What was your first job:
Straight out of college, and my first major role in London was as PA to the Global Customer Operations VP at C&W. This opened the doors to Tech – the opportunity, the travel, the pace, the excitement, and the variety of roles. I was offered a customer service role within 9 months, which was the foundation of my career as I moved closer to customers, understanding their business needs and challenges and progressing into sales and then leadership of major accounts.
How did you get into Channel marketing?
Before I was in sales, I was in service management, but I discovered that I could sell on the job. If you listen to your customer, you gain trust and can make a difference! Technology is never the same, it’s always changing, giving you the opportunity to adapt, grow and shine on a daily basis. It never stays still, it’s always full of variety with no day the same! The channel is similar – always moving, consolidating, and expanding. It’s a family of partnerships that collaborate and work together to do amazing things for customers! The technology channel has given me the wonderful career I have today, enabling me to progress, travel the globe and meet an amazing network of people, some of whom are now close friends. If you want to wake up fresh to a new challenge and new opportunity each day, I recommend joining the world of IT.
Best day on the job ever?
On my desk, I have a toy model of The Hulk, which was presented to me when I was only 26 years-old for being top of Sales at Cable & Wireless – that was a good day and something I’ll always be proud of, but moving to Avaya has been the most rewarding as with them I have an ear, am respected and can drive change as part of the UK management team and the International channel community. So, my best day was when I got to host the annual Avaya International Partner Event in 2019, presenting to over 1,400 people from all over the World. It was the most challenging experience in my career so far, but also the most rewarding.
Biggest thing that’s changed in the industry since you started?
For most of my career, the channel industry has been synonymous with distributors and reseller partners. But when it comes to software-as-a-service (SaaS), the model needs to be different as illustrated by one of the original SaaS companies, Salesforce, which has effectively shut its reseller programme down although its subscription billing is flourishing – Avaya is also flourishing in this model.
As our own transformation to a software, SaaS and cloud-focused company progresses, it makes sense that we actively transition to a recurring, subscription-based model and we hope our partners join us on this journey. What is most important though, is to give partners choice by enabling them to service customers in any way they wish (public, private or a managed service) and via a standard on-premise or opex/subscription commercial model.
It’s important for partners to keep pace with shifts in the industry and customer demand, so we offer extensive training and knowledge transfer. Digital transformation through the adoption of cloud and SaaS have become critical for the channel. As Avaya continues its own transition to a SaaS company, we’re taking our UK channel with us on that journey and helping them grow their relevance to the UK technology industry. We work closely with our partners to ensure that they have the right resources and knowledge to transition to the consumption models that our customers demand, while fuelling their ability to fulfil their immediate and future needs. We work in a fast changing and uncertain environment and our top priority has been to be there for our business partners to support them navigate this phase.
Best ever deal?
I have many! I think your recognition comes when you know you have put your heart and soul into something and you deserve the outcome.
How has the pandemic changed your priorities?
I am normally a very social animal and also love to travel as I love food, wine and exploring different cultures but of course the pandemic changed all that. The silver lining was that a few years back, we built a house in the woods in Bedfordshire and really got to enjoy it during the months in lockdown! I have also invested in a Peloton spinning bike and regularly use that to de-stress and stay connected with my friends.
Are you witnessing a skills shortage and difficulties recruiting people into the channel? Why should young talent choose a career in the tech channel?
The market is extremely buoyant. I believe having a city presence for the young and a family feel at Avaya is key. It’s a company where our future entrepreneurs can truly develop, and Avaya has always been passionate about playing a role in helping the industry grow its talent pool. We have the Avaya Academy, a concentrated learning and in-the-field training for associates from across the world where academy participants can find their path, hone their capabilities, add new skills, and learn to master challenging projects.
How has the Covid pandemic affected your role and the IT Channel in general?
The ability to productively enable remote working and collaboration became business critical through the pandemic, and although forced into it during that time, a great number of businesses are planning to retain these policies, having discovered the many employee benefits of flexible working.
We actively encourage our partners to enhance their overall cloud offering and increase the opportunity to drive traction into public cloud/UCaaS at a time when it is vital to support the rapidly changing way people work. As we continue the acceleration towards what was, just a short time ago, only a developing trend towards remote working, partners offering Avaya OneCloud will be perfectly positioned to provide businesses with world class UCaaS, CCaaS and CPaaS offerings that deliver everything needed for the flexible and agile way we work now.
Tomorrow’s world: your prediction?
Work from anywhere will continue to be the driving force and it differs from one industry and market to another. For us at Avaya, our focus is on using our Avaya OneCloud portfolio to deliver speed to the value that our customers desire, building on one of the most extensive ecosystems in the industry and our unique ability to innovate where our customers meet their own ecosystem. Communication technology is key for business growth and the new normal – Cloud adoption and CX are also key. Therefore, Avaya’s One Cloud portfolio including UCaaS, CCaaS and CPaaS will continue to thrive as digital transformation and Cloud adoption accelerates.
Then and now- the one thing you wish you knew back then?
I would have bought a flat in London earlier!
I have no regrets on my career at all and have loved every corner.
Ali Hastings is the Senior Director and Leader of Channel for Avaya UK and Ireland. She is an experienced senior sales individual with over 20 years’ experience in the Telecommunications and IT industry with extensive multi-million pound wins in both Direct Sales, Channel and SI. She also has extensive experience in collaborating with many complex Systems Integrators (SIs), service providers and carriers to develop strategic channel partnerships.
Prior to Avaya, Ali led a team at TalkTalk Business, developing its major strategic partner accounts and working extensively on major retail and insurance outsource deals across voice, data, cloud and networking. She also previously managed Juniper Networks’ UK alliance partnership with IBM after managing various Si’s and large Global Enterprise accounts at Cable and Wireless.
Visit Ali’s LinkedIn profile here