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Morning, Charles, tell us what you do for a living.
I run the UK and Ireland sales business for SolarWinds, which is a global IT management software company headquartered in Austin, Texas. In my role, I lead the company’s UK sales strategy, managing direct and indirect sales teams, channel partnerships, and global strategic alliances.
Why are you the right person for this job?
I’ve worked in the IT sector for 25 years, during which time I’ve had the opportunity to work across several different global geographies – in particular, across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). This has given me a great level of understanding for different technology businesses in various stages of development and growth. I’ve also worked with many different teams from different cultures and backgrounds.
I’m also an advocate for the value the channel can offer us. Since joining the company, I’ve worked to change and develop a channel strategy that provides partners with more tailored support, deeper engagement and alignment, and more collaboration with SolarWinds. This strategy aligns with the new SolarWinds Transform Partner Programme, which is designed to transform the way we partner and drive growth with our valued global channel partners.
What gets you up in the morning?
I’m a little bit crazy – I get up at 4:30 in the morning every day! I have a German Shepherd, and we head off and go for a walk for around an hour first thing in the mornings.
Who helped you get to where you are today?
Right at the beginning of my career, I had the opportunity to work for Gary Smith, who is now the CEO of Ciena. He was actually my first sales director at Cray Communications. John Drew also comes to mind – he was the CEO of INS (International Network Services), an amazing startup based in California. Last but not least, Sudhakar Ramakrishna, my current CEO at SolarWinds, has also helped me enormously. He’s providing unbelievable leadership and support as we transform and expand the business in many regions.
What is the best or worst business advice you have received and from whom?
Honestly, I don’t filter like that in terms of good, bad, best, or worst. From a business context, most of the time I’m trying different strategies to figure out how to successfully move the needle on the business.
Often, what we’re trying hasn’t been done before at the organisation, so the best way to do it is to ground it on strong execution of your plan and implement real-time measurement. We use this feedback to determine what we should keep doing or adapt and change.
What advice would you give to someone starting out today in IT?
I’m a little bit biased – I’ve been in sales my whole career, so my advice is tailored around selling as a career. To succeed in today’s market, there are two key pillars. First, you have to understand the technical aspects of what you’re selling and what the benefits of the product are. Second, you need to take the time to learn how the solution you’re selling impacts a business and be able to explain how the technology can be used by a customer to either stay in business or grow and become more successful.
Is it possible to get through an industry conversation without mentioning digital transformation?
Yes, absolutely. Every organisation is in some form of change, and every company is trying to improve or adapt something. Digital transformation just happens to be the big buzzword right now, and that’s okay. It’s more about understanding what a business needs to address in its individual context. Whether we call it digital transformation or something else, change is here to stay.
What does the next five years hold for the channel?
We can no longer assume there’s going to be a broad line organisation just supplying everything. Customers are a lot savvier, and the channel organisation needs to be clear about the value they add and what makes them unique and different.
“Customers are a lot savvier, and the channel organisation needs to be clear about the value they add and what makes them unique and different”
Charles Damerell, SolarWinds
It’s not just about being able to supply maintenance services – it’s more about providing consultancy, expert advice, and value around the provisioning and implementation of the customer solution.
Five years is a long time in IT, but over the next few years, the organisations clear on the benefits they can provide to their customers and those enhancing value for the customer are going to do well.
Tell us something most people do not know about you
I grew up in a small town called Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.
Have you learnt anything new – guitar, painting, etc. – during the pandemic?
Yes, I became interested in meditation, which is something I’ve continued with. I also gained a real interest in stoicism.
What goal do you have to achieve before you die, and why?
I believe so much more can be done for people suffering from mental illness. Time permitting, I would love to lend a hand and provide some support or help to an organisation in this sector.
And the worst film you’ve ever seen?
Jaws: The Revenge. It was so disappointing because the original was so good.
What would be your desert island MP3s?
I love listening to jazz while I cook, so I would bring some jazz music. I also enjoy listening to classical music, especially Baroque, when I’m working. I find it very relaxing.
What temptation can you not resist?
Häagen-Dazs ice cream. All flavours!
What was your first car, and how does it compare with what you drive now?
My first car was a 1963 Mini. It had an 850cc engine, enough said – no comparison to the Range Rover I drive now.
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with? Why, what did they do?
There’s a memorable clip of Tony Robbins in the film Shallow Hal where he’s in the lift with the leading character, Jack Black. So I’d say Tony Robbins, based on that scene.
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