What was your first job:

It was in International Order Operations at Sun Microsystems; supporting Asia Pacific partners – CTC, NTT DoCoMo, Fujitsu, and Matsushita. This was my introduction to the partner and the distributor world since 100% of the business in Japan was and still is partner-led. So, early on in my career, I saw first-hand the value and power of partnerships. Without some type of partnership, it is virtually impossible to break into the Japanese market.Through an OEM partnership with Fujitsu, Sun was able to reach the Japanese market. Fujitsu rebranded our technical workstations and sold them to their Japanese customers. It was during my three-year stint in this role that I learned quite a bit about the OEM business – leading to my next role in OEM Marketing in which I was responsible for working with key OEM partners globally such as Xerox. At Xerox, our server boards were OEM’d and embedded into their printers.

How did you get into Channel Marketing?

During my 20-year tenure with Sun, the company grew by leaps and bounds from 5K employees when I joined the company to 35K employees by the time I left Sun to join Juniper Networks. At that time, management highly encouraged employees to move to new roles every 2-3 years to learn new skills. I certainly took advantage of every opportunity and was fortunate to take on roles in different facets of marketing – Developer Marketing, Field Marketing, GSI Marketing, and Channel Marketing. The common denominator in all the roles that I took on was ‘partners.’ I am one of those employees who rose through the ranks and put in the hard work that prepared me to lead Channel Marketing at Versa Networks. I am a channel guy at heart, and I will always advocate for partners to ensure that they are positioned for success. Without successful partners, there are no successful vendors.

Best day on the job ever:

It was when I launched the Upgrade Advantage Program (UAP) at Sun. UAP was a technology refresh program that enabled customers to upgrade their legacy systems in exchange for the newest and latest hardware technology. On several occasions, before I took over as project lead, the implementation of UAP had failed. Primarily, it was because the program was structured in a way that did not meet the needs of the channel. Twelve months after taking over the project, we announced the most comprehensive technology refresh program in the industry, generating $800M+ in revenue annually.

Best ever deal:

Working as part of the OEM team and winning the Xerox, $200M multi-year deal was exhilarating and a proud moment for the entire team.

Tomorrow’s world: your prediction:

Partners will always play a critical role in the delivery of IT services. While their roles will evolve, technology partners will always be in demand. To keep up with market demand, partners will have to keep up with the changing times and will have to adapt. When I started my career in the tech sector, the hot topic was how do I get on the ‘internet’? Today, it is all about ‘Digital Transformation and the cloud’.

Then and now – the one thing you wish you knew back then:

I believe that having a mentor early on would have accelerated my career path. It’s also important to take on projects that will challenge you and give you visibility and exposure to the executive team. It was later in my career when a business coach suggested that I find a mentor in the channel sector. Ten years later, I still have that same mentor. She has seen me progress in my career and fulfill my aspirations to lead the global channel marketing function.  Years later, there is still so much to learn and that is what keeps me motivated and energized.

John is the Head of Global Channel Marketing at Versa Networks

Visit John’s LinkedIn profile here