How Sam Youngblood Lives Her Values as a Woman in Partnerships
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.
Samantha Youngblood currently works in business development as an Integrated Account Manager at AffiniPay, a fintech company doing payment processing for lawyers, accountants, and architects. Before she moved to this role, she was a Partner Marketer, managing all of AffiniPay’s technology partner marketing efforts.
Today, Sam joins us to dig deeper into her career path to partnerships, experiences as a woman in the industry, and top tips for others seeking success in their role.
Sam’s Path to Partnerships
Sam Youngblood’s career began in the newspaper world. She explained, “I’ve always enjoyed learning and asking questions about people. My work in PR turned out to be so relevant to my future career in partnerships. Both included a lot of the same relationship-building and effort to help, however possible. I’m naturally good at partnerships because of all the years I spent in public communications and PR.”
In her partnerships roles, Sam has gotten creative with how she helps her partners at AffiniPay. “I look to help in whatever ways a partner needs it. I’ve even copyedited partners’ websites before. Partners can be anyone from small start-ups up to enterprise software solutions. So if what they needed out of the partnership was someone to review the message on their website, I’m going to do that.”
Sam struggled to pick a favorite organization to partner with, sharing, “I find organizations of all sizes to be fascinating. With the bureaucracy of companies that have been around for decades, it’s a fun challenge to find the right person to grow the partnership. On the other hand, I love helping out the small, emerging tech companies as well. There are just so many creative ideas that you can act on.”
Career Highs & Obstacles Overcome
Any interaction you have with Sam, be it on Slack, Zoom, or in-person, you’ll immediately notice how she exudes kindness. “I would say one of my proudest accomplishments is that my personal values are reflected in the feedback I receive on my work. I pride myself on being kind, thoughtful, trustworthy, and tenacious. That’s often the feedback I receive from my partners or supervisors. Receiving that feedback gives me a great sense of accomplishment — I feel really good when I’m truly living my values.”
While she’s been able to find a function she loves and feels is a perfect fit, getting there hasn’t been without its challenges. “Pivoting to digital marketing from newspapers was a pretty big obstacle. When I graduated with my bachelor’s in journalism, it was the recession, and print newspapers were a dying industry. So being able to pivot and work toward those digital marketing and communication roles afforded me the ability to continue writing.”
How did she manage to pivot so effectively and find opportunities in an ever-changing industry? By being a continuous learner. “Everyone who has ever met me would describe me as a reader. I’m constantly trying to reinvent myself to find different ways for my career to pivot and follow the market and industries that are popping up. For example, I knew nothing about fintech in college, yet now I support a fintech firm. That wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t always working on learning more.”
The challenge was indeed worth it for Sam. “I feel that working in partnerships is the most fun job at my company. I have very few partners in the same geographic area as me, so I’ve always connected with them over the phone — we didn’t have a lot of in-person meetings previously. What’s been so nice about this shift to working from home is that I get to do video calls with partners worldwide and hear about their unique experiences. Travel bubbles, shutdowns, being able to hear what’s happening around the world, through my partners and their personal experience through the pandemic, I have to just imagine that’s somewhat unique, that the opportunities to connect with people through partnerships don’t always exist. That’s been an aspect of positivity from the pandemic — being able to connect with people all over the world.”
Finding Female Leaders
Sam is lucky enough to work for a company that was founded by a woman. “The founder of AffiniPay, Amy Porter, grew it enough to be the success it is today, then recognized that she needed to bring in additional leaders to grow it further. She’s still involved as Chairperson of the board and in the day-to-day, even though she’s no longer the CEO. That has been an appealing aspect of working here.”
“I have been fortunate to work for a lot of women,” Sam continued. “I’ve been in marketing communications for the last fifteen years and many of my bosses have been women. They have taught me the good and the bad of being a leader. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have a specific female mentor, but I have made a conscious effort to surround myself with amazing women doing important work where I live. I have a strong network of ladies that I’ll call up one-on-one to ask for their advice or get help thinking through different problems. I’ve also found it valuable to connect with other women in partnerships and marketing outside of my company. We can communicate honestly, without getting too caught up in the personal drama that comes with the modern workplace.”
On her experience as a woman in partnerships, Sam explained, “I honestly try not to dwell on it too much. Gender disparity in corporate workplaces is just such an unfortunate reality. I know for certain that I’ve been paid less, and I’ve been left out, but I try not to let that stop me from being the best person for the job.”
Advice for Achieving Your Career Goals
As Sam shared, she’s a big reader. She mentioned a book that’s been helpful for working with partners. “The book I’m reading right now that I’m really enjoying (and didn’t think I would) is called Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended On It. In it, Chris Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator, applies how he negotiated for the release of a hostage from a foreign entity to negotiating for a raise at work or getting a response from someone who has gone dark. Those tactics have been beneficial for me with re-engaging some of my partners.”
Sam also highlighted, “Kindness is important. I always try to kill someone with kindness. It has never served me wrong to try to understand where my partner might be coming from and how I can be empathetic to their situation.”
From her experience shifting careers, Sam pointed out the value of continuous learning. “Marketing alone has changed so much from when I graduated today. The tactics are almost completely different. If I hadn’t focused on trying to get new certifications, reading articles about PR, ads, marketing, partnerships, and tech — if I hadn’t put in the time to educate myself on some of these things, I would have gotten lost in the dust. So I recommend reading as much as you can and trying to educate yourself on the industries you’re working on.”
The Value of Connecting with Other Women in Partnerships
Sam is part of the Partnership Leaders group, Women in Partnerships. Being in the group has been valuable for Sam in her role. She explained, “I think it’s an acknowledgment that representation matters. I view it as a commitment by Partnership Leaders to gain more visibility at senior levels. This Women in Partnerships group is intimately familiar with the challenges that women face at work.”
“I’ve found them ready to offer support, not just on finding the elusive work-life balance, but also on excelling overall as a professional. It’s nice to find people that share your same passion for things. I don’t run into a lot of people who work in partnerships. Without having to give a lengthy description of the situation I’ve found myself in, I can get a quick response to a challenge I’m working through. Additionally, it’s great to share my experience of what I’ve done with my partners. I have a very small partnerships team at my organization, so it’s nice to have other people to geek out about partnerships with and share different articles with.”
You can connect with Sam to geek out about partnerships and partner marketing when you join Partnership Leaders. Hundreds of industry professionals turn to Partnership Leaders for support with their latest projects, answers to burning questions, and general camaraderie. You can also get inspired by more powerful women in the industry like Sam in all of our Women in Partnerships spotlights.