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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 2, Episode 23

How to Go from Individual Contributor to Director-Level in Your Partnerships Career

Show Synopsis

On this episode of the Partner Channel Podcast, host Tori Barlow had a chance to talk with Kyle Schroeder, VP of Global Partnerships at Movable Ink. They discuss the steps to take when working towards upward mobility in your career and the skills you need to be a better fit for
leadership positions.


  • What mindset to have if you’re a fairly new partner manager
  • What management may look for when hiring or promoting from within
  • How to better prepare yourself to take on a director or leadership role

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The Script

Tori Barlow: Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, The Voice of the Channel. I’m Tori Barlow, VP of Marketing at Allbound. Excited to be here with Kyle Schroeder, VP Global Partnerships at Google Inc. Welcome, Kyle. I’m really excited for today’s conversation.

Kyle Schroeder: Yeah, likewise, Tori. Thanks for having me. Look forward to our discussion today.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, you guys are doing big things over there. You’re having a strong 2022 with your announcement of passing 100 million. And there you have the acquisition of Coherent Pass and your 55 million series D valuing movable at 1.3 billion with a B and you guys had what looks to be a really successful customer conference in June. So you guys are up to a lot, it seems.

Kyle Schroeder: Yeah. Thank you. It’s been a fast start to the year, as you can imagine, with all those different activities happening. But it’s put a lot of good energy and excitement into the business.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, you can tell with the success you’ve had and I’m really excited for today’s conversation and I think it relates to a lot of listeners also outside of partnerships. But today we’re talking about going from an individual contributor or an IC role to a director level role. And I think this defines a lot of different pieces within the partnership industry, not necessarily just within your partnership role, but how you can really impact the rest of the business when you have a management position or a specialist position all the way up to director level. So today we’re all about careers. And you’ve been at Movable Inc for over seven years now, but previously at Salesforce on the partnership side of things. And so I feel like a lot of people will be curious to understand the ins and outs of what goes on in Salesforce. So talk about what your career path has been like leading up to Movable Inc.

Kyle Schroeder: Yeah, I’ve been fortunate to be in partnerships for for quite some time now. As you mentioned, I actually kind of walked into partnerships in a bit unexpected way, which I think happens for many people, which is I interned at ExactTarget while I was in college and so I was assigned to the partner team at that time, had no idea what that meant or that such a team even existed. I specifically worked with what we called our embedded partners, where we white-labeled ExactTarget in a couple of platforms, and that really began to open my eyes to what it means to work in partnerships, all the different types of partners there at ExactTarget, and then continue that journey into Salesforce following that acquisition where I had the chance to then move into more of a partner account manager role, supporting a number of key strategic partners for the exact target and then Salesforce marketing cloud ecosystem and then bridging that over into Movable Ik, where I’ve been the last seven years, all working within partnerships started as an individual contributor and work my way up to now leading the team globally.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. That’s a lot of movement within your career. You know, and I’ve just to clarify in your mind, what is an individual contributor role versus a director level or even a more strategic role? What are the differences there in your mind?

Kyle Schroeder: Sure. I mean, I think the individual contributor is often the one that comes in. They are a bit more task driven or have a set of defined responsibilities that they more singularly are responsible for. And so whether that’s more in the form of a sales quota, a set of named partners, or a team in which they directly support, that tends to be more that model of that individual contributor. And then moving up into that director level either means greater overall kind of leadership responsibilities in a cross functional format and or the addition of responsibilities for actually leading a team with members on the team that are then the ones kind of executing at that more individual level, as I just mentioned.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. And I would imagine a lot of listeners have a motivation to eventually be on the leadership team at an organization or C-suite even. And so what’s the mindset that you really have to have if you’re either transitioning from a different department into partnerships and want to get to that leadership role, or you’re a partner specialist, partner manager wanting to get into the more strategic roles. What kind of mindset do you need for that?

Kyle Schroeder:  Yeah, I think there’s a few things that really stand out and I often coach my teams on this as they’re beginning to think about their career path and and what they’re looking to accomplish. I think first and foremost, it’s really delivering results in your role as that individual contributor, right? Proving yourself, mastering that position that you have. I think that sets the stage for everything else you’re going to want to do within an organization, especially if you’re wanting to move up within that same company. Beyond that, I think you can start working through some of the skills that that director might be responsible for, including kind of networking opportunities or joining projects that allow you to contribute in a more cross-functional way. Here at Movable Ink we often have a lot of our directors responsible for joining committees or what we call squads, where representation from different departments relevant to a larger corporate initiative take place. And then they’re bringing a perspective and contribution on behalf of that team. So looking for those opportunities and thinking about how to do those is a really great way to get started. I think there are some other simple things that individuals can do as they’re thinking about that role. I think just simply being easy to work with goes a long way. When people ask for help, assistance, saying yes, finding opportunities to meet new people and help them in their area of influence really sets a nice precedent for being someone that is easy to work with across the board. And then I really push my team to document and track your success. Oftentimes, some goals are provided to you, but it’s even beyond that. Looking at what are you setting out to do on a quarterly basis and how is that impacting the business and then taking those things, packaging up the results and starting to share those and circulate those around with your manager, with your peers so that they can understand what you’ve been working on and the impact you’ve had. All of those things really set the stage to have that conversation about moving up in the organization to a role with greater responsibility.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. And, you know, you talk about data a lot. I’m curious, as a strategic level leader at Movable Ink, what are some metrics that you typically report on just so our ICs can get an idea of kind of what to strive for. And again, it’s different at every organization. So maybe just a high level of what you typically look at from a data perspective.

Kyle Schroeder: Sure. There are I think two buckets of data or metrics that we’re looking at; there’s the overall kind of team and performance metrics that we set up really across the board for everybody to be accountable to, and then I do think there is this component of your individual goals or metrics of what you specifically are setting out to do. So that first bucket around more of your team goals or what the company is looking for, we’re generally tracking things like partner attribution. So which deals are partners helping source or influence, looking at new source opportunities created within the quarter. So looking at actually building pipeline in quarter, we’re looking at referrals received from partners. So through a formal referral program, what have we received and how those been managed? Looking at what we call partner assists, which are actually us giving value back to our partners, we track those on a quarterly basis and each person on my team is responsible for driving 25 assists out to the partner ecosystem. And then another way we look at it is through partner support cases, which are internal cases that our reps submit where they’re looking for help from the partner team. And so looking at the quantity of those, how those are trending also gives me a sense for kind of the volume of work and which accounts you’re getting coverage on.

Kyle Schroeder: So those are those metrics across the business that I’m looking at regardless of kind of your level of seniority or what team or region that you’re a part of. But then on the other side, I do think there’s this opportunity to have individual goals. So really challenging each person to say, what are the three things that you want to accomplish this quarter that you when you look back, you’ll say, “Hey, I’m really happy with what I’ve been able to do.” And I think those could be more project driven, those could be learning something new, could be taking a partner to a different level of maturity, but really looking at kind of in your purview, what is it that you want to set out to do, defining those tracking progress and reporting on it? So then really at the end of the year, you can have four quarters worth of goals, outcomes associated with each one of them, which then really is the basis for your performance review, where you can then look at a more granular level of what you’ve been able to accomplish when paired alongside of those metrics that the team’s accountable for.

Tori Barlow: I love that. So kind of holding yourself accountable for the team’s accountability and the actual KPIs you’re tracking towards. And if someone is unsure of maybe what metrics to measure or how to even go about that, should they reach out to like a C-suite person, maybe their boss? Like, how do you go about really understanding what you should hold yourself accountable for from a KPI perspective?

Kyle Schroeder: I think it’s a great question. It’s one that I do often receive from the team, and what I always encourage folks to think about first and foremost is what do you think the goal should be? Because I think oftentimes goals aren’t handed down to every single individual, right? The company has corporate goals, which generally are shared in some sort of public forum. We share them in our town hall. We have our metrics available really at any time for the business to see. And then you have more departmental or team specific goals which a manager or a VP of that team should understand. And I think there’s that gap there between what maybe your VP has as goals and what you individually should be pursuing. But I think in absence of those being handed to you, I think the opportunity is to say, here’s what I think they should be present those up to a manager or a VP and get their sign off that yes, if you do those things, that will be successful quarter ahead. And so using that as a way to kind of be proactive I think goes a long way. And especially if you’re looking at it from the lens of moving into a director position, I think even less goals are given down to kind of that director level. And it’s more of the responsibility of those directors and leaders to assess the business and determine where they should be spending their time and then defining the goals associated with those.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, and if someone’s tracking on their individual KPIs, the team’s performing well from a metrics perspective. You know, let’s talk a little bit about promotions from two sides. One, you have a sizable partner team. So curious what you know, how promotions work at Movable Ink and then what you personally look for when hiring or promoting from within.

Kyle Schroeder: Yeah. We have three things that we think about when it comes to an internal promotion. So number one is your performance. So that is what we just spoke about. It’s the metrics that you’ve driven, what you’ve contributed to the business. And I’m often looking, if it’s an internal promotion, to see that that’s sustained and repeatable. So it wasn’t just a one time achievement, but you have a couple of quarters of success underneath your belt to show that this performance is something you’re going to continue to maintain in your role. Second is the skills and abilities needed to do the job well, and that is first and foremost in your current job that you have the right skill set to do the job well, that you’re not just kind of fortunate to hit the goals, but you actually have the skills to do so. You’re demonstrating that through your day to day work, but then also that you have some skills that are required for that future role. And so ideally, you’re thinking about what those skills might be or those have been communicated to you, and you’re starting to find ways to develop those. So as we talked at the beginning, I think those cross-functional projects, for example, are a great way to hone those skills and put them in action and demonstrate what you are able to accomplish. And then third, which is often the toughest for everybody to digest, is that there does have to be a business need and the timing has to be right.

Kyle Schroeder: So just because someone has been in a role for X period of time and they want to be a people manager, may not mean that that that role is open or is it current need on the team. And so there does have to be kind of the right combination of business factors coming together along with your performance and your skills in order to kind of open up that opportunity to move forward. I do think great managers help kind of navigate that and set proper expectations and keep an eye out for places where maybe roles can be created that didn’t yet exist and allow you to lean in to your skill set a bit more. And that’s really what we’re looking for. And I think for me specifically, I always prefer to hire from within for those roles. We’ve had a long track record of success at Movable Ink, of promotions from within. The ability to understand the role of first hand before you move into a more senior level role just goes a long way in your ramp time and your ability to, if you’re going to be a people manager, lead that team underneath you. So it’s definitely a priority for us as we think about growing and developing our teams here at Movable Ink.

Tori Barlow: But yeah, that timing one is tricky. I have definitely been there and you can create the most beautiful promotion path and really coach and then it’s that timing piece that’s tricky. But to your point, you know, there’s so many opportunities within partnerships and different roles within partner marketing or even the sales side of things, the ops side of things. So I think being flexible with folks that want to progress and move forward and are on a quick trajectory, having that self awareness as a manager to find those skills and then delegate where we’re needed or create where needed. So yeah, performance and consistency is a big one too. You can’t hit a target one out of ten months and call it a win. So how do you optimize for consistency and really show your team, your organization, “Hey, we’ve optimized, we’re looking at the right metrics and this is where we see fruit.” So yeah, those are all great points and this has been a really enlightening conversation going from individual contributor role to director level. So much to learn from you, Kyle. Thank you to our guest, Kyle Schroeder, VP Global Partnerships at Movable Ink. 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 episodes wherever you like to listen to podcasts.