Portland Preacher Turned Partner Pro: Danna Nieto’s Journey
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.
Danna Nieto is a Manager Strategic Partnerships at SheerID, where she’s been since starting as an SDR in 2018. Danna joins us today to discuss her winding career path, accomplishments and challenges along the way, and advice for other partnership professionals.
Danna’s Path to Partnerships
Danna Nieto took an interesting journey into partnerships, as many industry leaders do. “I moved to Portland to be a minister, then became a dog trainer before moving into tech. It was in tech that I felt like I had found my place. You have to be agile and ready to adjust, but also creative. I’m creating something from scratch and have a goal to reach for revenue. Being able to create and be part of something new really drives me.”
Her path may seem peculiar, but Danna has found common ground always working with small establishments. “When you get to look back and think, ‘oh, there was nothing, now there’s something,’ that’s really rewarding. I’ve always worked for small establishments. I like the camaraderie and the ability to have a voice and give feedback, to shape what the company is doing.”
Interestingly, becoming a minister prepared Danna for her future roles in sales and, eventually, partnerships. “Growing up in a conservative Christian environment, I learned a lot about evangelizing. A lot of religion is selling and getting people to buy into an idea you believe in. From my experience, ex-ministers would do well in sales and partnerships roles.”
Danna began her career in tech in customer support, then became a sales development representative. She was then asked to manage the SDR team. She said, “I knew I could do management, but I was also interested in partnerships. I advocated for the role when it was clear that partnerships were becoming an opportunity at SheerID. I like the sales ‘angst’ and the chase of getting people excited. I really enjoy creating authentic relationships where it’s not just about moving business back and forth but about investing in the success of the partners with whom I work.”
Building a Partner Program from Scratch
For Danna, starting a partner program from scratch was both a challenging obstacle and a rewarding accomplishment. She shared, “Starting from scratch without tools, a process, or roadmap was challenging. I didn’t have access to a lot of mentors in the partnership space at the beginning except for where I sought it out. I had a lot of great talks with team members at SheerID who gave me confidence that I could do the job well. It has been a process to get tools in place and marketing in place. It’s taking time. Last year, the biggest obstacle was feeling aimless.”
As she began building the partner program, Danna leveraged other professionals in the industry for insight. “Being a part of Partnership Leaders has been super helpful. I’ve made many great connections and read a lot about what people post on best practices. The Women in Partnerships monthly chat has been great for making connections and hearing what other women and non-binary folks are dealing with or trying to accomplish. There are so many people starting from the same place as me and it’s been a really cool think tank to share insights and get feedback. The Women in Partnerships group has been especially helpful for me because I’m on an all-male team. I love my team, and it’s nice to have that different collaboration with these intelligent, accomplished, and badass humans.”
Danna recently graduated from grad school with a degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Oregon, where she focused on building out the next step of her program. She explained, “My terminal project was building out this process for what partnerships look like and how to activate it. I’ve engaged with agencies that make a lot of sense for our product, and I got to build a communications plan for activating them. This project is probably the proudest thing that I’ve worked on. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to adding value where I’m at and invested a lot in trying to better the department.”
There are a few key insights Danna has learned so far. “When you’re doing partnerships well, you have to build trust and relationships with someone on the other side. You will not get leads immediately unless you’re one of the big players. When you’re not known in those worlds, you have to do a lot of education managing those partnerships and expectations. It’s not just about meeting once, and then they give us 100 leads. It takes more time when you’re not yet well known in the spaces you’re trying to create partnerships.”
Advice for Other Women in Partnerships
Danna’s key advice for women and non-binary folks in partnerships is to be confident! “Own your voice and advocate for yourself. You might have a boss who will advocate for you, but you won’t get anything done if you wait for other people to speak up for you. In general, don’t apologize. Say what you mean and really use your voice. It’s invaluable to advocate for yourself and establish your value.”
Danna continued, “In partnerships, admit when you don’t know something and go learn it. When you know something or have experience, make sure you’re carving out space and helping others learn from your experience. Our perspectives are important, and we need more women and non-binary folks doing it.”
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