Community Builder to Partnerships Builder – With Patrick McGarry

Jeff White October 26, 2021

Jeff White

Jeff is a small business expert focused on marketing, finance, sales, business development, and legal work. He's been featured in a number of publications such as USNews, Forbes, The Week, The Street, Investopedia, and CNBC.

Today’s spotlight interview on business development and partnerships professionals takes an inside look at Patrick McGarry who is the Head of Strategic Partnerships at data.world. 

Patrick’s company, data.world, classifies themselves as “the cloud-native data catalog”. This means that they help make it easy for everyone to get fast and accurate answers, from data, to any question about your business. Additionally, the business has created a large open data community that enables people to team up with data projects around the world. 

All of the responses to our questions and prompts below are completely provided by our interviewee, Patrick McGarry, and are his personal thoughts and opinions.  

Describe your background before you broke into Business Development & Partnerships 

For most of my career, I have been an open-source community builder. While this predates the term “community manager” it was really interesting to be a part of the evolution of open source and be a part of bringing those ideas to the enterprise world.

I definitely prefer the scrappy underdog role vs the established large enterprise, however, so I have focused most of my efforts on startups and companies that are trying to “change the world” for the better.

What made you want to break into BD & Partnerships? 

I think business development and partnerships were a natural evolution from a community builder role. As a community builder, you’re constantly managing the needs of multiple stakeholders while trying to maintain focus and clarity of vision. The extra challenge of open source development is that there is rarely direct remuneration, so in a way BD gives some added clarity in that there are commercial terms and immediate revenue impact. 

 

For me personally, the move into business development allowed me to actually aggregate community/open and commercial collaboration goals under a single banner and manage both functions as related. I have been very fortunate in that data.world has a strong mission-driven focus through our work around being a public benefit corporation and a free platform for the world’s open data.

What are some lessons that you learned earlier in your career that you still rely on today?

1. “Meet people where they are”: This is sort of multifaceted. I think of it both as a “how you treat people” as well as a “why should someone engage with you.” In either case it’s important to see the human element when dealing with people. All too often we see the world through the lens of our own needs or desires, or we tend to think about our enterprise engagements as interactions between faceless organizations, and forget that really it’s about humans and all that entails.

2. “Ruthless prioritization“: In interrupt-driven workflows like community or business development there are a ton of distractions, or just different goals and projects. It’s important to have a strategic vision and then make sure that whatever you’re working on makes consistent progress towards that goal. While other projects may be interesting or important, constant distractions will mean that you never reach your end goal.

3. “Loyalty matters, and it’s a two-way street”: While the lesson I learned early was around loyalty, relationships and really making sure that you weren’t just chasing the bigger, better, deal all the time, I added the second bit after a while because not everyone thinks like this. It’s important to draw healthy boundaries and make sure that the respect that is so important for you to give to your peers and colleagues, is returned. 

If you find yourself working with someone who does not respect your time, your views, or your efforts, it’s probably time to distance yourself from that person as much as you are able.

What was a major pitfall or challenge you faced early on in your BD & Partnerships career and how did you overcome it? 

I think the main pitfall that I see as difficult to navigate in this ecosystem is communication. Specifically, I’m referring to the idea of translation between people speaking “languages” (eg. tech vs non-tech).  I think it’s important to leverage that human-centric viewpoint and really talk to people (and explain concepts to them) in a way that resonates with their worldview. 

Often this is finding ways to simplify technical concepts for non-technical people, but almost as often it’s finding ways to talk about business goals in ways that heads-down engineers can get behind. 

What education or training, if any, has most helped you in your career in BD & Partnerships?

I think the biggest concept around education was some blue collar knowledge that my father distilled into me early, which is “everyone has something to teach you.” I often joke about how I have made a career of trying to be the “dumbest guy in the room” but there is a lot to that. If you’re constantly open to new learning it keeps you receptive to new ideas and ways to optimize your efforts.

If I had to pick something slightly more formal, I recently did a 6 week intensive with Gary Hoover around “understanding businesses” that was mostly some guided lectures with open-ended discussions on any topics that the class wanted to cover. Being able to have a setting to pick the brain of someone with experience is absolutely invaluable, and any opportunity I find to do so is something I pursue. I like to joke that more business gets done at the bar than at a conference or in a boardroom.

What is your favorite part about working in Business Development? 

I love the variability, day to day, and the interesting differences in working with multiple people and organizations. I much prefer being a “zero-to-one” kinda guy rather than a “one-to-one-million” optimizer, so being able to quickly build and capture something new before moving on to the next challenge is extremely fun for me, and keeps things fresh on the tactical implementation side.

The fact that I can also blend this together with long-term strategic thinking and applying these quick hits to a longer strategy is pretty much the ideal. 

Where do you see yourself going in your career long-term?

I very much enjoy being a strategic thinker and “in the room” to shape the direction of whatever endeavor I’m involved in. I’m sure that eventually I’ll sit in the C-suite or leadership role, perhaps even dive back into the entrepreneurial world as a CEO or co-founder when I’m ready for future challenges.

Bottom Line

We want to thank Patrick for sharing his thoughts with us. There is no clear path to break into business development and partnerships. If you’re interested in learning more from great leaders in the industry, you should apply to join Firneo’s community of BD professionals. You can be placed in a mastermind group and learn in real time from other professionals facing similar problems throughout BD & partnerships.