In the world of partnerships, ambiguity often reigns supreme—but the wisdom of seasoned professionals can serve as a guiding light. As part of the continuing Partner School series, Co-Founder and CEO of Firneo Scott Pollack spoke with Ayush Sharma, Google’s former Head of Partnerships.

During the interview, Ayush helped to demystify the world of partnerships and shared valuable advice on building a successful career in this industry. This blog post aims to take the key points of Scott and Ayush’s insightful conversation and distill them into a series of memorable, valuable tips.

Tip #1: Find the Right Employer

While aspiring partnerships leaders are considering potential employers, Ayush encouraged them to take cultural alignment and business fit into account. Companies that prioritize collaboration, innovation, and ecosystem engagement present fertile ground for partnerships professionals By finding organizations that line up with their personal values and are already partnership-oriented, partnerships pros can set themselves up for long-term success in their careers.

Tip #2: Embrace the Partnerships Mindset

As Ayush defined them, partnerships are fundamentally about creating value for all parties involved. Thus, partnerships leaders must adopt a mindset that goes beyond the well-being of themselves and their employers to thrive in this industry.

By prioritizing the growth of their partners, partnerships pros inevitably pave the way for their employers’ growth and advancement. Ayush said Google considers its own success to be deeply intertwined with the success of its partners, and that ethos serves as the foundation of its robust partnership model.

Tip #3: Cultivate Alignment for Success

Alignment is one of the fundamental pillars of effective partnerships. According to Ayush, this goes beyond sharing business objectives—partners should also be on the same page when it comes to their expectations and values.

When alignment is not a high priority in partnerships, these relationships can easily veer off course, resulting in suboptimal outcomes across the board. But by fostering alignment at every stage of the partnership journey, partnerships leaders can mitigate risks and nurture collaborative success.

Tip #4: Understand the Executive Perspective

For partnerships pros to overcome hurdles related to their company’s internal operations, they must know a thing or two about working with executives. Ayush emphasized the importance of seeing things from an executive’s perspective—the ability to comprehend these people’s priorities, objectives, and incentives is crucial. With that in mind, partnerships leaders should strive to develop a perspective that aligns with executive priorities.

Best Practices for Working With Executives

Ayush shared a set of best practices to make this process easier for partnership leaders who are in the early stages of their careers or have limited experience working with executives. He suggested that these people start by creating a framework to understand the business world as thoroughly as possible. Continuous learning—from both real-world experience and materials like publications and podcasts—is critical in this regard.

Furthermore, partnerships pros must be able to “zoom out” and focus on the bigger picture. As part of this, they should constantly strive to provide the executives they work with with information that can help them make informed decisions.

Tip #5: Know How to Demonstrate Progress

Demonstrating the value of a partnership can be notoriously difficult, especially when concrete results take a long time to materialize. But before a partnership achieves its predefined success metrics, partnerships leaders can point to benefits such as learning experiences, gained efficiencies, and improved capabilities to showcase its positive impact. Ayush recommended focusing on mutual value creation to demonstrate success over extended timelines.

Tip #6: Be Willing to Learn From Setbacks

Later in the interview, Scott asked how partnerships leaders can recover from failures that aren’t their fault. Ayush provided a unique perspective: he encouraged partnerships pros to view their partnerships as learning opportunities, especially if they don’t accomplish their intended goals.

From Ayush’s point of view, setbacks are a chance to develop resilience and acquire valuable experience, which can then contribute to personal and professional growth. Embracing failure with a growth mindset, he argued, can help people tackle future challenges more effectively. He even noted that partnerships pros can embrace and acknowledge failures on their resumes—by doing so, they can craft a narrative showcasing their ability to learn and grow from unsuccessful endeavors.

Tip #7: Choose the Right Path

When partnerships leaders are weighing their potential career trajectories, Ayush said they shouldn’t artificially limit their options. Staying within the realm of partnerships is an increasingly attractive option, but opportunities abound in adjacent domains such as sales, business development, marketing, and product management. In fact, Ayush himself now works as Head of Business Operations for Google Pixel.

The diverse skill set needed for people to thrive in partnerships makes them well-suited for many other roles. Success in this industry demands strategic thinking, relationship-building prowess, and a keen understanding of business dynamics, all of which can be useful in different fields.

Is a Managerial Role Right for You?

The interview concluded with a discussion on career aspirations—specifically, whether or not everyone working in the partnerships field should aim for managerial roles. Instead of sticking to predefined career pathways, Ayush said people in this industry should focus on maximizing their potential impact.

Partnerships leaders should look for ways to generate as much value as possible while pursuing personal fulfillment, whether that involves leading teams as a manager or going above and beyond as an independent contributor. By using this as a guiding principle, these professionals can thrive in the short term while working toward long-term success.


Ayush’s insights aren’t just helpful—they offer a roadmap for successfully navigating a career in partnerships. Aspiring professionals in the field can benefit from his advice at any stage of their career, from starting out in partnerships at the right company to determining their career goals for the future.

However, this article only scratches the surface of what incoming partnerships leaders should know. And unlike other fields, newcomers to the partnerships industry often have trouble finding the guidance they need to thrive. To get the full playbook for success as a partnerships pro, sign up for Firneo’s Mastering Partnerships Strategy program!

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