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Five-minute interview: Matt Nicholson, Trustwave

Matt Nicholson, EMEA channel manager at Trustwave, tells MicroScope about his early start in the channel but reveals he’s not a natural early riser

Morning, Matt. Tell us what you do for a living.

I am a channel manager for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region at managed security service provider (MSSP) Trustwave.

Why are you the right person for this job?

I am quickly approaching 10 years of working in the channel, at the age of just 26. In this time, I have been successful in a multitude of different roles, from starting out at 17 having just left school and being given a phone and a list of whitespace accounts and told to cold call, through to running a business unit and managing people, delivering growth for Tier 1 cyber security vendors such as Cisco, IBM and McAfee.

I have taken my learnings from the previous eight years in the channel and put that to good use here at Trustwave. This has enabled me to consistently overachieve against the fiscal and business targets set to me in the year I have been here.

The tech industry is constantly evolving, with the successful channel organisations and personnel within it pivoting their focus and adapting themselves accordingly to meet the new demands of their partners and clients. I believe my insistence to always put the needs of my customers/partners first and my willingness and ability to embrace the constant change in our industry is why I am the right person for this job.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change” – Charles Darwin

What gets you up in the morning?

Well, it is not always up at 6am to exercise and have a good breakfast, that’s for sure! It’s sometimes up at 7.30am then a mad rush to shower and have coffee before the inevitable first call at 8am.

If I believe in a vision, I become completely bought in and the need to get up and have myself in the best possible frame of mind for the day prevails.

I believe in what we are doing here at Trustwave. We are leading the way in the MSSP market segment and we work tirelessly to allow our partners the ability to successfully resell these services and solutions to their customers.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

I have been very fortunate to work for and alongside some very special individuals, learning from them in every engagement. I have always actively sought out individuals to ask for mentorship.

What is the best or worst business advice you have received and from whom?

I have been given lots of good advice through the years, from personal growth to guidance on professional progression. But from a business perspective, it must be to “operate with integrity and earn people’s trust”.

What advice would you give to someone starting out today in IT?

Seek mentorship, ask questions and keep on top of your craft. Take the extra time in every client engagement to fully understand their needs and hold that and them in paramount importance, above all other things. You will move from business to business as you progress organically, but it is the reputation you build and the trustworthy relationships you cultivate that will enable you to be successful in the long term.

“Is it possible to get through an industry conversation without mentioning digital transformation – however, it should not be, as it is the single biggest driver for everything we do within the channel, currently”

Matt Nicholson, Trustwave

Is it possible to get through an industry conversation without mentioning digital transformation?

Yes, it is – however, it should not be, as it is the single biggest driver for everything we do within the channel, currently. The way our clients are consuming technology is evolving and indeed the tech that our partners are selling is changing, also. Digital transformation spans across cyber security, cloud, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, and the productivity and collaboration tools businesses use. It is our duty to understand this and acknowledge digital transformation as a core business driver for the partners and clients that we work with to maintain the trusted advisor status we work hard to achieve.

What does the next five years hold for the channel?

We will see further consolidation of the distribution and reseller partner landscape. The disruptive technologies of today will become the “normal” – we have been seeing that happen over the past few years. These technologies will be acquisition targets for larger vendors seeking to build an end-to-end platform. The model of sell now and revisit in one to three years’ time will no longer exist, with a subscription/consumption model taking the lead that will continue to drive the channel in the direction of customer/partner experience to maintain retention levels in clients.

Tell us something most people do not know about you.

I spent my later teenage years in care, living at a hostel and then shared accommodation. This led me to make some poor life choices into my early 20s, but ultimately, it’s shaped me into being the driven, independent person I am today. I would not want to have had it any other way.

What goal do you have to achieve before you die, and why?

To travel and enjoy as much of the world as possible. I also like the idea of living and working in a different country for a year, maybe.

What is the best book you’ve ever read?

Well firstly, I guess it is best to be honest and say I have not physically read a book from cover to cover – in the traditional way. I got a B in English Literature at GCSE without reading Pride and Prejudice cover to cover. I read blogs written by people I follow and other inciteful pieces of information that I find across the social platforms we all utilise. Mainly, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts – that’s how I tend to consume information best.

And the worst film you’ve ever seen?

Not a film, but after investing what felt like an eternity (a happy existence, I must add) I felt short-changed in a big way by the final season to Game of Thrones.

“You will move from business to business as you progress organically, but it is the reputation you build and the trustworthy relationships you cultivate that will enable you to be successful in the long term”
Matt Nicholson, Trustwave

What would be your Desert Island MP3s?

Train – Drops of Jupiter.
Mark Knight – Man with the red face.
Nas – Halftime.
Queen – Brighton rock.
Elderbrook & Rudimental – Something about you.
Candi Staton – Young hearts run free.
Fleetwood Mac – Go your own way.
Prince – 1999.

What temptation can you not resist?

Gin – and/or a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

What was your first car and how does it compare with what you drive now?

My first car at the age of 18 was a £700 Toyota Celica that, I must admit, I adored. However, the insurance was nearly four times the value of the car. Since then, there’s been a theme occurring of owning cars that you would struggle to justify ownership of with anyone who is of sound mind. Keeping with that theme, I now drive a BMW M5 – which I feel is hugely practical. Now I am getting on a little, the insurance for this is less than that of my first car, you will be pleased to know.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with? Why, what did they do?

An individual I worked with a long time ago who was unwilling to look past my age when discussing my options for progression and advised me to settle with where I was at that point in time as I was “in a great position for someone of my age”. That still frustrates me when I recall the discussion.

If you could be any animal for a day, what would you be and why?

A dog. I am very much a dog person and I’d love to be one for the day to feel the sheer joy they exude when they are around us and being fussed.

If you were facing awesome peril and impossible odds, which real or fictional person would you most want on your side and why?

When I thought of peril and impossible odds, I thought of being stranded somewhere remote. So, if that were the case, it would have to be Ed Stafford. I was first introduced to him when I was 14 or 15, watching videos of him on YouTube as he had run out of money during his successful attempt to walk the entire length of the Amazon river. This feat was acknowledged by Sir Ranulph Fiennes as one of the greatest expeditions ever undertaken. He would be the right person to have on your side.

And finally, a grizzly bear and a silverback gorilla are getting ready for a no-holds-barred rumble. Who is your money on and why?

Well, it’s not something I think anyone would want to see. However, my money would be on the bear, just down to its size and weight advantage, assuming they are both fully grown.

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