Serena Rizza’s Path to Finding Professional Fulfillment
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, Serena Rizza is the Partner Development Manager at Lively. In her role, she is the main point of contact between Lively and their partners to ensure they maximize success.
Serena joins us to explore how she landed in partnerships, obstacles faced along the way, and how vision boarding has helped her find a role that fulfills her.
Serena’s Journey into Partnerships
Serena Rizza started her career in outside sales as an individual contributor. “I started as a recruiter and account manager. I went to Verizon, where I did B2B outside sales. I loved hitting a quota and the grind of sales. However, eventually, I realized I wasn’t fulfilled and wanted more — to work with different departments and get involved in different functions.”
Ultimately, Serena started to expand her search outside of typical B2B Account Manager roles. She shared, “I didn’t search for partnerships; I fell into it through my search. My role at Lively as Partner Development Manager is awesome. I love the partnerships community and that everyone is really focused on relationship management. It’s more of a long-term strategy than outside sales was.”
Serena was crushing it as an outside sales rep at Verizon. She shared, “Because I spent so much time in outside sales, my proudest moment was joining the Millenium Club at Verizon in my first and second year. I was coming into an office that was extremely established. Many other team members had been there a long time. From the moment I started to when I left, I remained a top performer. I even won one of the biggest deals in history in the region.”
Even though she was a top performer, Serena wasn’t fulfilled in her role. “I knew I wanted more, but it was a big shift in my mindset to leave a job where I was doing well. I knew I needed to switch from outside sales to a different role. When I started searching for a new job, my search didn’t start with partner development roles. It was challenging to interview during the pandemic. In addition, I had just come back from maternity leave. I was crushed when I didn’t receive an offer for one of the roles I applied for.”
It all worked out, as Serena loves the job she landed at Lively. “I kept pushing for jobs where I wasn’t settling. I felt like someone saw an opportunity for me to grow in the field, although at the time, it was a large obstacle.”
So how did Serena ultimately find a fantastic role in a brand new function? “I’m a big vision board person. I love to put my goals on paper. Writing out pros and cons lists of what you’re looking for and what you won’t compromise on and sticking to it was essential for me. Even a post-it reminder to keep those things in your mind during interviews is helpful. Don’t settle for less than what you need and want. I was always my true self during interviews. In the end, I decided to go for it, sharing my skill set and what I can bring to the team.”
The Impact of Being a Woman
Starting her career in sales, Serena was intimately familiar with the only woman in a room full of men. Of her experience, she shared, “It never stopped me. I grew up in a family with all brothers, which helped me never let gender be something I considered or worried about. I kept pushing and striving to do my best.”
Serena landed in partnerships as a new mother, which has presented a unique set of challenges. “Being a working mom has been something that impacted my career. Everybody knows the daycare struggle. There are so many unpredicted times when your baby is home. In the age of COVID, when daycares close for long periods and your baby is home for ten days, you can’t push a meeting that long. You need to juggle what matters for your family, and what matters for your job.”
Serena has owned balancing her career and family, explaining, “Sometimes my daughter is in the background. I want to show her what a successful career looks like. I am very grateful for my time with her and for working at home. I never struggled with going back to the office or staying at home — I get to do both, and I’m very thankful for that flexibility.”
The Value of Mentors
Mentors and women-centric groups have been a large part of Serena’s career. She shared, “During my time at Verizon (where I spent a huge chunk of my career), I was a part of Women in Wireless. It was a group dedicated to helping women overcome obstacles. I had a few powerful mentors there. They showed me it doesn’t matter if you’re starting from the bottom or if you have kids. You can be unstoppable if you put your mind to it. Different women in my life have said, ‘empowered women empower women.’ When you’re empowered, you can empower others. I like uplifting those around me.”
“Another group I’m a part of is called Fairy God Boss, where I’ve been a contributor for a while. The group helps women with career advice by providing a community of women that are able to answer back and forth. I appreciate all the mentors that have inspired me and hope to do the same for others. It’s important to help each other out, especially in a field like partnerships where there are so many unknowns. I’ve appreciated being able to throw time on anyone’s calendar and pick their brain on their role. Just being able to offer each other feedback and advice — I haven’t met anyone unwilling to help. To me, that is the biggest blessing to be able to expand outside your organization and talk to others in similar positions. So many people have helped me in my first year of partnerships.”
Advice for Others
From her experience, Serena had one key piece of advice to share. “If you’re not fulfilled in your current job, you don’t have to stay. I believe in vision boards and recommend writing out what’s important to you. Don’t settle for anything less, and lean on others in your community for support. There are so many other people you can get to know in their roles. It’s not about just asking for help, but you can also help them.”
Get advice from and connect with hundreds of powerful women in partnerships, like Serena, when you join Partnership Leaders’ Women in Partnerships group. Hundreds of industry professionals turn to Partnership Leaders for support with their latest projects, answers to burning questions, and general camaraderie.
Dig deeper into the career journeys of impactful ladies in the industry when you download Powerful Women in Partnerships. You can also be inspired by more powerful women in the industry in all of our Women in Partnerships spotlights.