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The routes that take people into channel roles are varied and Stefanie Hammond, head sales and marketing nerd at N-able, echoes the views of many when she talks of finding it hard to imagine that her career would have taken her into the managed services world.
One of the main positives of this industry – and more efforts are being made to improve this further – is that it is possible for talented people to get a chance to have their abilities recognised.
The journey that Hammond has taken will be recognisable to some and be an inspiration for others who want to follow in her footsteps. Here are her answers to our questions.
What does your role look like today, and how did you get started in the channel?
I started my channel career as a partner development specialist at N-able, where my team and I were brought on to help manage new business accounts. I was part of a team that created a five-step programme to teach managed service providers how to build their MSP practice because, at the time, managed services was a difficult concept to grasp.
As an intangible product, the sales process is necessarily different, and so MSPs needed a blueprint for their sales and marketing strategy. The team was able to take partners through a blueprint building programme, training them on how to build their businesses.
Fast-forward to my current role: I now work as the head sales and marketing nerd at N-able. Where it was once our sole mission to help MSPs explain managed services and prove the value of a monthly retainer, we’ve now pivoted towards teaching that security is going to be the make-or-break factor for their business.
The security landscape is constantly changing and more technologies need to be implemented to manage this. My job today is to teach partners how to build a new security programme, position it and market it – it’s the 2.0 version of my earlier career.
What advice would you have for others who want to get started in this sector?
Be open to learning. The channel is a unique and growing industry – it’s impossible to learn everything about it. My background is in business and I never anticipated that I would be working in software development, let alone the managed services industry, when I first graduated.
But when the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it with both hands. It’s about seeing the opportunity and being interested in learning, consistently every day. And that’s what I love about this industry – I love being able to learn, develop, and present new ideas, day in, day out.
Being driven and saying yes to the right opportunities is how I got started in the industry. My advice to anyone looking for their start is to have faith in yourself, and when the opportunity presents itself, be confident in your abilities.
How do you think the pandemic has changed the priorities for the channel?
First, we had to rethink how we engage with our customers. With in-person events being replaced by virtual meetings, the channel has done well to stay connected to customers as much as possible. But as the world slowly moves on from the pandemic, the need for personal contact is coming back.
Inevitably, there will be an appetite for in-person events and meetings. However, don’t expect the channel to abandon the virtual world entirely.
The opportunity to join events online, from anywhere across the globe, has allowed the channel to connect in new ways that weren’t always physically possible. Virtual contact will remain a priority for the channel, to help reach and engage with a wider range of customers and partners.
Second, the channel has had to reconsider its culture. Working from home was not standard practice, but we’ve been forced to adapt to new ways of working. This flexibility must become a mainstay. Many have benefited from a better work-life balance and employees simply prefer this new working style.
Enhancing the employee experience should always be a priority for any business, and a new hybrid working culture will be vital when attracting new talent.
What opportunities does digital transformation present?
Our CEO, John Pagliuca, dislikes the term “digital transformation” – and he has a point. He believes that becoming digital is not a light switch that you can turn on and off, but rather it is a journey – an evolution, to be precise. I wholeheartedly agree.
It takes time to embrace this change. It’s not just about adopting new technology for the sake of doing so, but rather questioning how things are done and how they can be improved effectively. It’s not a task that’s ever really “complete”, just as we don’t upgrade email security and call it a day.
Instead, there’s a need to be constantly evaluating emerging technologies and adopting those that will benefit a business. Not only will this improve business productivity and save manual labour costs, but it will also decrease security costs and reduce risk in the future.
Only by digitally evolving and constantly improving offerings can an MSP attract new business and ensure success.
Where do you see the channel heading in the next few years?
We’re expanding our community motion at N-able and we can see the wider channel is moving towards this goal, too. In the next few years, the channel will grow to become more community-minded, focusing less on closing sales and more on building relationships, educating peers and engaging in meaningful discussions.
Many of the events I’ve attended have seen our partners engage with one another and share their experiences. Partners are willing to connect and learn from each other and it is this growing community that the channel will nurture.
We’re only as successful as our partners. The more the channel comes to realise this, the quicker we can work on building a strong community of successful players.