Ze Proença’s Strategies for Growing the Zapier Partner Ecosystem

Cass Polzin
Cass Polzin1 Dec, 2021

This article is part of our first-ever 2021 Partnership Leaders Awards, highlighting powerful professionals in the partnerships space. Learn more about the awards and check out all the winners.

Last month, we announced our first-ever Partnership Leaders awards. We named four Rising Star Partner Professionals in different verticals, along with a Most Innovative Partner Program and Rapid Growth Ecosystem. This month, we’re highlighting the winners and sharing their strategies that can inspire your 2022 partner program planning.

Today, we’re congratulating Ze Proença, Manager, Partner Operations at Zapier for taking home our 2021 Rising Star, Partner Operations. In the six years since Ze joined Zapier, he’s taken a path through all the various roles in partnerships, starting marketing and business development, then moving to operations. 

Ze’s Path to Partnerships

Ze Procenca

Before Ze Proença joined the Zapier team, he worked in video games as a game designer. He shared, “In video games, my very first jobs were in operations for building game art pipelines. I then went into design and the business development side of games. Those were partnerships motions that transferred really well. When it got to a point that I wanted to consider something else, transitioning to partnerships in SaaS seemed appealing. In many ways, there were transferable skills. For example, designing gameplay for players transfers well to building team operations.”

Today, Ze has spent six years at Zapier, having joined before the partnerships team existed. Of working at Zapier, Ze shared, “The core is the people and the culture that we’ve developed. Since I’ve joined, the team has grown over 10x but has kept a culture committed to values and sustainable growth. There’s so much raw talent and the desire to create something new.”

Outside of the team, Ze enjoys the excitement of working on the Zapier platform. “Our product is a creation engine and is anything our users make it to be with use cases with all kinds of complexity. The nature of the job lends itself to always new challenges and new problems. When you put great people in front of a great problem, it’s always exciting to see how they solve it.”

Ze’s Strategies for Growth

Ze has helped the Zapier partnerships team scale significantly over recent years. There were a few fundamental approaches he highlighted as beneficial for growth. “We always consider how we can scale up people’s output with automation. We built it by successively building out pipelines to meet our most immediate opportunities. One of the first key instances of this was operationalizing and systemizing what it meant to onboard new partners — a successful beginning for a partner is key to growing a vibrant partner program.”

His strategies haven’t centered on growing enormously but through exploration and steady expansion. He explained, “We’re not throwing several people at it right away. Instead, we consider if we threw one person at it, how can we build it out and keep scaling it progressively? Once there were enough partners, we built out our tier structure, perks, classification, and more. Initially, we did this internally with spreadsheets and models, then worked to roll it into our data warehouse to show info to partners. It’s been like that — realizing the new funnel needs attention, but let’s scale it up with a deep commitment to having an outsized impact. It’s all about lots and lots of iteration throughout. It’s constant iteration to produce new things, then finding ways to sustain.”

Our 2021 Rising Star Partner Operations

We’re happy to congratulate Ze for being named our first-ever Rising Star Partner Operations. Of the award, Ze shared, “I’m honored that my teammates would take the time to nominate me. What we do is serve our teams so they can grow and be impactful. The validation of that is if everything runs smoothly, you don’t want noise; you sometimes just work in the background. It’s a silent, constant reward. It’s nice to see that brought up, and this award is a validation of that.”

Ze continued, “I’m very passionate about the operations role in any job or industry. Partner Operations has some particularities. It involves finding folks who blend strategies — low-code, no-code — to support their teams in anything they do. To scale new endeavors, to fill in gaps, to boost certain projects, or accelerate them. It’s such a fundamental need that’s been more and more possible now — being able to see the validation of that and see that sometimes it’s harder to measure that impact. I’d love to see that adopted more and more throughout the industry. To give one shape to a nebulous function.”

This month, we’re celebrating all of the incredible partnerships professionals who took home our first-ever Partnership Leaders awards. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn so you don’t miss any updates.

Get advice from and connect with hundreds of powerful partnerships professionals when you join Partnership Leaders. Hundreds of industry professionals turn to Partnership Leaders for support with their latest projects, answers to burning questions, and general camaraderie.

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