Find your version of “Having it all” – Partnerships and Motherhood

Find your version of “Having it all” – Partnerships and Motherhood

Find your version of “Having it all” - Partnerships and Motherhood

Laura Wang, balancing partnerships and motherhood.

Laura Wang has been an ISV Principal Partner Account Manager at Salesforce for the past year. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, daughter, son and maltipoo pup. Before Salesforce, Laura took a six-year hiatus from working to raise her two small kids. Laura joins us today to share her experience as she re-entered the workforce and her approach to partnerships and motherhood.

By Sam Yarborough

Sam: Hi Laura! Great to see you again! Can you start by telling us a little about yourself personally and professionally?

Laura:  Hi! Of course, I live in the Bay area of California with my husband and two children. I have an eight year old daughter, an almost five year old son, and our little maltipoo, Sasha. We have lived in the East Bay for about nine years now. I started working at Salesforce a little over a year ago.

Before that I had taken about a six-year hiatus from working and was a stay-at-home mom. I made that decision because at the time, when we had our first child, my husband was traveling every week. It was very difficult to balance being a new mom; we had no family, and we still have no family in the area to help.

So I took a step back from my career knowing I wanted to go back. My goal was to go back when my youngest turned three. Sometimes it seems like nothing will ever go according to plan, but that is exactly what happened. And so, here I am. Before leaving the workforce, I was most recently working at McKesson, and I worked for a division called RelayHealth, where we provided data interoperability services and sold products to health systems like orders, results and patient messaging. I supported some of our health system accounts, managed product implementations, and eventually came to work on the CommonWell Health Alliance pilot. 

Sam: Nice. Okay, so at McKesson, it was not a partnership role, per se?

Laura: Well, it actually evolved into that because CommonWell Health Alliance is a nonprofit that, at the time, was led by Cerner and McKesson. It brought together about six of the largest vendors in electronic medical records with the intent of establishing a common set of APIs that would standardize exchanging patient data in a meaningful way. I was in charge of vendor relations and helping try to get us to all work together, which was really challenging. Those were the early days of interoperability and talking about exchanging CCDs and other things like that. So it was clunky, and it was hard, and nobody wanted to play well together. The storyline hasn’t changed a whole lot since then, but a lot of progress has been made.

Sam: Okay, so when you took on that role, did you know what partnerships was? Was partnerships the goal? Or do you feel like you kind of fell into partnership?

Laura: I literally had no clue. In fact, the catalyst for it was that I was moving from the East Coast to the West Coast. I still worked for McKesson on the east coast. But it was a remote job where I was managing accounts and health systems that were out there. I would support implementation of our products and those health systems.
I was moving to the West Coast because I was getting married, and my husband doesn’t think there is anywhere better to live than California. So, I was moving out here to be with him and that led to the CommonWell opportunity where they needed someone that could be in the office helping to manage these vendor relationships and be able to travel.

Sam: That’s awesome. I feel like the more I talk to people about it, it just happens. We fall into partnerships.

Okay, so you took some time away from partnerships to focus on motherhood. And then you came back and you landed a job at Salesforce. As a mom myself, I find this so cool. Can you talk a bit about that? How did this personally and professionally affect you?

Laura: It’s very intimidating and hard to come back to be honest with you. You feel like you’ve been out for so long. I mean, six years in today’s world feels like you went to prison and came out and a cell phone is now a smartphone. What happened? What’s all of this new technology?!
So outside of feeling like I’d been out of the industry for a while, it was also intimidating, coming back in and being like, how do people work today? How do we talk, communicate and share and engage today? I know that it might sound really silly, but it was very intimidating. I had just literally been on a playground and volunteering in a classroom for six years, essentially.

So, I really was not super confident at all. One of my best friends, who was a newer friend at the time, works at Salesforce. She lives right down the street from me and we started talking one day. I was telling her, “You know, I feel like I’m getting kind of Mom-depressed. I love being a parent, but I’m really losing myself in this whole role. I don’t really feel like I have an identity that is my own. Rewards and recognition is a big thing for me. Someone telling me “Great job, you did a good job on that presentation”, or “You really helped me out here” is a big deal for me. That kind of makes my whole day and my kids aren’t gonna give that to me.”

Sam: Completely relatable. Something more outside of “Yummy PB+J, Mom!”

Laura: Exactly – they gave me the complete opposite. And, I was feeling like I was losing myself. It was giving me some anxiety and I would start stressing about silly things that weren’t even worth stressing about. I was really spiraling at a certain point.
And, so I decided to start putting myself out there by updating my resume. I thought it would take a really long time to find a job, but my friend, Charla, told me about an opening on the ISV partner team, and thought I should go for it. Thank God for Charla! She spent probably eight hours working with me, just talking to me about Salesforce and answering questions like “What are partnerships? What is an ISV app versus an OEM app? And what does that mean? And what are managed packages? And what is Health Cloud? And what are all the other clouds? And how do people use it?”.
So by just leveraging her knowledge and willingness to help me, I had a series of around six interviews, and somehow I got the job. It was one of the first jobs I applied for. I could not believe it. I started in the middle of COVID in my little guest bedroom that I’m in right now. And it was like the world just changed overnight. I just walked into my guest bedroom, and it was my office the next day. So it was really wild. 

How to balance Parnerships and motherhood

Sam: Well, clearly you’re very qualified because they wouldn’t hire just anybody, so props to you! That would be intimidating for anybody, I mean, interviews are intimidating even when you are actively working. I think we’re all learning day by day – I wake up every day and being a mom is hard, and going to work as hard. So, now that you’re managing motherhood and having a career in partnerships at the same time – what advice do you have for women that are choosing the same path? 

Laura: That you can’t have it all. So those people who say that you can, well, you can’t. You will always feel like you’re coming up short somewhere. And that’s okay. I think you have to figure out what is the best version of having it all for yourself. So for me, I realized staying at home was not the best version of having it all.

That was sacrificing a lot of myself, which in turn made me not as great of a parent. I was not as engaged. I was a little resentful. I wasn’t as present with my kids. So, I went back to work and, while it definitely cuts into the time I spend with them, the time I do spend each day with them, I am super engaged, present and thankful for. And I really value that they can say, “Mommy’s going to work today.” It’s not all focused on them; I have to balance my priorities.

They don’t think that I am always going to give them my 100% attention all the time, because I can’t. They have to share me with a job now. So I think it’s great, not only from that perspective, but also that it is great for my daughter to see her mom work hard each day. 

Sam: Yeah, maybe you can’t have it all. But, you can have both. And, you can choose what that looks like for you. I do think that’s a really important thing to model. Also, it’s really important for kids to know they’re not the center of the world.

Laura: I’m trying to pay it forward after what my friend Charla did for me. I have another friend who’s a mom who’s been out of work for nearly nine years, thinking about coming back and I just referred her for a job on my team. I have been trying to tell her, “This is so scary. I totally get it.” But she can do it.

Sam: It’s super intimidating. Well, my next question leads into that. For women, young women who are starting their careers, or maybe women that are starting to get back into careers from taking some time off, especially in partnerships, do you have any advice on where to start or how to get going?

Laura: I feel like it’s all about connections and networking. Just always keep your hand in something, always keep your LinkedIn updated. If possible, make sure you have an awareness of what’s going on in whatever industry that you’re working in. But, most of all, just, remember your value, which is a very generic thing to say. But, you can be out for this long and still add a lot of value. And maybe even more value, because you have this kind of fresh new perspective coming back in and excitement about coming back in that someone else may not have.

Sam: You mentioned connections and networking. I think everybody in partnerships values that tremendously. A huge part of the job is building relationships between different disciplines within your organization. So it sounds like you already had a natural knack for this, but how have you found success with this? 

Laura: I try to lead with empathy when I work with those different organizational units, internally or externally with a partner. Internally, it’s really important. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to product, industry advisors, our direct team, or a marketing team, I always want to understand three things. What are their pain points? What keeps them up at night? What are their goals and priorities for the year? After understanding that, I think about how to align those answers with my partners? How can my partners help me solve that? Because if I don’t care and understand what they’re trying to achieve, they’re not going to have any interest in what I have to say.

Sam: Yeah, that’s really good. Are there any mistakes you’ve made in your career that you’re like, wow, I really wish I would have seen that coming. 

Laura: Gosh, definitely. For example, I wish I had taken more of a proactive approach towards managing people. In the earlier stages of my career, I was a little bit hesitant, and I think this is probably true of a lot of women. I know it’s the very kind of generic stuff we always hear, but it was very true for me. I was always very scared of managing people. I never took that experience on myself and that limited myself in a lot of ways, just by thinking that I was not good enough or smart enough.

At prior companies like McKesson, for example, they placed a lot of value on higher education. So they would bring on a lot of people from Wharton or Kellogg; just really impressive people. And I found that intimidating. And they were great people who were really smart and had a lot of value to add.

But at the end of the day, I had a lot of value to add too, and in some ways, maybe more. I am really good at building trusted relationships, which is something that I don’t think everybody has the talent for. I am really good at networking and breaking down walls, talking through something, understanding a problem and responding with empathy. I think just understanding what you bring to the table and how your strengths fit in with a broader organization is what will drive success for anyone. 

Sam: You also said something there too, which I want to reiterate, because I think it’s really powerful. I mean, coming into the workforce, again, whether you’ve been in it, or you’re entering for the first time, is intimidating. Point blank. But you just called out a lot of your strengths. And so understanding where they fit in, and how that adds value to the business is a huge thing. So being able to articulate that. 

Laura: Yeah, telling people who care. And I think that comes with age, probably too. You know, it’s age and a lot of listening to Brene Brown. Thank God for her. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have some bad qualities as well. I’m not as good as a lot of others in certain areas. I’m probably never the smartest person in the room. But I know I bring value through a lot of other ways.

What makes a partnership successful?

Sam: I’m gonna get you a t-shirt that says #AgeAndBrene. Okay, one Salesforce specific question: What do you think makes a partnership successful? And then within the Salesforce ecosystem? Is there anything unique to that in your opinion?

Laura: It can be challenging to position yourself at Salesforce. In my job, my whole role is to influence the sales of our partner solutions. I am basically my partner’s advocate internally within Salesforce. I sell to my customers, which are the direct account executives, and solution engineers, to make sure that they understand the when, the why and, the how of including a partner and what gaps that partner fills. And further, make it easy for them to do that.
As a partner, I would say, make it really easy and mindless for these teams to understand what they get out of it. Come in with a very strong positioning on where you fall in this ecosystem, and your value to the Salesforce products, and how they extend the platform.
Be very collaborative with our teams. As a partner account manager, I can break down walls and introduce you to our product teams, industry advisors or our direct teams. I can get you enablement and webinars and invite you for sponsorship opportunities. I can do all of these things, but, you have to be very collaborative in driving sales of the solution and pipeline growth. Come in with a pipeline, if at all possible, and let me help you grow that pipe.
And then, just execute – webinars, roadshows enablement, all the stuff that I help my partners get. Be ready to execute and listen to your PAM, when they say, “here’s what our team wants to hear.” Do that. 

Sam: Okay, final question. So you mentioned Charla before – but, how important do you find a community of women? How important do you think that is to your career growth, trajectory and past? What is the value of that to you?

Laura: I think that women helping women is huge. And I love that I see it happening more and more. If you can help a stay-at-home mom feel less scared about coming back into the workplace, that’s great. I personally haven’t sought these communities out as often as I should have. I think it’s so important to be able to talk and share experiences with other women. How do you handle certain things that we as women come across. I talk to my husband at the end of the day, and he just doesn’t have the same experiences as me. It’s very different. 

Get advice from and connect with hundreds of powerful women in partnerships from different backgrounds when you join Partnership Leaders’ Women in Partnerships group. 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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