Building Confidence & Partnerships at Clearco
This article is part of our Women in Partnerships series, highlighting female professionals in the partnerships space. To learn more about the series and the Women in Partnerships group, check out the series intro.
Today, Margot Paterson joins us to discuss how she built a partner program at Clearco, her experience as a woman in partnerships, advice for others in the industry, and more.
Margot Paterson is the Senior Partnerships Manager at Clearco where she manages their technology partnerships. She started her career working for Canada's loyalty program, Loyalty One. She shared that the experience was really interesting and a great opportunity to understand business as a whole by being on the buying and marketing side of retail.
At the same time, Margot was running partnerships for TedXToronto voluntarily, selling partnership sponsor packages to run the event. She really loved that role and found she got to work with brands of all different industries, which allowed her to get creative — she had to put together powerful proposals with limited resources.
After her time supporting TedXToronto, Margot moved into a role at Bounteous, a full-service eCommerce agency. There, she learned in-depth about the leading platforms in the industry, as well as design and integration development that helped her craft Clearco’s current partnership strategy.
When an opportunity on the partner team at Clearco opened up, it seemed perfect. The opportunity was to build out what the channel and marketplace partner program looked like, an opportunity that aligned directly with Margot’s interests.
Building a Partner Program at Clearco
While she knew what she was walking into to a degree, it was still challenging. “The first 12 months were really testing new program ideas and a lot of trial and error. I think that taught me a lot about what partnerships truly is. It's a lot of testing, building strong relationships to constantly gather feedback from partners, and pivoting quickly.”
While partnerships, in general, tend to involve a lot of trial and error, there was an increased need for Margot to experiment when building out the partner program at Clearco. “Being a financial services company, we're not a traditional SaaS company. Naturally, we work with a lot of SaaS platforms. There wasn't a playbook out there.”
In partnerships, you have to build resilience. Margot shared that it can be a tough lesson to learn that things take time, and you must be patient. “It's hard when you're not getting that ongoing validation that you’re on the right path. I came from the sales side in my previous role. Being in a sales role, you have monthly targets, but we eventually built the playbook, so it was clear what needed to be done to hit those numbers.”
One of Margot’s proudest accomplishments is having validated the partner program at Clearco enough to hire a time. Margot explained, “The idea of building out a team comes with a huge level of responsibility. I've had some amazing people and an amazing support network as I've grown and in the last five years, I'd say. I appreciate the ability to provide what I've learned and hopefully it’s helpful! It's extremely rewarding seeing my team grow professionally!”
Learning That Not All Advice is Good Advice
Early on in her career, Margot learned the importance of building a solid network after she was let go from her first job out of university. “It was a company I did an internship with that had asked me to come back full-time. I was excited that in my fourth year of university, I had a job lined up. That wasn’t always the case when you study an arts program. I was traveling after university, came back to the job, and a few months later they were doing layoffs. Since I was the last one in, I was the first one out. It was honestly an amazing experience. It taught me so much about building a network, being resilient, and selling myself with the little experience I had.”
While Margot has been able to do big things building Clearco’s partner program, she shared that she initially struggled with building enough confidence in herself. She elaborated, “Earlier in my career, I had a few managers that really challenged me. I am so grateful for those opportunities to learn and grow under their leadership, and also learned that not all advice is good advice. The more experience I’ve gained and the relationships I’ve developed while being in partnerships, it’s important to trust past learnings and invest in those relationships.”
Industry professionals have been hugely influential in Margot’s career. “Some of my best partners have also been incredible mentors. They've provided feedback on new product ideas, collaborated on pilot programs, participated in countless brainstorming sessions. I'm really grateful for these relationships - they are how we've grown Clearco's partner program to where it is today, and I've learned so much from these individuals!”
Excelling in Partnerships as a Woman
Unfortunately, it’s still true that women tend to be outnumbered in partnerships. While there are many female executives at Clearco, Margot was shocked to see how few women were in partnerships. She explained, “For a role so focused on relationships, it surprised me.”
“During one of my internships, I supported a team who put together courses on how to integrate diversity & inclusion practices. It was a really interesting experience, I remember learning all about the depths of how men and women are hardwired differently and it’s been really valuable being exposed to that research throughout my career.”
She specified, “Asking for a promotion, or applying for a job, data suggests that women are more hesitant to ask for what they want. That experience was beneficial to my career because I was mindful of all these things that could hold my career back.”
Most women can relate to there sometimes being uncomfortable situations, but overall, Margot tries not to let these things phase her. “At the end of the day I have to look out for my team and myself and if I don’t ask, it probably won’t happen.”
Advice for Others in the Industry
While Margot had some great female mentors, many of her mentors are men. “It's so important to continue these conversations so we can ensure all our teammates are receiving the same opportunities. One of the things people often don’t talk about is how important it is to involve men in creating a solution. If we create a space where we do not include men, we’re not going to create an equal community.”
Outside of finding diverse mentors, Margot recommends using your voice and finding “your why”. She highlighted the importance of understanding your communication style and always making your intentions clear to your teammates. In closing, Margot shared, “Trust your gut, don't be afraid to ask for what you want, and never skip out on applying for that job just because you don't have 7+ years of experience.”
At Partnership Leaders, we want to help bring visibility to the incredible women making waves in partnerships. More than a dozen women partnership professionals have joined us to share their experiences and advice. Explore the full Women in Partnerships series.