Five Months on the Job: Building Relationships

Is it just me or are these months flying by really quickly?

This month’s job review post is about my responsibilities for building relationships and forging mutually beneficial associations with internal and external partners.  Having managed a team of engineers for several years in my prior role, I always valued the human interaction components of working for a large corporation, in general, and Microsoft, specifically.  Establishing professional ties and nurturing those relationships have created some of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of my career so far.

It was the opportunity to be in a role which requires me to branch out even more and interact with personalities and professions I otherwise would have avoided that led me to pursue a position in marketing as a product manager.  As I have become more familiar with this discipline and its expectations these past months, I have had to be more mindful of the “who” rather than myopically focusing on the “what,” “how” and “when.”

It started with my manager, Brian, throwing me head first into partner engagements that had low expectations in terms of immediate business impact but could potentially result in huge long-term value.  “Engagements” is probably too strong a word as most times Brian would loop me into an e-mail thread, make informal introductions and encourage me to follow-up with the person or group offline.  I would in turn setup lunch, coffee or some other form of face-to-face meeting to allow us to discuss our plans and see if and how we could help each other execute.  Having established relationships with these partners I can now look for ways to be a rainmaker of sorts to help them succeed and achieve their objectives and have them do the same for me.

I have met with authors, magazine editors, sales reps, CEOs, VPs of Engineering, etc. domestic and internationally and it is continually mind-boggling to witness just how big an impact Microsoft has in the industry and the world.  Hearing the plans many of these enterprises, vendors, resellers, editors, etc. have as a result of our latest product offerings and announcements and the ripple effect our decisions have on others really drives home what is meant when we talk about building an ecosystem.  I find these interactions extremely informative as they force me to understand how my work is seen by people on the outside.  They also provide a great way to calibrate and course correct before a program or campaign I think is going to strike marketing gold fails miserably in the marketplace and before a tremendous amount of resources have already been committed.

In most cases it is easier to win a battle when your side outnumbers the other side.  Building meaningful and productive relationships with others who are capable of elevating your side to victory is fundamental to long-term success.  This is fairly obvious when discussing the relationships a business has with its customers but is easily ignored when it comes to the relationships a business has with its existing partners and those partners it does not have today but will need down the road.

As controverisal as it may be, building relationships is one area in which I believe Microsoft and its employees have had indisputable success throughout its history.  Despite the fascination and fixation on painting the technology industry as being controlled by a small group of large corporations using their vast resources to divide and conquer, I still believe technology has done even more to bring people together.  The fact that you are reading ns with valuing relationships.

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