Overcoming Obstacles as a Parent and Partnerships Professional

Cass Polzin
Cass Polzin2 Sep, 2021

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.

Natascha Lee leads the Global Partner Marketing organization at TIBCO, where she’s been since 2018. Prior to taking on partner marketing at TIBCO, Natascha spent many years as a traditional technology marketing professional. Today, Natascha joins us to discuss her experiences as a woman in the industry, the value of female mentors, and advice for others looking to succeed in their careers.

Natascha’s Path to Partnerships

Natascha Lee has been in B2B technology marketing for twenty years. “I started right out of grad school doing B2B tech marketing at Sun Microsystems. I was doing various marketing tasks when I noticed our division wasn’t selling through the channel. I started doing more research and instantly saw the value.”

Natascha knew she needed to take advantage of this opportunity. “After identifying how much opportunity there is to leverage with partners, I approached leadership, requesting to start to explore channel marketing. They encouraged me, and I did it, ultimately driving enormous growth for the company. If you’re coming up with something new and unproven, the more wild your idea is, the harder it can be to tie it to projections and proven metrics. You have to do the best you can to understand what’s required and what the ROI will be. You can prove something will have a 50x ROI, but if there’s something that has a 100x ROI, then you should focus on the higher ROI program. You also need to consider side benefits. A new project isn’t just about revenue; it may also be about market share, and IPO. You must learn what’s important to leadership across the gamut.”

Overcoming Obstacles

One of the most significant obstacles Natascha has overcome in her career is being respected as a woman in the industry. She recalled, “I remember when I was the Director of Marketing at a manufacturing firm. I showed up to help set up the booth and was wearing just jeans and a t-shirt. When I showed up the day before to help set up the booth, they said, ‘Oh, babysitting is down the hall,’ assuming I was there for childcare and not a professional exhibiting.”

Many women still encounter issues in the business world today where their voices aren’t heard, or assumptions made because of their gender. “Those are obstacles that I’m trying to overcome every day. I’m more vocal about them now. Let’s give support to each other as women and focus more on allyship. If we’re in a position where our voice is heard, we need to look at people who aren’t being listened to. Any time there’s an opportunity to sign up for a mentor program, I’ll sign up for that. When you’re in meetings, pay attention to others in the meeting with you, especially if they are from a marginalized or oft-discriminated group. Look for people feeling uncomfortable or left out. Bring them in, in a way that’s respectful.”

Mentors have been hugely impactful for Natascha in her career. “I have been so lucky and privileged to have some incredible female mentors. Everything from giving practical advice to pointing out blind spots, to making introductions, to collaborating with me, I’ve been very fortunate to have benefited from a wide range of mentors who have made a significant difference in my career trajectory and professional growth.”

Partnerships & Parenting

Natascha has two school-age children and shared that her experience working full time as a parent definitely differs from that of some of her male counterparts. “I had a conversation with a male colleague who was significantly older than me, his children were already out of the house, and he lived almost an hour closer to the office than I do. He made a comment about what time he gets into the office. I explained that I have a hybrid schedule of working remotely some days and making the trek to the office some days. That where I live and my young children require a different schedule. His response was, ‘I guess I’m just more dedicated to the job than you!’ He wasn’t respecting the diversity and reality of someone else’s life and their values. That’s the kind of mentally that some people are stuck in. But you don’t let it distract you; just keep focusing on delivering unique value to your stakeholders. When you’re a parent, especially mothers who bear so much of the mental load, you get pretty good at prioritizing. Another benefit of parenthood is that it gives you a lot more sympathy and understanding for other people.”

Advice for Other Women in Partnerships

Natascha shared some excellent advice for any woman looking to excel in her partnerships career. “I always think you need to know who you really are. You need to understand yourself and what matters to you. You also should have confidence in your gifts. You’re an amazing human being with so much to offer to the world. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice, or direction. Similarly, don’t be afraid to help others. No matter where you are in your career, you have something wonderful to share.”

The Value of Women in Partnerships

As someone who struggles with overcoming the obstacles of being a woman in the industry, Natascha shared how valuable groups like Women in Partnerships are. “I think that it is a way to start to overcome the old boys’ club. There’s still so much systemic sexism, racism, and more in companies today. The connections people make in a group like WIP aren’t connections that would be made naturally. Joining presents the opportunity to make connections and network with a whole new group of people with something in common from the beginning.”

Connect with powerful women in the industry like Natascha who can help you achieve your career aspirations when you join Partnership Leaders. Explore all of our Women in Partnerships spotlights.

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