• Cass Polzin

Women in Partnerships: Danielle Simon

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, Danielle Simon joins us to discuss how she made her way into partnerships, obstacles she’s overcome, what it’s like being a woman in the industry, and advice for other professionals.


Meet Danielle

Danielle Simon recently joined Okera as a Director of Global Partner Management, where she manages large implementation consulting-driven partners globally. Danielle has been in tech for ten years, and there has always been an element of partnerships or channel sales in her roles.


She started in martech, working at Marketo and Badgeville, before moving into the data space. Before that, Danielle spent a decade in PR and marketing. She shared that her role at Okera is a culmination of past experiences, which she’s excited about. “For me, the whole draw of partnerships was the ten years of professional experience before I was in tech. To be successful in partnerships, you have to be sales-driven. You have to know marketing, how to create a strong go-to-market with partners. You have to know a little bit about a lot. I feel like if I just had to sell all day, it would be boring.”


Over her career, across industries, Danielle shared that she’s most proud of the relationships and friendships she’s cultivated. “With partnerships, you have to bring your whole self to work. There’s a personal element you can’t separate when you’re building trust. The goal is to build things in a scalable, but still personal, way.”


Overcoming Misalignment

Across her career, Danielle shared that the biggest challenge has been a fundamental misalignment of companies with partnerships. “Not a lot of companies have partnerships in their DNA. Most companies aren’t willing to make the changes they need. It comes down to culture.”


How does Danielle work through misalignment in an organization? “In some cases, you can overcome the tension of building partnerships with steady results over time and early wins. You have to be an internal PR machine and remember that as much as you are pushing things out in the market, there is an equal amount of internal education you need to do on the value you are generating with partners.”


Sometimes, partnerships aren’t a good fit for an organization. “In some cases, I’ve found that if the culture is really broken and not aligned around partnerships, it’s not going to work. Know when to recognize that no matter what herculean effort you put in, it won’t be supported by the organization. There has to be a strong value proposition and better together opportunity for hyper-growth — no one gets excited about margins even though they are important. The willingness to innovate and to build with partners is key.”


Understanding the Nuances of Being a Female Professional

Reports from recent years show tech is still an incredibly male-dominated industry. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to only worsen the gap, with women accounting for the majority of lost jobs.


Danielle shared that she didn’t really notice the impact being a woman had early on in her career. However, “As I progressed, there are things you cannot ignore. Every single female professional I know has a story about being treated differently on some level with a negative consequence. The issues women — and really every professional — deal with today are far more nuanced and subtle than previous generations. It comes down to inclusivity, authority, and respect.”


In her roles, Danielle found that the gender distribution skews heavily male, usually 80-20 or 70-30. “There are female leaders at Okera and it's a great company culture — very inclusive. The company and team culture really matter. I’m the only woman on my team right now, and there is total respect and care for one another. When you're aligned as a team, it’s all about the work as it should be.”


Advice for Other Industry Professionals

While partnerships are not new, in so many ways, it is an under-the-radar career path. “I still have friends and family that don’t quite understand what I do, and I usually revert to it’s kind of like sales.”


At the same time, partnerships is ripe with innovation, and there seems to be real momentum in the market for skilled alliances and channel professionals. “I'm always amazed by the talent out there in channel and partnerships. It's a dynamic, complex, and challenging role. There is an amazing mix of professionals with years of experience that bring incredible relationships to the table and also people innovating and building ecosystems in new ways.”


Danielle recommends leveraging the experience others have to learn more and advance your efforts. “Partnerships are hard work. However, there is a real community. I don't think I would have focused so much on community building with partnerships professionals if it weren’t for the pandemic. Leverage the community, experience and best practices others are willing to share. Partnerships professionals are all willing to help and share and sometimes in this line of work, you find yourself on an island in your own company and need some new ideas.”


Danielle has had a mix of mentors to support her over the years. “I have both women and men mentors. Mentorships — to me — are about experience and rapport with the person. My female mentors are ‘Career Moms’ — they're CEOs and parents. It’s important for me to hear from female mentors on their stories, their tips and tricks, and how they survived and thrived with so many priorities.”


The Importance of Groups Like Women in Partnerships

If you’re only looking for mentors and people to learn from within your organization, you’ll be incredibly limited. Danielle shared, “Community is essential. The pandemic has only exacerbated that and our need for connection. Women in Partnerships provides a place where we can share experiences and inspire each other. If we want to increase women in leadership, we need to devote time to increasing female professionals’ visibility to inspire the future generation. If we ignore it and we're too focused on the day-to-day, it's never going to change.”


Not just during COVID, we know how important it is to have a community you can go to for advice and insights. We also want to help raise existing voices and showcase the incredible work coming from women in the industry. That’s why we’ve created a Women in Partnerships group, specifically for women in the industry.


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