Operator Spotlight: Partnerships Leader Bonita Stewart

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke to Bonita Stewart, Google’s Vice President of Global Partnerships.

You’re based in New York, where the COVID19 outbreak is severe. How do you balance your work with your well being and the well being of your team? 

BONITA: As a leader I have to prioritize the health and safety of my team above all else. A small group of my team members have created an activity series to simulate normal interaction – from virtual lunch sessions, to group Peloton rides (my favorite!), to a Netflix club. As they say, you can’t assist others until you put on your oxygen mask first. I stay grounded by attending my online ballet classes and remaining readily accessible to my team. I’m always a “ping” away.

You joined Google in 2006, so you’ve been there through several market downturns and natural disasters. How does your leadership change during these periods of uncertainty? 

BONITA: While I’ve definitely navigated challenging economic times throughout my career at Google, today’s reality is quite different. Situational leadership evolves each time to finding a level of precision, even when coupled with uncertainty. You must retain relentless prioritization of what you plan to do, what you are not going to do, and where you need to invest. It’s a constant dance of prioritization, problem solving, and creativity.

How has the COVID19 outbreak and market downturn affected the global partnerships realm? 

BONITA: Today’s climate puts my team front and center to bring both empathy and constructive business solutions for our partners. As a technology company, we often have a higher degree of fluency with technology-based solutions. So it’s critical for us to lead from the front to create comfort in new approaches.

How has working remotely affected your operations? Do you have any lessons learned as we all start to think about a “back to work” structure? 

BONITA: We’re pretty comfortable working from home, though working full-time from home is new. What I find most intriguing are the consumer habits we’re honing that will drive the new screen-based economy of the future. We shop online, pick up curbside, learn new skills via online learning, exercise with personalized trainers, and stream content along with traditional television. I can imagine a future where you can readily “tele-everything” – from medicine to shopping to apparel. 

What are some things partnership teams should focus on executing over the next 6 months? 

BONITA: Over the next six months, teams should focus on understanding consumer trends and identifying emerging business models. They have to become comfortable with experimentation. As partners work on fortifying their businesses, it’s important for partnership teams to support that effort by looking around the corner for technology-infused investment opportunities to fuel future growth. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d offer someone looking to build a career in partnerships and operations?

BONITA: While most partnerships evolve around business development skills, I’d recommend you develop expertise in understanding specific industries, their respective operations, and how they deliver economic value to consumers, shareholders, and employees.

What’s one amazing insight no one knows about global partnerships?   

BONITA: The possibilities are astounding. Our team works across multiple industries, with companies of all sizes around the world. In 2018, we shared more than $14 billion dollars with all of our publishing partners in our ad network. 

AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were some of those formative jobs for you?

BONITA: My most formative job was when I co-founded One Moment in Time, a company that specialized in formal wear rental for women. It was recognized in 1993 as one of the “hottest” businesses by Entrepreneur magazine. I learned what it really means when the buck stops with you, which extends to managing payroll, being scrappy, and re-booting when things don’t go well. It was the most exhilarating experience and laid the groundwork for expanding my risk profile. 

What’s the one condiment you could never live without? 

BONITA: Chipotle sauce from Stuart’s Seafood Market in Amagansett. It’s the best with scallops!

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