How Austin McMichael Broke into Silicon Valley

How Austin McMichael Broke into Silicon Valley

Austin McMichael joins us to discuss her career path into partnerships and advice for others in the industry.

This article is part of our Women in Partnerships series, highlighting female professionals in the partnerships space. To learn more about the series and the Women in Partnerships group, check out the series intro.

Today, Austin McMichael, Partnerships Manager at Transcend, joins us to discuss her career path into partnerships, how being a woman has impacted her career in technology, and the importance of finding female mentors.

Meet Austin

Austin began her career in tech sales after going to school for engineering. She worked with a few organizations before recently making the transition to partnerships in the last year. Austin was the first partnerships hire at Transcend, where she’s still a team of one.

Since she started, Austin has focused on building out an ecosystem of technology partners. Now, she’s shifting her focus to growing the team.

Breaking into Silicon Valley

As a South Louisiana native, Austin had no connection to San Francisco and felt breaking into Silicon Valley has been the most significant obstacle of her career so far. “Breaking into Silicon Valley, or into tech, was the hardest part. I’m from South Louisiana — nowhere close to San Francisco. Once I got here, I have just been trying to figure out what I want my career trajectory to be and feeling out what sticks, and what I enjoy doing the most.”

Building Velocity at Transcend

Austin shared that her proudest accomplishment in her career so far is the work she’s done at Transcend in recent months. “There’s something really special about building from scratch. This is a shared accomplishment with the engineering team, building 80+ integrations in 9 months and an app directory is an enormous accomplishment. It’s been really fun to work with that type of velocity and learn on the fly.”

Developing Relationships as a Woman in Partnerships

It’s no secret that there’s a gender gap in technology, and sales isn’t much different. Austin shared, “When I started out, I noticed that tech sales culture can be pretty difficult to navigate as a woman. In fact, sales sometimes fares worse than engineering in terms of representation. None of the sales leadership teams I met early in my career included women. It was much easier for my male counterparts to develop relationships with the VP of Sales and Sales Executives than it was for the women in the group.”

While there weren’t many women in sales leadership positions, Austin shared that she was surprised to find that a lot of her peers were women. “At the peer level, there was a lot of bonding over the fact that we were the only women in the room.”

As she has grown, she has seen more women in management and leadership positions. “Now, at Transcend, the senior leadership team is six people and has two women of color. Working with them and watching how they lead and manage their teams and how they get work done has been refreshing. Representation is key — seeing women in those roles, going to board meetings, and owning their entire function is really inspiring.”

Austin also shared that she was fortunate that when she started at Transcend, she mentioned early on to her manager that she wanted a mentor. “He was super helpful in introducing me to different people. I ended up meeting Cristina Cordova through our investors.”

Cristina built a partner program from the ground up at Stripe, and now leads partnerships at Notion. “Someone has solved all the problems you’re trying to solve today 4-5 years ago. It’s super easy to hop on a call with someone and get actionable advice, even if you have technical questions about a one-off partnership. It’s so nice to have those resources.”

Start Somewhere

After starting in sales and pivoting into product partnerships, Austin would advise other women in the industry to, “just start somewhere. I talk to a lot of women just coming out of college or in the first few years of their careers. It’s easy to be laser-focused on something like, ‘I want to do marketing.’ There’s so much to learn and so much impact to be made everywhere at startups that it doesn’t make sense to be picky about your first, second, or even third role. You kind of refine it as you go.”

The Importance of Groups Like Women in Partnerships

As someone who actively seeks out female mentors, Austin is a fan of groups like Women in Partnerships. “I think the big thing really is representation and knowing or seeing other women doing what I want to be doing in 5-10 years.”

While Transcend has female leadership, “It can still feel really weird and alienating to be the only woman in a room or in a partner meeting. Being able to have groups like Women in Partnerships where you can not just get advice, but also envision yourself as a VP of Growth, for example, is really powerful.”

There’s a benefit to having a virtual brain trust. “The on-demand support is critical. I can’t tell you how many times, even if it’s the most minuscule tactical detail, I feel more confident after talking through it with another member.”

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Dig deeper into the career journeys of impactful ladies in the industry when you download Powerful Women in Partnerships. You can also be inspired by more powerful women in the industry in all of our Women in Partnerships spotlights.

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