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The channel is a world that attracts a wide variety of people with different skills and backgrounds and provides them with a home and a place to flourish.
As part of an ongoing series of pieces that shed some light on individual career stories, MicroScope was able to get an insight from Jeremy Nicholls, vice- president of global channels at Neustar Security Services, about how he got to where he is and his take on the current partner landscape.
What does your role look like today, and how did you get started in the channel?
Jeremy Nicholls: My role is to build and grow partnerships that enable companies to deliver cloud-based security solutions to their clients whose very existence, growth and success depend on up time, availability, and trusted connections. This involves partnering with original equipment manufacturers [OEMs], managed security service providers [MSSPs] wholesalers, and resellers.
I initially started in a sales role at a communications manufacturer covering the UK and Ireland, where I quickly realised that I could get greater coverage and get to prospects faster by partnering with resellers and found a particularly lucrative market with Mac users in the media sector, where the publishers needed to transfer content.
Since then I’ve never looked back – I went on to hold channel and similar leadership roles at the likes of Niksun, Polycom and Ericsson, before moving onto Arbor Networks – now Netscout – as vice-president of global channels and alliances, where I worked for 9 years.
I joined Neustar in January 2021 and, since our separation from Neustar Inc., I’m now leading Neustar Security Services [NSS] global channel partnership programmes. We recently launched a new channel offering, the Ultra Secure Partner Program, as part of our channel expansion effort as we look to establish ourselves and our new security offering.
What advice would you have for others who want to get started in this sector?
Nicholls: You will have endless solution and sales training from your employers as you enter and progress throughout the industry, all of which will, of course, be useful.
It is important to stand out from the crowd in the eyes of your partners for the right reasons, so ask yourself why? Why should this partner be interested in what I have to say? Why is it important for their customers? And am I going to be remembered positively against the other 50 people trying to work with them?
The right value proposition tailored to the audience you are speaking to, based upon commercial insight, and a crisp elevator pitch can help. Most importantly, showcase your experience and knowledge by tailoring your offer to suit your preferred partner and their customers’ needs.
Does your company do anything specific to help people get a career in the channel?
Nicholls: We pride ourselves on identifying and developing talent, regardless of experience or background. For example, over the past few years, we have hired a number of people who have not necessarily come from the classic “IT security” space, and they’ve gone on to be incredibly successful and thrive in their roles – as they’ve gained experience and industry knowledge, we’ve actually learnt from them.
Now, we encouraged our hiring managers to look beyond the traditional “pathway” when looking for talent. Provided a candidate is bright, curious and eager to learn, they’ll go onto do great things here.
How do you think the pandemic has changed the priorities for the channel?
Nicholls: Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed a huge shift in the market. Many organisations have moved large parts of their IT to the cloud and are now dependent on outsourced infrastructure for their businesses to function. There has been a huge uptick in adjusting the IT security systems of companies due to the shift from office-based, to home-based, and ultimately to some form of hybrid working.
While the future is still uncertain, the importance of application availability for remote users, has driven a general increase in subscription-based services and there has been greater focus in the channel on attaching new solutions to existing customers, rather than new solutions to new customers, due to the difficulty in contacting new prospects if they are not in the office.
The importance of nurturing channel relationships given the evolving threat-landscape?
Nicholls: Events of the past two years have led to new working patterns and, ultimately, new ways of doing business. Naturally, the cyber threat landscape has undergone a transformation of sorts – attackers have changed their tactics and ramped up their efforts. Homeworkers initially became a preferred target of the traditional ransomware threats or phishing attempts, most of which accelerated considerably.
Regardless of what form the future of work may take, companies need to prepare for the road ahead. As our partner programme shows, the cyber threat landscape has evolved, partners, providers and customers should do the same.
We have seen a vast sum of opportunities presented to us by existing partners who see us as a trusted partner. They have been happy to recommend us to other partners in their network when asked about solutions to which they know we can provide business outcomes. Naturally, these recommendations only happen when you established a strong relationship with solid foundations built on accountability, collaboration, transparency and respect.
Where do you see the channel heading in the next few years?
Nicholls: The pandemic has accelerated the already pronounced shift to public and private cloud, as a result of home/hybrid working. The channels that are successful will be those that are measuring and rewarding their staff in a way that aligns with subscription-based services, and who have identified the most effective way to engage with their clients and prospects in new ways that are meaningful and valuable to the client or prospect – beyond the traditional sales mailshot and cold call. A recommendation from an existing client or partner is immediately a “half open door”. How long would it take you now to get a door half open using the tactics you used pre-pandemic?