• Cass Polzin

Women in Partnerships: Kristin Hagan

Updated: Mar 20

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, Kristin Hagan joins us to discuss her experiences building out partnerships at Zuora and ChiliPiper, how being a woman has impacted her career, advice for others in the industry, and more.


Meet Kristin

Kristin Hagan is the VP of Partnerships and Strategy at Chili Piper and has been there since November. Kristin has worked in partnerships in the past, but strategy was a new role for her to take on.


Her career path began in financial services. She worked in the hedge fund industry before moving into software with Advent, where she worked in product marketing, product management, and then engineering. After that, she took a much-deserved break to travel with her husband.


Kristin shared that she came back thinking she wanted to do something different and moved into sales engineering. She spent a bulk of her time at Zuora, a company that needed more integrations and partnerships to succeed. She volunteered to build out the partnership program for Zuora. She wanted to identify how she could grow it in a way to acquire, attract, and retain partners.


The Benefit of Alternative Experiences

Having spent time in a variety of roles helps Kristin be more effective in her position today. “My experiences allow me to partner both internally and externally. One of the most significant aspects of a successful partner leader is being able to align internal resources. A critical piece of the partner team is external facing, but to be successful you need to have internal support across Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Operations, Engineering, and Product .”


Instilling Confidence in Other Women in Tech

Kristin shared that the proudest accomplishment of her career to date has been mentoring and helping other people’s careers grow. “Mentoring is something that I have really worked on and am continuing to have as a focus. It was a big piece of my time at Zuora since I realized that I wanted to help women in the beginning and middle of their careers to understand their potential career trajectory and help to instill confidence."


Instilling confidence in women, especially in tech is something that we always need to support. Kristin shared, “It's a challenge because I think to be in tech, you have to be confident, and many people will tell you that men will take a chance on themselves more often than women. People don't always realize they have opportunities to grow in their careers, just like when I raised my hand to take on new challenges at Zuora. I went through times where I wasn’t confident that I would succeed, but through others supporting me, I was able to build a successful Partner Program.”


Accepting Feedback & Making Personal Changes

The biggest challenge Kristin has faced in her career is acknowledging aspects about herself she wants to change. “Being able to have that self-awareness is something that I’ve grown into. It was an obstacle when I didn’t have it; I used to struggle with listening to feedback that could be interpreted as critical. As a former collegiate athlete, I try to take professional feedback like coaching - as a way to get to be a better version of myself.”


Not all feedback will be delivered kindly, but there’s always value in understanding and appreciating feedback — even if you don’t apply all of it.


The Partnerships Experience as a Woman

Kristin shared that she’s been lucky enough to always have female role models. “I have definitely had more female managers throughout my career. This isn’t the norm; it’s the exception. Leadership teams at lots of those companies only had one or two women on them. I feel that’s my driving determination — to sit on a board, further my executive career, and help women see those careers are for them too.”


Currently, at Chili Piper, “we recently added a handful of leadership positions and are at 50% female leadership throughout the company. I am incredibly excited to be working alongside these women. It does have an impact. It’s incredibly rewarding for men and women to see equality in leadership positions. The number of women in partnerships is continuing to grow and as their voices are heard, I believe that the female representation will continue to expand.”


Kristin still feels there is a long way to go in terms of how women perceive themselves in these roles and what they can ask for. “I see it so much more often with my female colleagues, where they’re drowning in work and don’t want to ask for help and be seen as vulnerable. Men don’t seem to have that same problem. Women should be able to ask for help without feeling like they’re failing.”


Limited Female Mentors as an Inspiration

The limited number of female mentors always drove Kristin to hope to be one for others. “I remember one of the women I approached and asked to mentor me told me she didn’t feel like she could mentor me because she couldn’t give me the time I deserved. When you see someone like that, you want to leverage them. Even hearing that she wasn’t sure she could give me ‘enough’. That helped me to realize that there is a significant need to help others.”


“I was able to leverage lots of assistance throughout the years from a number of leaders in the tech industry and I realized that the most important quality is honesty. Be honest, not just with yourself, but with what you can do and how you can help support others.”


Advice for Others

Kristin shared that many of the people who support her in her career today are individuals she has met in the last decade. “I go back to those people because of the relationships that we have built. It’s one of the reasons that I love the community that Partnership Leaders provides. So many of my former partners (and I) have changed industries, switched companies and otherwise may not be connected anymore. Especially now, without in-person events, I believe leveraging these communities to maintain relationships is more important than ever. “


The Importance of Groups Like Women in Partnerships

Kristin shared that groups like Women in Partnerships are important for individuals’ personal and professional growth in the industry. “I always say, if it's not a situation where you've been able to ask the questions you've always wanted to ask, or haven't always had equal representation, it's important to have a place where you feel comfortable discussing things and you can be vulnerable without repercussion or judgment."


There’s power in uplifting powerful 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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