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The Partner Channel Podcast Episode #24
The Key Characteristics of Female Leaders Part 2
In part two of this special edition of the Partner Channel Podcast, for our Women in Channel Summer Series, Katie Martinez, Director of Customer Experience, continues her conversation with Fiona Coughlan from AchieveUnite. Fiona offers advice on developing a career plan focused on your natural talents. Haven’t heard part one yet? Check it out here.
Katie Martinez: Welcome to the Partner Channel Podcast, the voice of the partner channel community. I am Katie Martinez, Director of Customer Experience at Allbound, excited to share part 2 of my conversation with Fiona Coughlan from AchieveUnite. We are going to continue our conversation around the key characteristics of female leaders. So, journey, moving into career paths, it’s hard, especially as you’re getting started, it feels like you’re kind of in jobs or in tasks, and to really sink your teeth into a career is hard. A little bit scary, difficult, challenging. And it’s when do I take those steps and where do I go? And so I think timing and placement of those. So, you know, asking about advice again. As women are looking to take the next step and maybe it’s away from that task or job mentality into a career. What advice do you typically give to women that are kind of on that on that ledge or about they’re ready to take that step? What kind of advice do you typically offer?
Fiona Coughlan: So if they if they’re trying to move from kind of just doing a day to day job and they’re trying to find some direction in their life, then really it really, really comes back to what they naturally are good at, naturally, what are their talents. And that can be really quite difficult for people, because typically we automatically assume that in order for you to be good at something, you have to really, really work hard. Now, obviously, sometimes you do because you’re always honing or always growing. But really what comes naturally to you are your talents and you have much, much more chance of success if you’re using your natural talents than if you’re trying to learn something that you just find very difficult. So go back to when you were a tiny child and work out what it really was that you love to do, that you found relatively easy to do the way that people speak about you. What is it they say about you that kind of reflects or natural qualities? Because that will start to take you in a direction of your purpose, which is what I said earlier.
It also starts to make you realize what kind of career should you be following. And there are many, many different careers that you can follow within just one company. So it doesn’t have to be just that you’re going to be a salesperson or, you know, you’ve got to go into tech. There are huge, huge companies within the technology industry that have many, many different elements that make them successful, and each of them requires different qualities. So once you’ve worked out what your natural talents are, then I would really start to engage with people that work in some of the companies that you think you would aspire to work with and start asking them what types of skills are required for some of those jobs. And then you can start thinking more clearly about maybe a more intentional plan, which could be self-development and could be interviewing. It could be a whole bunch of things. But I would probably start with trying to work out what you naturally love to do to try and help define what that career looks like as opposed to a sort of a job.
Katie Martinez: Yeah, I really feel that as someone who manages people and is currently hiring. What I’m looking for is not someone to come in the front door and be like, I know everything about PRM and I know everything about Allbound. I think I would tip over if that happens. What I tell people is, listen, if you have the personality traits, the talents, the foundation to be successful, which we know what those are. I can teach you Allbound. I can teach you how to implement Allbound. I can teach you how to do it. But if the foundation isn’t there, my goodness, we’re at the base of a really large mountain, that’s really hard to move. So I think sometimes people get a little tunnel vision in that instead of looking at what I’m good at, what gets me out of bed in the morning, what I naturally am inclined to do and look more at like the industry or the application, where to your point, there are loads of companies that have, you know, end of the day, similar functions that those foundational talents and capabilities will very much translate across many, many companies, many applications.
Fiona Coughlan: Yeah. And I mean, to your point, absolutely. If you can if you’re interviewing with someone and you see a candidate that’s naturally being authentic, that’s naturally motivated because they absolutely know that they’ve got these talents that they think would be a great fit. and they’re very motivated by working for your organization. You’re going to employ them hands down above somebody that has all the qualifications and all the experience. If they come in and they seem dower and they don’t seem to have that kind of motivation and energy, because we all know that these careers, they take a lot of time and it’s a lot of time in our lives. So you want someone who’s going to want to love it. And if they do, then that emanates that just comes out of them. And obviously, you need to learn the, you know, the expertize of a job and you need to understand the culture of a company. But that can be taught afterwards if you’ve got the right attitude and you’ve got the right motivation behind you.
Katie Martinez: Yeah, absolutely, I totally agree in that there’s just that attitude you can feel that like you can feel that energy. And I tell everybody, you know, that’s something that I crave as a manager. I want as much as the word disruption sometimes gets on me, but it’s very, very true, it’s very applicable in this in the sense as I’m looking for someone to come in, be it new eyes, be fresh, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and say something’s not working. Let’s experiment. Let’s grow you into this role. I certainly have expectations, but I think the best people that I’ve worked with and the best teammates that I’ve had are those that just kind of dig in and create that role for themselves. Especially when you are younger, trying to forge that path potentially on a career, because sometimes that’s an accident. Careers can be sort of accidental, that might be how I describe where I got. It can be accidental, but if your energy and attitude just align with what you’re attempting to do. It’s almost impossible to not be successful.
Fiona Coughlan: That’s exactly it. If you go in there with the right intention, if you’re truly yourself, you know, everyone around you will be able to see that. And if you’re doing it from that position, you have the energy to get through the tough times and you can push yourself much further than if you’re doing something from a place of dissatisfaction or it’s mediocre. So for both parties, it really, really matters. And that’s why, particularly in the channel, because the channel is all about relationships. It’s so important that you’re coming from a place of, you know, enjoyment and wanting to push yourself and wanting to learn and wanting to get better and reach your potential, because definitely if you’re working with partners, they will be they will see if they’ve got somebody looking after them that really cares about them. They will see that a mile off, really wants to try and create a truly collaborative relationship. And they will respond to that much, much more than somebody who’s just in it for the salary. I mean, we’re all in it to survive, obviously, but there’s something much more extra special about somebody who really loves what they’re doing.
Katie Martinez: And I love that you brought up collaboration because I think you can get stuck focusing on your efforts and your tasks and you as an individual. Probably in the channel more so than most places, you cannot have that mindset because it’s a partnership. And I think that’s that sometimes is a really interesting, challenging shift to make that you cannot be in the channel and take on that sort of ‘I’m the center of my universe’ mentality because there are so many relationships that go into a successful partner program and that starts within your own organization. If you’re running a partner program, sure, you may have a partner team, but you are going to need the interactivity. You are going to need the cohesiveness across your entire organization, but then also into your partners. And if you can’t foster collaboration and good communication, you’re going to be in for a struggle. It’s going to be really, really hard to be successful.
Fiona Coughlan: And, you know, as you say that. I particularly think that the innate qualities of many, many women are the ability to foster great relationships because they are naturally empathetic and they do nurture and they do want to create partnerships. And that’s just their innate qualities. So there are loads of opportunities for women to really, really stand out, particularly in the technology world. And if they do it and they come from a place where they love it, then the world is their oyster. They can do whatever they want and success will follow and so will followership. And they could find themselves very quickly in these great leadership positions just by being their authentic selves. It’s all there for the taking, but you do have to be a bit intentional about it and really think about it a bit.
Katie Martinez: And I think especially now to I remember especially my first job hearing how the boomers are going to be on their way out and it’s going to leave this big gap in the workforce and you are going to have to fill it. So that’s where I see a lot of opportunities, a bit for myself, but also the folks in that that are coming into the workforce now is that the opportunity is going to be really, really big, especially as the workforce just kind of ages out. And I know my my very first job out of college, it was, you know, older guys and that’s all it was. To be a female was really rare. But then to be young, female was even rarer. It was a very specialized industry as well. So it wasn’t just you have some of those innate qualities like you were going to really have to know highly technical skilled information. So I feel like there’s you know, we’re looking at a big opportunity as the workforce just naturally ages, retires and leaves those gaps that are going to be ripe for the taking, really.
Fiona Coughlan: Oh, yeah, I mean, I’m probably closer to the older age group that you’re talking about, but nevertheless, I experienced exactly what you spoke about and I’ve watched it for my whole career. And I really genuinely excited for the fact that we’re probably in the most multigenerational workforce we’ve ever been in. So, again, there are so many opportunities for women to really be able to adapt and use their innate skill., But also to focus on how they can respond to this kind of probably once in a lifetime opportunity because technology kind of grew very, very quickly and it continues to grow. But it means that, like you said, you can apply yourself to all these new kind of technologies and these new solutions that will continue to keep coming. So, you know, artificial intelligence is like the next big wave. And but I think that what women can do is that they can use those innate skills with the learning, the intentional learning, and they will be able to do it naturally because that’s what they’ve had to do their whole lives. They’ve had to be able to respond. They’ve evolved that way because they’ve had to bring up families. They’ve had to look after the running of the home. That’s like way back. And I can’t actually say that I do that. But you get the whole idea. We’ve always had to be multitasking. We’ve always had to be able to adapt very quickly. We’ve always had to learn new things. We’re very, very capable of doing it. And like you say, the industry is ripe for them to take advantage of that.
Katie Martinez: I’m really glad that multitasking is a positive thing because I am extremely guilty of multitasking all of the time. So I’ll keep in my mind that that’s super positive. That’s a good quality to have.
Fiona Coughlan: I think it’s a necessity because the world’s going so fast, you have to be able to multitask.
Katie Martinez: Well, technology now changes the face of that. And I think especially. Leaning on technology, kind of talking a little bit about the pandemic, again, that changed everything, we saw that at Allbound my goodness, when all of a sudden the opportunity, the expected face to face meeting with people was all of a sudden just gone. There was no at least in my memory, it didn’t feel like there was sort of that tapering off. It was just gone. And so immediately it became how do we attempt to replace what’s just been kind of lifted out of our normal expectation? And so we certainly saw that being SaaS, where our customers now turn to their portals because that’s all they had. There was no opportunity to go to events, to go to conferences, to just simply roll up on one of your partners and have a face to face conversation. So I think and I hope that technology continues to foster that, especially for females in know in the professional world that technology really starts to build that and provide or expose some opportunities or paths or maybe remove some of those challenges or struggles of the past.
Fiona Coughlan: And as you say that, Katie, the other loans that the new generation is going to have to be thinking about is sustainability. So the fact that you can now basically I mean, Achieve Unite, is completely run virtually. We were before the pandemic. For the five years prior to the pandemic, we were completely virtual all the education programs we do, all virtual. And just from the feedback we’ve had, I know they’ve still been amazing experiences. Now, that’s not going to be to take away from god willing, when we all can go back and have face to face engagements is not to take away from that, but it means that we can have a much better work life balance. It means that we can be more discerning about when to go and do those face to face meetings and when you don’t need to. At the same time, you’ll be doing great things for the planet. You can’t do anything in life without technology playing a role in it. So there’s always going to be amazing opportunities. But maybe now as we move forward, we can all have a much more responsible approach to what we do with our careers and our relationships and and recognize the way technology can help drive and create those collaborative relationships, even if it’s not face to face, even what we’re doing here. I’m in the UK, you’re in the States. We’re still able to have a really, really great conversation, no matter the fact we’re not face to face.
Katie Martinez: It’s really removed those barriers to where, you know, if let’s say, for example, ACE program is in person only, that is a huge limitation for a number of reasons. Travel and cost and time and time away from home and work. Where now I’m in my home, I could participate in a program and still be able to do all of the things that I need to as a person, as a teammate. I think watching some of those barriers fall away and potentially expose us all to other opportunities is really cool. If you have Zoom and an internet connection. My goodness, we can do a lot of things now, you might get a little fatigued. I’ve certainly felt that some days, but. I think there’s there’s an OK trade-off for that and the things that we can now do.
Fiona Coughlan: I totally agree. I mean, when I think about in my early years as an account manager out on the road, I was doing probably doing a hundred thousand kilometers a year going out and meeting my clients. And that was that was appropriate then. But now I could do a lot less mileage and I could use that time instead of travel to do some self-development programs, to do some educational programs. When I speak to clients about the ACE program, one of the benefits is that it feeds over the course of eight weeks, just a 90 minute session each week. Rather than what typically happened before when if you wanted to do a program, you had to leave the office for a whole week or a few days. And it all got downloaded on you and then you had to go back and pick up work. Typically it didn’t really deliver as much value because you didn’t have time to really absorb it. So the fact that there are other there are programs and there are mechanisms now, because of technology, that enable you to learn and have that self-development will help young women coming into their career to really invest in themselves. So they can be their best, most effective selves, despite all this craziness that we’re living in, which is the pandemic, which, god willing, is going to start to change. But despite all of that, we’ve all managed to adapt and will continue to adapt so the opportunities will not be going away.
Katie Martinez: That’s good. That’s great. Awesome. Well, I am going to go into my final four questions. I’ve absolutely loved this conversation
Fiona Coughlan: So have I, thank you.
Katie Martinez: Hopefully we’ve imparted some sort of good takeaways. The Final Four questions, if you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
Fiona Coughlan: If I had a superpower. It would be to be a fairy godmother, wave my magic wand and make every single young woman realize that they all have their own superpowers and they’re all going to be amazing.
Katie Martinez: I love that I feel like that could maybe be a real-life superpower, what you’re doing less as you speak, that might be a real superpower. That might not be as mystical as we think. So talk about one mistake and one success that you’ve had in the channel.
Fiona Coughlan: As we were talking, I think the the most successful thing I did for myself in the channel was in the first 18 months, at Adobe, I was basically the admin girl and that was great fun. I got thrown into everything, but I really, really wanted to get this job in the channel and completely against my nature at the time I psyched myself up and I did all the reading and I got all the preparation. I walked myself into my managing director’s office and I said, “I want to run the channel for Adobe”. Now, back in 1990 that was a big deal. And we sat down and she discussed my aspirations and I was absolutely authentic and frank with her and I said, “I want to be responsible for Adobe’s channel by this date”. And I said, “what do I have to do?” And she told me and I made sure it happened. And that was the best thing I ever did, because, after that, I got an opportunity, after opportunity. So that would be the most successful thing I did for myself and the channel. I think the least successful thing I did for myself in the channel is probably not putting myself on some of these self-development courses, which is probably why I’m so attached to ACE, because as I progressed through my career and I found myself in more and more high octane meetings with more and more, you know, the best way I can categorize it is alpha males that intimidated me. I didn’t have the self-knowledge and self-awareness that I was as good as the guys. Which is probably why I am so passionate about the ACE program, because if I’d have that kind of program back in the day, I probably would have continued even further along in my career.
Katie Martinez: That’s really interesting, and I think that’s very true for a lot of people. I think for me I didn’t realize so our very first job out of college, I was absolutely working in the channel. I had no idea I was working in the channel. So I guess now I look, I’m like, oh, that’s what I was doing. I was so focused on my job and my task. And thank goodness I did it because it’s totally paved the path for coming into Allbound. At the time I would have been a great Allbound customer, but I didn’t really have that realization of where I was yet. And so I’m inspired and interested that you clearly knew where you wanted to go because at the time I had no idea that’s where I was.
Fiona Coughlan: Yeah, well, I mean, I think it was a bit of a fluke because I had a secret bet with my sister that I was going to have my own property by a certain age. And I figured that my why at the time was I had to start earning some money to make that happen. And the only way I could do it was to take advantage of this great opportunity this tiny company. They weren’t that tiny but they weren’t big either called Adobe. And I was just like, right, I’ve got to make myself do that. And so I had to grow some courage and put on some confidence that I didn’t really feel and walk into the room and request it. I’m really, really glad I did.
Katie Martinez: And sometimes that’s all it takes, is if you can convince someone else that you are confident you might be shaking in your shorts internally. But if you can put forward, granted it’s got to come from somewhere, it’s hard to fake those qualities. But if you have something, anything in you that could just dial that up a notch, that’s going to take you really far.
Fiona Coughlan: Yeah. I mean, you know, I was scared. It took me three days to pluck the courage to do it. And I probably didn’t sleep very much across those three days. But, you know, I sort of figure if you don’t put yourself out there, if you don’t believe that you’re entitled to that chance, that opportunity, then you’ll never know. And I wasn’t told yes, I wasn’t told you’ve got it. I was told what I needed to do to be considered. And I took that seriously. And I’m really, really grateful I did. But that is, I think, kind of an illustration of the anxiety that a lot of women feel throughout their career right up to the top. And, you know, if we can do anything to help women within the industry feel that they’ve got a right to have a place at the table and feel confident about being who they are and have the courage of their convictions, then the world is going to become a better place because we all we are all talented women and we all know some amazingly talented women. We’ve just all got to start believing in it and helping each other achieve it.
Katie Martinez: And everyone started somewhere, we’ve all got anxiety like we all don’t sleep some nights, and that’s OK. But that’s the important thing, too, is I think especially as a female, you get into that mindset of I am the only person to ever experience or feel what I’m feeling. I say it out loud and it sounds silly and I laugh, but it is such a real feeling a lot of days. And so to your point, networking or even just opening any sort of communication with women that you admire and start to make those connections and hear them say, oh, absolutely, I still feel that. I felt that, I went through that challenge is for me sometimes the most affirming thing, because it can feel like an island sometimes, right? That you are not going to be understood. No one can connect with you on that when in reality, in real life, there are so many people, especially women, that can say, oh, no, I absolutely have felt that way.
Fiona Coughlan: Yeah, exactly. I mean, that’s what Brene Brown says that’s about being vulnerable and just opening yourself up. When you do that, you make other people feel like it’s safe to do the same. And when you do that, you create connectedness and that applies in all relationships. And so we’ve all been there. Everyone can relate to feeling worried, feeling like I don’t know. Because of that, you will create much more trusted, much more valuable relationships if you realize that you can just admit it and sometimes it’s hard and sometimes you have to just feel the fear and do it anyway. But if you do the reality and the opportunities can be huge.
Katie Martinez: And sometimes, to your point, the answer’s not always going to be this definitive yes. Probably the majority of the time the answer is not going to be a definitive yes. It’s going to be a here’s the path or here are the steps. Very rarely, especially with careers and roles and jobs, there is no definitive yes. If you are looking to get into a specific function or a specific role. It’s more about, you know, how do I get there? And I think that is super beneficial. I mean, sometimes you might get a no, and that’s OK. But to your point, at least, you know. You aren’t going to live int that I don’t know what I don’t know. But I like the idea that you didn’t get a yes right off the bat. But in your brain, that’s what you heard, right? Yes. If I do this. And so that just became what you were going to do no questions asked.
Fiona Coughlan: And that’s that’s because I saw an opportunity. But equally, you’re mesaured, you can often be measured by the way you respond to a less than ideal outcome. So I didn’t get the ‘yes, you will get it’. But I got given the opportunity and the way I responded to it did as much to give me that future chance as it would have been if I’d been highly skilled. Because they saw my motivation, saw the effort I put in, how much I wanted it. And that goes back to me, recognizing what my strengths were and utilizing them so that I was recognized as somebody who had these qualities, and then I was given these opportunities. So that was maybe the catalyst. But it wasn’t purely that I wanted to do X, Y, Z in my job. It’s because I demonstrated certain qualities that they felt were valuable.
Katie Martinez: That’s great. All right, two more questions get through what is one business book that you would recommend to someone that aspires to channel leadership?
Fiona Coughlan: So the one that I keep coming back to, I mean, it might not absolutely fill your criteria, but I think it’s the Start With Why by Simon Sinek. Because I think it applies it applies to any kind of job, any kind of leadership you want. To be an effective leader, whether in the channel or anywhere else, is about relationships. And to really, really create that followership, you need to be able to articulate why you’re doing it. You need to be able to articulate why it matters to you. And if you can’t do that, then it’s very, very difficult to get people to really trust and follow you. And that I don’t think anywhere else more than the channel is that so critical because it’s those channel partnerships and relationships that will be what creates success. So for me, I think that’s a great starting one. And then you can build on all the other great books that will teach you some of the other skills you need.
Katie Martinez: Awesome. And final question, five years from now, what will be a major change or some of the major changes in the channel that we should be thinking about right now?
Fiona Coughlan: I think it’s going to continue to become more and more and more complex and there’s going to continue to be more and more noise. And so to stand out, to really, really stand out, and to make a difference to your channel partners, it is going to be about the emotional intelligence element. Some of the tech companies have already realized the value of that. That hasn’t necessarily, I think, dissipated down entirely throughout the whole channel ecosystem. And the people that take advantage of it early will have a standout differentiator because it can go all the way down to their clients. Clients suffer from it as much with their partners as vendors suffer from it from the partners perspective and the partner suffer from it with the vendor perspective. So I think really understanding the true balance required between the IQ and the EQ is going to be what will make a difference for organizations because the power has shifted. 10, 15 years ago, it was all about the vendor and what the vendor said. Now, because the solutions are made up of multiple different elements that are put together by the partner, the partner has equal, if not more, power than the vendor. So if the vendors don’t take that seriously and understand that there is a collaborative relationship that needs to occur, then the ones that don’t take that seriously and struggle.
Katie Martinez: Thank you to our guest Fiona Coughlan from AchieveUnite. And thank you to you the listeners for joining us here at the Partner Channel Podcast. If you like what you heard, subscribe to our podcast wherever you like to listen to podcasts.