Q&A: Sean Collins, regional director at Extreme Networks

Sean Collins is quizzed by Nick Booth over his thoughts about how the industry could be communicating better

One of the problems we regularly encounter with communications companies is that they can be hopeless at communicating. Nobody can explain what they do in words of one syllable and the web site is usually baffling.

So we asked Collins how he tackles that challenge at Extreme Networks.


Why do people in IT say they sell ‘solutions’ but when you ask them what problems they solve, they can’t express it in a single sentence?

That’s a problem some people in IT have, in part because the problems being solved aren’t particularly simple. We focus on tailored solutions so we know what problems we’re solving. In healthcare our connectivity improves clinical care. In education, we maximise the services available to students so they can use tablets in class on a reliable connection, so everyone can upload and download the university portal regularly.

I’m not convinced that Blockbuster thought there was a problem to solve with IT but the success of Netflix suggests otherwise.


Often, when I try to work out what an IT company does, nobody on the switchboard can explain and the web site (which they inevitably send you to) is another mystery. Do vendors need a shake-up to help them to simplify their message?

We have a message and it’s quality of experience.

Channel partners are a part of this. We rely on each other so being unable to explain what you do is crippling at the first hurdle. We work with our partners to make sure they understand our business and can help their customers. But it doesn’t and shouldn’t stop there.


What advice would you give to a reseller/service provider today?

Constantly push the boundaries of what you offer customers. Understand the technology and how vendors use it and always change the business model. Use the vendors in the solution offering and apply it to customers in transition. Take a “white label” cloud offering as a base, customise it and add value with vertical offerings.


What advice would you give to a young person starting out in the IT industry now? What areas are crying out for competent people?

Every part of the IT industry is crying out for competent people with virtually every business going digital. Young people naturally collaborate and this ability to work in a team is crucial in IT. Diversity of thought is critical for the IT industry.

What does the IT industry need to do to ensure they have talented people filling roles? It’s no secret that there’s a diversity problem. Hiring more women and people from every ethnic background and sexual orientation will grow the pool of eligible candidates massively. The tradition of hiring from the top list of university graduates fails the diversity test.

Let’s encourage everyone to go for it.


Extreme Networks makes comms kit. Why would anyone want to read about them?

Extreme Networks’ equipment is very clever, technology, using software-defined networking to build bespoke but repeatable systems.

It’s the problems our technology solves which are so interesting. From allowing SuperBowl fans to share their in-stadium experiences with friends and family round the world, to ensuring that life-saving systems run seamlessly in hospitals.

What makes Extreme Networks most interesting is our planning and tenacity, adopting change in order to survive and thrive.


What lessons did you learn from Cisco that you are applying at Extreme?

Believe in what you do and your ability to do it. Always challenge the status quo even if sometimes it feels like it’s just for the hell of it! Ultimately change is good, but driving it is always better. Indeed, although it is always the customer that sets the agenda, driving this agenda as a company is crucial.

In addition, I’ve always advocated fostering strong relationships throughout my career, from head office, to the partners, the vendors and, most importantly, with the customers.

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