Tips From a Strategic Partnerships Lead Who Started in Technical Consulting

Jeff White October 27, 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 with a BD & Partnerships professional focuses on the path of Bharani Sankar, the Strategic Partnerships Lead at Rheaply. Bharani started his career on the technical side of businesses and he had many stops along the way from Data Analyst to Consultant and even Product Manager, before landing in a lead partnerships role. 

Rheaply aims to make the management of your physical resources more efficient. Its product enables businesses to get more out of their assets by standardizing asset data and making it easy to communicate and visually see resource use and allocation. This helps businesses become more efficient and make better on resource related goals, such as becoming a more environmentally friendly business. 

All of the answers to our questions and prompts below are provided by our interviewee, Bharani Sankar, and are his thoughts and opinions. 

Describe your background before you broke into Business Development & Partnerships

My background prior to joining Rheaply and beginning my journey in BD & partnerships was in consulting. My early career was very technical, developing ETLs and API integrations for a small consulting firm in the tax industry. 

This then transitioned to being more of a functional-technical consultant at various consulting firms focusing in supply chain & procurement operations, as well as software implementations. At Rheaply, I previously served as a Product Manager and Solutions Engineer before moving into the strategic partnership role I’m in now. 

What made you want to break into BD & Partnerships? 

Honestly, it was something that I would’ve never expected. My whole career I’ve been on the product/implementation side. My focus was software implementation and product strategy. As I started my career at Rheaply, an early stage startup focused on building the technology to scale a sustainable and more circular economy I was exposed more to the business development and partnerships world. 

At a startup, especially at an early stage, you wear a lot of different hats. As I mentioned, I started on the Product side as a Product Manager and during my first few weeks we were accepted into the SAP.io cohort (a partnership with SAP, who have a multitude of software products that I had implemented in my consulting life). Coupled with that I began to help our Sales team as support from the Product side and that transitioned into shifting into a Solutions Engineer role while still handling our partnership with SAP. 

Fast forward a few months in 2021 I had the opportunity to build and lead Rheaply’s partner strategy and org, something I couldn’t turn down. I think this is when I realized that a career on the Partnerships side was maybe just what I had been looking for this entire time. Partnerships are about building relationships and problem solving, two things that I find incredibly exciting and rewarding. It also gives you the opportunity to build relationships with colleagues within your company as it is an extremely cross-functional role, touching aspects of product, marketing, sales, customer success and operations. It was a no-brainer at that point. 

What lessons did you learn early in your career that you still rely on today?

This is such a great questions with so many answers but here are three things that are important lessons that I still remind myself of everyday: 

  • Treat others how you would like to be treated:
    The corporate world can sometimes be daunting and feel like it’s cliquey. I think treating people the way that you would want to be treated allows for a collaborative and nurturing environment for everyone to participate, own who they are, and build some really cool things
  • Never panic, always manage:
    Sometimes there are many different priorities and responsibilities that we are juggling. This isn’t just work related but also outside of our work lives. Taking things one step at a time as they come will allow for you to have your best output. Sometimes that means taking a step back from work and focusing on personal things or vice versa. Never panicking and always managing will allow for you to go where you are supposed to in that moment
  • Don’t mistake momentum for growth:
    This is something that I have to learn and relearn all the time. Sometimes it may seem like you’re having a huge string of victories, no matter how big or small. But does that really mean that there is growth? It’s a question I ask myself everyday to make sure that I feel like I am growing along the wave of momentum that there may be. 

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

Another great question, I think being at an early stage startup, having focus is tough. There are a lot of priorities that need to be addressed and everyone is wearing different hats. At a time when you have a lot of conversations from a partnerships perspective, it’s easy to get excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. But in order to be successful, you need to focus on one and build a successful partnership with one partner before moving on to the next. 

Focus is hard but critical. It’s a challenge that a lot of early-stage startups face and I even face it to this day but having a great team around me to support and hone in on focus has been tremendously helpful. 

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

I think for me my initial background was super helpful and instrumental in my Partnerships role. Being a product consultant in a past life helped me understand the technical ins and outs of SaaS products and consumer products in general. This coupled with my client-facing experience as a consultant helped me understand how to approach product integrations and GTM strategies. 

What is your favorite part about working in Business Development? 

Every day is a challenge but in the best way possible. You are always trying to problem solve and are thinking of creative ways to build a brand. It’s something that gets me excited to work every day. 

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

You know this is something that I have thought about a lot recently. There was a quote that I read recently that really resonated with me, “open to everything, attached to nothing”. I started my career in engineering, moved to consulting, did product development, and now am in a great BD & Partnerships career

Life has been giving me gems along the way so it’s really hard to say where I want to see myself. I guess I could say that I’m really just enjoying my time in the BD & Partnerships world and wherever I’m supposed to be next will find its way over to me. 

Bottom Line

The more technical path into business development is more common than many think. We have several leaders in our community that have taken this path and that are thriving in business development & partnerships. If you’re interested in learning from them or from other industry experts, you should apply and see what mastermind groups we have coming up that might benefit your career.