aspirations of growth. She described LiveRamp as a market leader always on the cutting edge of technology with a constant push to create the next great products for their customers. She made a commitment to me that LiveRamp wanted to grow in agile methodologies while fostering an environment of learning in a self-organized manner where process would not be a hindrance. Our conversation was both refreshing and inspiring. LiveRamp offered flexibility; partnering with engineering, product, and leadership; and the ability to use a common language inspired me to start something new and join LiveRamp!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
In my professional career, there’s nothing I love more than seeing the projects we work on get released into production. From ideation to post-delivery support, seeing the great minds in product management and engineering partner together with technical program management is so important. Experience teaches us that even with hard work, not every project makes it into the world. Having experience in both successful and not-so-successful programs provides a reasoning for celebrating customer-realized value. I liken it to being the one on a plane who is clapping when it actually lands.
On the personal side, throughout the journey of program management, the growth of my TPMs has been amazing to witness and the most rewarding part of doing this job. Our TPMs are constantly pushed in new ways to learn, mentor others, and creatively solve problems in partnership. I love it! We have 101 challenges every day but when our group works with our partners to overcome challenges, it pushes us to become the next greatest version of ourselves. Growing and improving is a daily experience at LiveRamp.
How do you describe the role of a technical program manager at LiveRamp?
The simplest way is to say we sit between product and engineering as a facilitator to drive Agile best practices, team collaboration, delivery, and execution-focused program management. LiveRamp, like other successful organizations, has many roles and charters that need agile methodologies, technical acumen, schedule-building, negotiation, leadership, diplomacy, and efficiency. TPMs make all of this happen while also fostering a positive environment which makes for happy employees.
I’m proud to say that our core charter was built to support our internal partners for operational efficiency and to enable our method of solving problems for people, as opposed to using process simply for the sake of process. This differs from other companies that view technical program management as the “process police” or the strict Agile implementation techniques as part of how they work. That is the opposite of how we operate. TPMs are very special people with unique skill sets.
TPMs are clearly technical, but what degrees do they tend to have?
Anything and everything. We have TPMs with backgrounds in philosophy, international business, and computer science, and some even have MBAs. Actually, it would be easier to list the backgrounds we haven’t seen in our TPMs. However, technical program management is not typically a role that many focus on right out of college. Usually, TPMs have had previous experience in engineering or product, or have been part of customer experience teams. I respect that our TPMs share a passion for delivering value to people, processes, the company, and its products.
What other skills are most important to you when you hire?
Beyond the usual skill set of program management fundamentals and discipline, high emotional intelligence is a crucial expertise. It is the ability in how one conducts their overall communication, inclusive of a kind manner. The ability to be able to strongly partner with others while conveying a sense of care about their colleagues’ feelings as the work is being done.
Experience is also very important. When we think about growing our TPM team, we believe team members who bring new perspectives, experiences, voices, and ideas will challenge us to do exceptional things. During interviews I inquire about a candidate’s portfolio of experience, including successes, failures, deliveries, and lessons learned in hard situations. We have all experienced the greatest of glories as well as things that have gone wrong. I need to be able to gauge the different variety of experiences each candidate brings to the table. TPMs must be able to adapt and sometimes shift the rules for success.
What career growth options exist for TPMs?
LiveRamp technology is always expanding as we innovate. Our TPMs are helping build cutting-edge products and processes for our next-generation data enablement platform powered by identity, centered on privacy, integrated everywhere.
Program management with industry products is one of the most exciting and sought-after skills. Growth is constant and TPMs become experts in technology, process, application, and agility. We’re evolving one of the toughest environments and curating development processes that will solve unforeseen challenges.
This work is not just a recipe. With our program group, there is the flexibility to create a better engineering environment. We approach our solutions as solving problems for our teams and our products. LiveRamp TPMs have consistent training and understanding of lessons learned, including cross-pollination, mentoring, and documentation of best practices.
Do engineers often move into program management and vice versa?
TPMs occasionally come from engineering. The ones who are most successful in transferring to program management have a unique ability to suppress their tendency to go into engineering decision-making mode. TPMs are not the decision-makers for engineering outcomes, however they are technical, and have the ability to enable the best possible outcomes collaboratively with our partners.
Have things changed for your team as a result of COVID-19?
Great question! I guess the easy answer has been how I and other TPMs have had to change how we work as we transitioned from in-person to remote virtual meetings. I think, like a lot of TPMs in the industry, we were used to the personal touch of being able to connect with people face-to-face. But here we are, learning how to grow in our communication styles, building trust with people we’ve never shaken hands with, and creating relationships that are just as strong as when we were in the office.
LiveRamp speaks about empowering their employees. What does that look like for TPMs?
The level of empowerment is very high at LiveRamp, and with that comes great responsibility, patience, and discipline—it’s not about coding or creating product road maps. TPMs are empowered to drive healthy partnerships across organizations for positive outcomes while delivering value and also building trustworthy personal relationships with counterparts. Program management outcomes can seem singular in nature when teams are focused on delivery versus the collaborative partnership of everyone working cohesively together. Emotional intelligence (aka EQ) and kindness wins. Another aspect of empowerment is the absence of walls and red tape. TPMs navigate beyond a person’s title; we get the job done.
How else have you evolved your team?
Initially, as more of a start-up, we defined each TPM’s charter post-onboarding by agreeing to the working intent team-by-team as a discovery exercise.
We now have curated a working agreement between the product and engineering teams. We then hire a TPM for that specific engagement. The charter has provided clearer expectations and has improved our internal engagements, and as we continue to evolve, the TPMs enjoy the process.
How has your career evolved at LiveRamp?
Personal career growth has been something important to me. While at LiveRamp, my philosophy has been to solve problems at the small-scale level and move to larger issues over time. This approach presents me with great opportunities to push myself to solve issues that only get harder or deal with situations that I have seen before. This is one of the greatest ways to learn and grow, including being ok with failing sometimes.
LiveRamp is a data enablement platform designed by engineers, powered by big data, centered on privacy innovation, and integrated everywhere.
Enabling an open web for everyone.