Role Models: Julia Steele, Sr. Strategist, Brand Events and Relationships at SYPartners

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Today’s Role Model is Julia Steele. Julia is unflinchingly passionate about empowering others to tell their stories to the world. She began her career doing brand strategy and experience design at game-changing internet brands Gawker Media and Tumblr. Later on, she launched her own brand—Ratter—which set out to revive local news for the internet. Currently, Julia oversees brand reputation at SYPartners, an organization which consults with business leaders on diversity and organizational transformation.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

Sr. Strategist, Brand Events and Relationships (yes, this is the second wordiest title at SYPartners). 3 years in March.

What attracted you to this role?

I love envisioning a future that doesn’t yet exist, then thinking through and taking the steps it will take to get there. It requires a lot of creativity—a trait I’ve never identified as having, given I’m not a ‘capital d’ Designer.

Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

I’m an early riser. I try to meditate, go to the gym, and write in my journal every morning. (I usually eke out two of the three.) I mention this ritual because it’s key to my success in my role.

I’m in the office by 9, where I strongly prefer to have heads down time for the first couple hours to catch up on any writing or bigger thinking I have to do for the day. We have a room in the office called “the Hideout” which is like the Amtrak Quiet Car. It is my favorite.

11-4 is all about meetings. My role is very project based—at a given time the team is working on 5-8 projects which bring ideas from around the firm to life. These projects result in various media, e.g. our new podcast series, Leading into the Unknown or a new tool like the identity icebreaker we just put up on our online store. I also reserve time each day for relationship building, via coffee catchups or just email. I’m constantly scanning the landscape for interesting business podcasts, newsletters, posts, etc. and writing people (most of the time blindly), with praise. I’m obsessed with Ellen McGirt’s Fortune Race Ahead newsletter, e.g. (Please subscribe if you don’t already.)

For lunch, I usually pop out to Good Stock or Brodo for pick up somewhere in that window. (I am a huge evangelizer of both of these places.) I eat at my desk while answering emails, but it’s far from a Sad Desk Lunch since the new Kobra mural is right out the window.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Everything Google. (I love how Google Docs used to be clunky and now the user experience [for my purposes] exceeds Excel. The new feature that allows you to create new docs with a Chrome shortcuts is sent from heaven. [Type “doc.new” into your Chrome address bar, et voila.])

And all of the Slackbots. (Newest obsession: brb.life Slackbot. It allows you to see all your team members wfh/vacation time. It’s like an auto responder for Slack.)

What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?

Getting to talk with SYP’s myriad brilliant leaders about their consulting work: What ideas or trends are they witnessing in their client work? And how could those ideas benefit a wider group? Then I get to go out externally and socialize these ideas with our online audiences, journalists, or potential partners, building the reputation of the leader, the firm—and creating a lot of good vibes in the process.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Not having time to do all the things I want to do as well as I want to do them. The fact that time is finite. Et cetera!

What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?

I work frequently with our design team who are normally confined to working on whatever client-facing project they are on. It’s fun bringing them into the work of the Brand Team, where we don’t have client deliverables, per se, and can play a little bit more.

A few months ago we produced our first podcast, Designing for Humanity, where our Managing Creative Director, Rie, interviews design leaders about how to create a better, more inclusive world.

What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your role?

I want to be the best manager on the planet. Not that it’s a competition 🙂 But seriously, I have two new hires starting this month. Nothing gives me more joy than removing roadblocks for my people and generally facilitating their growth and career evolution.

Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

Tenacity: sometimes with shifting priorities in the firm’s client load, it’s hard to prioritize brand-building and story telling (the “drum beat” work).

Equity: We try really hard to feature the voices and ideas of leaders at all levels of SYP, not just our leadership team.

Intelligence: Companies pay us the big bucks for our smart ideas, so the people who work here are very smart. It helps to be as smart as them!

What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?

My ability to frame a narrative in a way that builds belief in others. Massive improvement in my public presentation of self/public speaking abilities. Despite being a major extrovert in small groups, I have had to learn to overcome extreme anxiety around public speaking. I started by presenting ideas to SYP’s leadership team and now regularly find myself presenting and facilitating large groups of people during conference and workshops.

In your role, what metrics define success?

At the end of the day, my team’s remit is to increase SYP’s reputation and valuable relationship capital. There are a bunch of tangible metrics we measure (email newsletter open-rate, social followers, conference attendee numbers), but more fun are the “anecdotal” metrics. In the past two years, have candidates we’re recruiting heard of our work? How many degrees of separation is SYP from a leader we want to work with?

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Role Models: Jen McNamee, Senior Manager of Partnerships and Channel Development at Braze

Jen McNamee, Senior Manager of Partnerships

Today’s Role Model is Jen McNamee. Jen began her career analyzing ad revenue, but later realized she had a strong skill set for building relationships. Over time, she moved from tracking campaign data to managing accounts and eventually brokering large corporate partnerships. Jen is currently the Senior Manager of Partnerships and Channel Development at Braze, a mobile messaging customer engagement platform.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

My title is Sr. Manager, Partnerships & Channel. I’ve been in this specific role since January, but I’ve been with my company for 2.5 years. Prior to this role I was Manager, Partnerships & Channel.

What attracted you to this role?

This role provides the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of internal & external groups creatively figuring out ways to collaborate for mutual fulfillment.

Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

My typical day begins early. I start reviewing anything that’s occurred overnight on our various Slack channels & email prior to getting into the office. Once I’m in, I try to respond to any time sensitive emails prior to kicking off meetings with a mixture of internal & external groups.

I don’t have a daily routine for meetings, so everyday provides an opportunity for something fresh. Externally, I meet with potential tech partners to investigate if the partnership would be fruitful or with current partners to plan out additional ways we can collaborate across product enhancements and sales growth or to drive market/brand awareness.

Internally, I meet across a number of departments in our organization (Marketing, Sales, Product, Customer Success, etc.) to build out plans for how to work with our partners and figure out areas for improvement.

Meetings fill up most of my day, but in between, I answer emails/Slacks and also set time aside for long-term partnership planning. Additionally, we have lunch delivered daily, which is an amazing perk, as it saves so much time and interjects a breather in the middle of the day.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Evernote, Slack and Google Docs help me with organization, collaboration and time efficiency.

What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?

I really enjoy working with our partners to figure out ways we can create market/brand awareness on the back of each other for mutual company success.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

The biggest challenge, yet also one of my favorite things, is working across such a multitude of groups. It can be difficult to connect the dots between different departments and collectively organize to drive one common goal.

What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?

Within my role I work with our internal Marketing, Sales, Product, Customer Success, Legal, and Engineering teams. Externally, I’ve worked with those same groups at our partner companies, as I have to help connect teams across both organizations.

One such example of this collaboration is when we roll out new Partners. I get to work hand in hand with our internal Product team to select the Partner. Once that’s established, I connect with our forthcoming Partner and their respective Product team to build out the integration. Then I meet with our Customer Success team to address prospective beta users to test the integration. In addition, I also work with our Sales / Marketing team to share our Partner positioning and value proposition for usage across prospective clients, current clients and forthcoming marketing initiatives.

What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your role?

One specific area I’m looking to grow is being more outspoken. I need to improve on sharing my opinion in a confident, firm manner.

Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

A person within this role needs to be a team player, flexible, collaborative, creative, empathetic, easy mannered and engaging.

What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?

I have learned an incredible amount about partners in the tech space, as well as product/technical intricacies within our Product offering. Both of these are evergreen areas of knowledge that will only grow with time. I also had to become more situationally aware of the best way and times to address certain partners & departments to work in the most efficient manner. In addition, I had to improve my understanding of the ‘controllables’ of a situation and work to my strengths to make those a success.

In your role, what metrics define success?

The three main areas are successfully building out new partnerships, collaborating internally/ externally in impactful ways for success, and hitting a sales pipeline revenue goal on the back of Partner introductions / referrals to new clients.

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