How I Got Into Business Development: 5 Pros Share Their Path
Business development is no small task. In short, you're in charge of how—and how much—your company grows. That means that you'll be spending a lot of time talking with potential partners, developing new initiatives and strategies, and making sure your team hits its goals.
But what kind of background and skills do you need to land that kind of position? We chatted with five business development professionals, and it turns out, there's no one defined path—in fact, they come from a variety of backgrounds, from event planning to journalism. What all five did have in common was a love of connecting with people, thinking big, and, of course, watching their companies succeed.
Want to find out more? Read on to learn more about each professional's journey to the job they love.
Development Director, Austin Film Festival
Allison Frady's love for event planning made her a perfect fit for the Austin Film Festival—because planning events "is all we do here," she shares. She took on an internship to get her foot in the door, and things took off from there: She accepted a role as an executive assistant, then moved into the company's hospitality department, and eventually worked her way into the position of Development Director.
Throughout the year, Frady focuses on forming partnerships, creating marketing packages, and gaining sponsors. Overall, she makes sure that the company's on track for the festival's screenings, events, and parties—and that they're as awesome as possible.
General Manager, Business Development, (RED)
"Actually, I always wanted to be an actor," Zach Overton admits, which led him to study theater performance at Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. However, his studies weren't confined to the stage—two days a week, he had to take a break from acting to focus on academics. And it was there that he found another passion: theater administration.
After graduating and working in the entertainment industry for a few years, Overton eventually landed his current position as the General Manager of Business Development at (RED). There, he focuses on bringing new partners into the company's portfolio of brands, as well as figuring out how exactly they can team up to spread (RED)'s message.
Growth Master, Hipmunk
After four years at Google as a product manager (where she worked on projects like Google Maps and Android applications), Julie Zhou was ready to move on. "I was looking for a new opportunity; something much smaller that had a really, really unique brand," she shares. And travel startup Hipmunk fit the bill!
As the company's Growth Master, Zhou works to help the company—obviously—grow. She collaborates with team members from every department to help set goals, develop new initiatives, and make sure the company is headed in the right direction. Overall, she's responsible for "growing Hipmunk's user base, revenue, and brand," she explains. "So, small task!"
Business Development and Latin American Development, SendGrid
When Pedro first moved to the U.S., all he wanted to do was attend tech conferences to meet interesting people—his curiosity likely a result of his background in journalism. At TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, he approached the SendGrid booth (where, unknown to him at that point, he met his future boss' boss!) and asked for the company's elevator pitch and contact information.
A year later—and burnt out by an absurdly long application process (11 interviews!) at a large company—he approached SendGrid to ask about employment opportunities. He didn't think he was qualified for the available director-level position, but after talking with several employees, he landed the role. Now, he works to create new partnerships and expand the company's services to Latin American customers.
VP of Business Development, SeatGeek
With a background in political science and economics—but a passion for media and entertainment—Nihar went into sports marketing immediately out of college. After a few years there and a few more in grad school, he moved into finance at a sports investment bank. But eventually, when the market crashed and the "finance world was in shambles," he began looking for a new opportunity.
Keeping up with sports media and industry news, he read about SeatGeek—a website that made buying sports and concert tickets easy. He reached out directly to the company's founders, and it turned out that his timing was perfect—he landed his role as the VP of Business Development, where his mission is to help the company grow by forming strategic partnerships and negotiating new deals.
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