Tracy’s Journey from Self-made Entrepreneur to Partnership Pro
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.
Tracy Sandhofner presently leads Cloud Alliances GTM at Contentsquare. Her impressive career started long before she began working in alliances. As a mother of five, Tracy founded and operated an e-commerce business entirely from home for over a decade.
Today, Tracy joins us to explore how her time as an entrepreneur contributed to her success in partnerships and the experiences that brought her to Contentsquare.
Tracy is an incredible mother of five, sharing with us, “Their ages range from 19-27 — I recently became an empty nester. I love to go hiking, I love photography. My family and friends are my happy place. Being a mom to that many kids for the majority of my life leaves me wondering what I actually like. It’s a beautiful place to be as a mom.”
Living in North Dakota, there’s no shortage of gorgeous sights for Tracy to take in. “Photography is a really big thing for me! It’s such a great place to unplug. You get out on the trail and you’re surrounded by natural beauty. It’s so calming for me, so peaceful.”
Being a mother of five, the cost of daycare was absolutely inconceivable, so Tracy elected to be an at-home mom for her children. “While staying at home, I started my own online business. I had a Yahoo store selling charms and accessories — wristbands, trinket boxes, and beads. I really found a niche market, which worked fantastically.”
While Tracy experienced incredible success, she started out having no idea what she was doing. Tracy explained, “I had to teach myself to code, PPC advertising, and marketing. That’s where my quote, ‘prepare for success’ comes from — I wasn’t prepared. I did a bang-up business, but I didn’t know how to manage it. My biggest deal was with Casino Niagra — their promo items were my charms and watches. We designed them, had them made, and had them set. For lack of a better way to put it, shit hit the fan in 2009. Expendable income plummeted. I made it to survival but decided I needed to do something different.”
After the recession, Tracy and her family moved to Fargo, where she got a job working with a Microsoft vendor now called EGS. “I started as a Business Development Representative. I was making phone call after phone call trying to get into healthcare organizations and sell them Azure. After becoming an Account Executive, I ultimately managed a team handling Microsoft executives’ funding requests. I took another left turn into partnerships. From there, I managed a portfolio of sixty different partners that I helped navigate the magical world of Microsoft. The majority of those partners were startups.”
Tracy took an incredible journey that brought her through various disciplines before landing partnerships. Her experiences in entrepreneurship and sales have made her a well-rounded partnership professional.
Achieving Accomplishments and Overcoming Obstacles
Tracy achieved great success running her own business. She shared, “Nobody in a million years would have guessed I was working out of my basement with five kids running around. Working with distributors and wholesalers on my own was a huge deal.”
Achieving immense success as a business owner and mother wasn’t without its challenges. “Personally, my biggest obstacle was being absolutely clueless and figuring out how to code. I built my website, and I had no idea what I was doing, but I made it happen.”
When it comes to her career in tech, Tracy struggled to pick one accomplishment to share. “There are so many wins I’ve achieved! To pick one, my crowning moments are working with partners that have a truckload of potential but don’t know how to get organized or become IP co-sell ready. Bringing them from zero to hero. Watching their success and their ‘ah-ha’ moments, working with them on a million-dollar deal is always a beautiful opportunity.”
In her role, Tracy feels it’s a gift for her partners to trust her and for her to be able to trust them. “It’s just a huge success story – something I wouldn’t have been able to have without them, and they couldn’t have without me.”
However, being a PDR, Tracy shared that the biggest obstacles were when partners weren’t prepared. “When they didn’t have the proper backing from the exec team, the bandwidth, or the money, they got in their own way. When they can’t help themselves, I can’t help them. It doesn’t mean that the person I’m on the phone with isn’t equipped to do it, but maybe they don’t have the funding, engineers, or executive backing, so the person I’m speaking with gets it and is excited, but there are hiccups.”
Succeeding as a Woman in Partnerships
Tracy worked in two very male-dominated industries: technology and sales. Of those experiences, she shared, “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in a meeting room full of people or on a team full of people and been the only woman there. I don’t know what the reason for that is. I don’t know if it’s because women don’t think they can do it or if they don’t think they’ll be extended the opportunities to succeed. Is it because an assertive woman is deemed a threat? I think it’s preconceived notions on the part of both sexes.”
Unfortunately, Tracy has faced discrimination in the past for her gender, despite being incredibly knowledgeable and resourceful in her role. “I’ve had a few experiences with men in leadership who don’t think women hold any value. In the role I’m in right now, I’m empowered to be me and successful; I feel truly blessed to be in that spot. I’ve felt the pain of being in a room full of men who think I don’t think I know what I’m talking about. I kept a poker face pretty well, but there were many times when I got off work for the day and would bawl my face off. I don’t think that’s because I’m a woman — I think anyone would be hurt given those circumstances.”
While Tracy hasn’t had many mentors to choose from, she has gotten to work with some incredible women who inspired her. “There’s one mentor that stands out to me. She was one of the last bosses that I had. She was so passionate about her career, Microsoft, and IT. She inspired me to learn more and be a better representative of the industry and cloud. I also have had some absolutely infectious colleagues. Getting to be in a mutually beneficial mentor relationship is the best learning environment in the world.”
Advice for Other Women in Partnerships
Tracy was incredibly passionate about her advice for other women in partnerships. After experiencing such awful discrimination at previous points in her career and being all too familiar with being the only woman in the room, Tracy wants to encourage other women to realize their full potential in tech. “Bottom line, I would tell them to put the doubt away and embrace all opportunities with tenacity. Stand tall and know your worth and value. I think the biggest problem that women in IT have is they sell themselves short. They don’t think they belong, which is just sad. We all have so much value we can bring to the table. It would serve every woman well to remember their value and walk forward with tenacity. They’re not any less than anybody else. Don’t back down — people will tell you can’t, and you just have to prove that you can. You can do it as a mom of five from your basement and be successful.”
Tracy is truly an inspiration for all women finding their space in technology, partnerships, entrepreneurship, or figuring out how to juggle a career as a mother. We’re proud to celebrate how far Tracy has made it, and we can’t see where she goes next!
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