Edited by: Christa Reed
Content Creator and Career Writing Editor
An operations team can take on many functions within a business. With wide-ranging responsibilities come wide-ranging job titles. This means that you have to be more vigilant in your job search. On one hand, the perfect job might be hidden under a title you might not expect. Meanwhile, operations titles that you’re used to looking at may mean something different at a given organization depending on their structure.
So What is Operations?
At a large company, operations is likely a department on its own. At smaller companies, there may be individuals with operations responsibilities spread across departments like marketing, sales, and human resources. People in these roles are highly organized, exhibit strong project management skills, and have keen attention to detail. They may be tasked with managing systems, like an organization’s CRM, building reports, optimizing cross-team processes, or other logistical tasks.
You likely won’t find operations titles in small companies of only 5-10 people, as they aren’t big enough to have complex processes that require an operations expert to oversee them. However, job titles for operations exist across many industries.
Let’s dive into more detail of the different operation positions that could show up in your job search:
Larger organizations will often have an operations department with roles that operate cross-functionally. People in these positions oversee how teams should work together on projects that impact multiple parts of the company.
However, many different departments can have operation positions that sit within their own team rather than in a cross-functional role. Here are some examples of departments that have operations job titles.
Marketing operations team members oversee strategic planning and reporting within a marketing team. As the number of technology systems within marketing grow — email software, account based marketing software, CRMs, ad software, and more — these roles are growing in frequency. Operations job titles in marketing also help improve the impact of campaigns, ad spend, and other marketing efforts.
Sales operations teams or individuals create and manage processes and systems that help sales teams sell more and faster. They are often responsible for implementing softwares like Salesforce or managing sales training.
People operations is another name for human resources, but with a greater focus on being people-first rather than business-first. They oversee the creation of a company culture and finding employees who help add to the culture.
A client operations associate or manager oversees projects for an individual client. They may help with product implementation, project management for consulting efforts, or some other support function.
Customer Success Operations
Customer Success is a growing field, particularly in the software industry. With the field growing, the need for operations-minded individuals grows as well. A Customer Success Operations Manager may be responsible for
- analyzing customer turnover
- identifying opportunities for increasing revenue
- create strategies for retaining existing customers
- track product adoptions and
- research product features
Because ‘operations titles’ can be deemed an umbrella term, specific roles can range from entry level to executive. This is known as the operations job titles hierarchy. Let’s delve a little further.
So you want to be a Chief Operations Officer, or COO? It’s an understandable goal — the average COO salary according to Glassdoor is approximately $160,000. So how do you get there? Not all organizations will have all titles in the hierarchy. When applying for an operations role, it can be helpful to ask about an individual organization’s hierarchy and what the career path options are. Professionals entering the operations field can follow this career ladder to get to the top of the Operations hierarchy.
If you specialize in a niche field of operations, your hierarchy may look different. For example, a Marketing Operations Manager may work their way up to be a Chief Marketing Officer. Meanwhile, a Director of People Operations may go on to be a Chief People Officer.
Most entry level operations jobs are individual contributors. Unlike more senior roles which fall under titles like “Director” or “Manager”, entry level roles have even more variability. This is especially true when you look at how roles and day-to-day tasks can vary depending on company and industry. Operations titles like Operations Associate, Operations Specialist, or Operations Coordinator all can mean similar things, while having minute differences.
Sometimes known as a Coordinator, an Operations Associate manages administrative and logistical tasks to support the Operations Manager and other more mid-level and senior Operations positions. They may also manage inventory and supplies, schedules, and other coordination across the business. Professionals interested in this role should show their administrative skills in their resume and a willingness to learn on the job. Adaptability is also a good skill to highlight, as the day-to-day of an operations associate could vary depending on what is needed at a given time.
Some large corporations tend to have in-house trainee programs for operations team members. For companies that have operations departments, it can be beneficial to grow team members within the company because they’ll know the unique intricacies of how the business functions.
Most operations roles seek at a minimum a Bachelor’s degree. Roles in specialty departments like sales operations or marketing operations may request experience in those particular departments, either through full-time roles or internships. Candidates with a degree in Business Management — even at the undergraduate level— may stand out in the interview process.
Deep Dive into Operations Management Job Titles
Each of these roles below represent part of the management structure within an operations function.
Mid-Level Management Titles
Operations managers manage the overall activities of the business and can be instrumental at small and large organizations. From supervising, hiring, and training to strategizing improvements, managing quality assurance, and balancing materials and resources, operations managers tend to do a variety of things.
The operations officer is similar to the operations manager. However, this position is a little more focussed. This position typically reports to the COO or Vice President of Operations, and is tasked with the duty of maintaining the business’s objectives through policy development, compliance, and project/budget monitoring.
The quality manager, a.k.a. the quality assurance manager, makes sure the company’s products are produced at a high quality standard. This is instrumental to ensure products don’t have to be recalled.
Operations analyst primary duty is to find areas of improvement. They review policies, procedures, and operations. Then, they research ways to make those areas better.
Senior-Level Management Titles
The most senior management title in the Operations field, the Chief Operating Officer may also include “President” in their title at some companies. COO is often second in command to the CEO.
Within organizational leadership, the COO often oversees more day-to-day operations than a CEO does. Their specific roles at an organization can vary dramatically based on their skill set, with a typical focus on an area of weakness for the CEO. You may be familiar with high-profile COOs like Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook and Tim Cook at Apple before he took over the CEO position from the late Steve Jobs.
The Vice President of Operations typically reports to the COO and advises on strategy, partnerships, and stakeholder management across the business. This person may make key decisions on new roles to add to an organization and what salaries to attribute to those roles, fitting into organizational budgets and hiring structures. As a result, they need significant experience in managing people and budgets.
If you aren’t looking for operations manager alternative titles, you might miss the perfect role. Operations is a field with a lot of variable responsibilities, and with that some organizations may give it a different title. The perfect job may be hiding right under your nose, especially if you are fluid enough to search for jobs in different departments or industries. So, another title for operations manager could also include:
- Program Manager
- Project Manager
- Internal Consultant
- Logistics Manager
- Process Improvement Specialist
- Inventory Controller
- Operations Coordinator
Key Skills and Responsibilities for All Operations Positions
Regardless of your specific title, there are certain universal skillsets that operations professionals specialize in. A good candidate for an operations role will reference each of the following themes:
Strong Project Management
Certifications are some of the best ways to demonstrate knowledge and skill. So, the best candidates tend to have a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, proving official training in project management. On the other hand, individuals without certification should aim to highlight and explain key projects they’ve led.
Operations works closely with a number of data efforts within a company. In many circumstances, data analysis is the core of a project. Even if the project is qualitative, its results can usually be connected to a business’s Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. Other smaller tasks include managing budgets, proving return on investment of given initiatives, or reporting on improved efficiencies within a team.
Lately, the software industry has exploded and the number of systems that companies use across marketing, finance, sales, and customer success has increased dramatically. Operations teams are responsible for the implementation, training, and integration of new and existing systems. Therefore, having computer and software know-how can be a strong indicator of how successful you’ll be in your role.
Whether you’re teaching a new process or sharing the outcomes of a project, strong communication skills are key. Particularly when communicating on reporting efforts, you’re often communicating to team members more senior than you so being able to speak the language of organizational leadership is critical.
Customer Service Mindset
Operations team members are often fielding requests from other teams on reports and dashboards, processes they should revise or implement, and other support needs. As a result, the most successful operations managers will operate in a way that treats internal stakeholders like customers.
Given the wide variety of operations roles and responsibilities, it’s not impossible to jump into operations from a different field or department. But, with the high amount of variability across roles, the best candidates will be vigilant in studying job descriptions and company structures to find the role that is right for them.