Recently I presented to Dr. Brian Tjemkes’ Alliances, Mergers and Networks Program at the VU University in Amsterdam. In good 2020 style, this presentation was fully online. Nevertheless it was highly interactive. Over 100 students participated and they asked many questions. One hour wasn’t enough for their questions so at the end of the presentation I invited the students to reach out to me on LinkedIn to continue the conversation. In those follow up conversations a number of them asked me the best route to becoming an alliance manager.

A few years ago I wrote about the skills of an alliance manager. In the piece, I describe how an alliance manager needs to act as an analyst, diplomat, lobbyist, strategist and business manager all at the same time. There’s even more to it than that. Alliance managers are a different type of people. You might wonder if alliance managers are moulded or are they “born” that way?

Alliance managers have a natural tendency to focus on the relationship and the long-term progress rather than a short term deal. They are great at stakeholder management and advocating for their partners within their organisation. Alliance Managers are the conductors that bring it all together and often don’t mind that they are not the first to receive credit for what they do. They are like the lubricant in an engine, you don’t notice it until it is missing, as the engine can’t run without it.

Most alliance managers have built up broad business experience before entering into alliance management. That business skill maturity is necessary to be able to excel at alliance management.

Are alliance managers moulded or “born”? I think it is a bit of both. Alliance managers are born and raised with different values and attitudes and that raw material is finely polished into excellent skills that comes with experience and education.