Adapting to Different Ecosystems as a Women in Partnerships
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, Maryam Lahiji joins us to discuss her experience as a woman in partnerships, making the leap into entrepreneurship during COVID, and more.
Maryam Lahiji has been managing various forms of partnerships for over a decade. In October of 2020, Maryam decided to launch her own consulting firm, Sarvar Consulting, to support organizations looking to understand successful partnerships, establish net new partnerships, and develop their own partner program.
Maryam attended UCLA for an economics major and quickly realized her passion was geared towards building relationships. She started her journey at an advertising company in Los Angeles. From there, she began her partnerships career at a company called Global Marketing Partners.
She was attracted to the organization because they launched emerging technology products through the channel. There, she moved from marketing to more of a business development role, which involved managing the relationships with major technology distributors like Ingram Micro and re-sellers such as CDW, SHI, Amazon, and Newegg. This came naturally to Maryam and she was able to leverage the relationships to flourish.
Adapting to Different Partner Ecosystems
After 7 years there, she wanted to challenge herself and get to the next level by getting into high-tech Saas. Maryam decided to move to San Francisco to manage Dropbox’s distribution channel. In her new role, Maryam still got to leverage her expertise and the relationships she built at Ingram Micro and Synnex. It was a good way to merge the two worlds together. Her partnership journey evolved from there at Gliffy where she was managing the Atlassian relationship & partnerships. This taught her about working closely with product & engineering at a SAAS company, which she was then able to leverage at her next career step with Amplitude.
This was a completely different approach to partnerships for Maryam. She realized the importance of being an internal evangelist as well as an external one. “It’s important to be very clear and transparent about what value your internal colleagues would get from helping you and vice versa. Being transparent about the process of building partnerships, and that you’re all driving toward the same goal collectively while figuring things out together helps get more champions on your side.”
Maryam’s ability to adapt to whatever ecosystem she’s thrown into and keep learning, growing, and having an impact is her proudest skill. “Being able to launch net new partnerships that weren’t there before, like getting the AWS partnership up and running at Amplitude was one of my biggest achievements. Being able to navigate partner ecosystems to figure out what works is one of my strongest skills.”
Experiencing Partnerships as a Woman
Maryam was lucky to learn from a great female leader early on. At the very first company she worked at, she loved working with the female owner. However, Maryam shared that she hasn’t had many female leaders in the partnerships roles she’s had since. Since it’s a relatively new function, she pointed out that there isn’t a clear path to success for women in the industry.
Speaking on her career experiences, “at Amplitude, I was the only woman on the team for almost a year and a half. Dropbox had a more combination men and women team, but the leaders were all men. This has been the difficult part. I’ve worked with coaches because I don’t have someone to look up to.”
Even though she was the only woman, the Amplitude team was amazing. “Naturally when you’re out doing team events and the group is almost all guys, the conversation would often shift to be male-centric. Yet the team would always be cognizant of that and try to have a different kind of conversation to be more included. They also frequently asked for my opinion, so I felt very comfortable sharing it. My advice for few-women teams is to be empathetic to the women in the group and make sure everyone is comfortable voicing their opinions.”
The Impact of Female Mentors
Maryam has had a few coaches, sharing that they’ve helped her further her career. “I had a coach that I reached out to, while at Dropbox. One of my female partner leaders in Canada was getting her coaching license. That worked out really well to navigate things.“
At Amplitude, they had a coaching program. ”The 1:1 coaching helps you put things in perspective and get out of your head to learn how to see yourself and represent yourself in a better light. People don’t really tell you how to navigate empathy as a woman leader in tech. People are moving so fast. It’s not a conversation you can have normally. It’s good to seek out people you can talk to and have mentorships.”
Advice for Other Women in Partnerships
Maryam had plenty of advice to share with other women in the industry. Following her positive experiences with coaches, Maryam recommends women seek out mentorship and help if they need it. She also advocated for women to speak up. “Don’t be afraid of using your voice and expressing your opinions. If you’re learning about something and you have questions, ask them. If you’re not comfortable in an open environment, at least talk to your manager about it.”
As women, especially if you’re the only woman in a group, it’s easy to second-guess yourself and your expertise. “Don’t double guess yourself on everything. I wish I learned that earlier. Don’t be afraid of being judged because you’re the only woman.”
Maryam also advised against staying in a role you don’t love. “Be true to yourself about what you like and what you don’t like. There are many different flavors of partnership and many different kinds of companies. You’re not pigeon-holed into one company. It’s good to move forward and try different things. You need to listen to your own intuition about what you like.”
Everyone has had an eye-opening experience during COVID. “Take time off! And take at least a week at a time – a few days here and there doesn’t do anything. Make sure you take breaks when you need them. Try to think through ‘What are the main things you need to do? Did you do them? Then take the time to walk, be with your pet, or do a 10-minute meditation session. The world isn’t going to stop. Work isn’t going to stop. So be sure to take that time for yourself.”
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Maryam recommends believing in yourself. “I was highly encouraged to run my own consultancy. I started consulting for a company, Sharework, as an advisor which eventually evolved into working with their product team. Working with their team came organically and has been one of the best experiences for me. I never would have made the jump to doing my own thing if I hadn’t been encouraged. Believe in the fact that partnerships is very critical for any company and you can contribute value as a consultant and you can charge hourly for it!”
The Importance of Groups Like Women in Partnerships
Coaching has been a significant tool in furthering Maryam’s career. She shared that groups like Women in Partnerships are also helpful for finding that mentorship piece, especially for women. “Having an open forum to see what other people are doing and not be scared to ask, for the longest time, was very rare to see. That’s why the Women in Partnerships group has been so great. It’s important to try to stick together and learn from each other.”
Having role models in your career path who remind you of yourself that you can look up to and go for advice is so important. That’s why we’ve created a Women in Partnerships group, specifically for women in the industry.
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