Understanding the Director of Partnerships Position
In an organization with an established partner program, there are many partnerships professionals that contribute to the success of partnerships, including individual contributors, function leaders, and department leaders. The Director of Partnerships takes on the role of function leader at an organization. According to LinkedIn, there are over 30,000 Directors of Partnerships today, with companies like Facebook and VISA employing about 100 each.
Last quarter, we dug into the career journeys of a variety of professionals in partnerships. In this article, we’ll synthesize findings from all of our interviews, spotlights panels, and industry research.
Why does an organization hire a Director of Partnerships?
Organizations hire a Director of Partnerships to refine the vision for partnerships. Typically in smaller teams, this role has a more general partnerships focus. Meanwhile, larger organizations provide the opportunity to niche down, having Directors focus on a specific territory or subsection of partners.
What are a Director of Partnerships’s responsibilities?
Depending on the size of the organization, a Director’s responsibilities, goals, and team size may vary slightly. Generally, Directors won’t work directly with partners and instead focus on establishing a vision for a territory or subsection of partners. Directors are typically involved in multiple facets of the organization while managing all aspects of the role, including planning go-to-market activities and strategies, supporting partner strategy execution, enabling mutually beneficial co-marketing and co-selling initiatives, and managing Partner Managers.
In smaller organizations, the Director Partnerships may be the most senior partnerships professional at the company. In these cases, partnerships is typically a function of sales or marketing, leaving Directors out of executive team meetings.
What skills are essential to a Director of Partnerships’s success?
There’s no clear-cut path to a Director of Partnerships role. In fact, following your interests to weave your way through roles you enjoy is an effective way to gain relevant experiences, explore what functions you care about, and network in the industry. Experience in other functions makes it easier to connect with partners and interface more effectively with an internal team.
Directors typically have spent time in a variety of roles, with sales and marketing being common backgrounds. Previous experience in partnerships is beneficial, but not mandatory for succeeding in the role. Instead, skills like cross-functional coordination, team management, flexibility, and curiosity are most important.
What comes next in a partnerships career?
After excelling in developing strategies for niche areas of the business and coordinating a team in accomplishing those goals, it’s natural for partnerships professionals to move into a more senior role as a VP of Partnerships.
Dig deeper into the career journeys of Directors of Partnerships:
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