Women in Partnerships: Sam Yarborough
Updated: Mar 4
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, Sam Yarborough, Director of Strategic Partnerships at PFL, joins us to discuss her career, how she landed in partnerships, advice for other women in partnerships, and more.
Sam Yarborough is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at PFL. Sam began her career on the design/marketing side of business. Her first few roles were at ad agencies. She then moved into marketing before moving to brand strategy. Sam landed in partnerships about six months ago, and while Sam’s role at PFL is fairly new, she feels it’s kind of an accumulation of everything she has done in her career at this point.
Sam runs the partnership program with Marne Reed. They look for companies that align closely with their ICP and determine how they can best go to business together. Right now, they're on the ground floor — restructuring the program a bit and finding ways to move forward.
Curiosity as a career tool
Sam shared that the proudest accomplishment in her career thus far is, “This transition into a partnership role. It really proves that I’ve been a continuous learner throughout my career, and I’m not afraid to take on something new.”
What helped Sam get the most out of every role? “My constant curiosity and not being afraid to ask anyone and everyone for help, or opinions, or mentorship. A lot of the time, people are afraid to ask because it shows vulnerability. It’s important to step out of your comfort zone and say, ‘Hey, I need help!’”
Getting buy-in as a female leader
Sam stepped into the director role in the past few years of her career. She naively assumed that with that title comes respect and buy-in from executive teams or your company as a whole. Sam shared that as a woman in a leadership position, “Figuring out ways to share your ideas in an intelligent and articulate way that adds value and intrigues people to want to listen is a skill that’s always evolving, but an important one if you’re going to make an impact.”
Sam noted this was especially true in her last role. She was in the financial world which is incredibly male-dominated across the board. “What I learned in those instances was just being proud and confident of what I’m bringing to the table. If you approach it the right way, our perspective is very important and needed, especially in those male-dominated industries.”
The importance of female mentors
Sam shared that Marne is the first female manager she’s had in a while. “Marne Reed is like a mentor. I seek those out.” Sam expanded, “Early on in my career, when I was an Art Director for an ad agency, I had two female bosses who became mentors. Unknowingly, at the time, they definitely set me on the trajectory for my career. They were both very confident and successful. Watching them navigate everything was a very helpful learning experience.”
Outside of traditional mentors, Sam has had a few peers support her along the way. Sam shared a story from when she was pitching her own design agency, “The woman I was presenting to paused the recording and told me, ‘Your proposal is way better than the men that have been pitching this project, and they’re charging way more. When I start the recording, I’m going to ask your price again, and I want you to double it or more!’ That was a huge transformational moment for me, and I try to return the favor as often as possible for other women.”
Recognize your unique value
Sam would advise other women in partnerships, and leadership in general, to “hang your hat on your own unique value perspective. We get hung up on trying to change our viewpoint to fit in better. That’s really hindering your career. What you have to bring to the table as you are is very valuable. Stay confident in that.”
Sam shares that it’s important to “have a group of women that you can be honest with and ask questions in a venue where you’re comfortable. Often, we go into business situations thinking, ‘Oh, this is right.’ or ‘Oh, I’m being valued enough.’ because we just don’t know. Asking ‘What should I be making? What was your career trajectory?’ and just having an open mind about the possibilities is really important.”
Being a new mom in the workplace
Being a new mom is an entirely new challenge to add to being a female in the workplace. Sam shared that, “having people you can be honest with, look up to, and ask questions of is extremely important.”
Being a mom is always a significant life change, but even more so right now. When this all hit, she couldn't take her son to daycare. “Not only was I a working mom, I was a mom who was working and parenting at the same time. That became a huge priority for me in my career and working with people who understand that. Being a parent is important to me and comes first, but I chose to keep working. Making sure I can balance those and find an employer who appreciates that is huge.”
Sam feels there is room for improvement in the employment industry in general. “I left a company with maternity leave, and my current company doesn’t have that. But, it was the right move for my career. It’s a constant balance of ‘What’s right for my career? What’s right for both?’ and making that a priority until the end of time.”
Coming full-circle, Sam shared why it’s so important to connect with other women going through similar experiences. “Being a mom is complicated and only other moms can fully relate. Having other women who can just be like ‘YES, I know!’ and take a deep breath with or share an experience with is so important. For example, negotiating contracts. If you’re taking a new position, how are you making sure your family is being cared for? Other women who have been there can provide helpful insight.”
A rising tide lifts all boats
Why are groups like women in partnerships so important? Sam shared, “This is hugely important just to have a community where you can bounce ideas off of each other. As much as we want not to be different, we are. The way we approach problems, the way we think about the world, the situations we have on our plate outside of work are all very different from our male counterparts. Just being able to communicate is huge.”
To Sam, the key is, “Finding people who have done this before or who are currently doing this so that you can work through the problem together. Why reinvent the wheel if others have been successful before?”
The more we can see women supporting women and the opportunities for all of us, the more we benefit. “We’re all in this together. There’s plenty of room for all of us, and the more we can bring to the top, the better.”
As Sam has seen, women-led groups are key for the collective growth of female professionals. That’s why we’ve started a new Women in Partnerships group, specifically for women in the industry.
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