Like many channel partners, learning how to capitalize on cloud services has become a priority for Jo Peterson, regional sales manager for telecom agency Teleproviders Inc., Laguna Hills, Calif. In fall 2010, she started her pursuit by joining one of the suddenly numerous cloud networking forums. She left her first meeting disappointed; participants hardly discussed cloud beyond hosted VoIP, eventually falling into the familiar conversation about sharing carrier contracts. Undaunted, Peterson did what most women would do – she called a close girlfriend, and not any girlfriend, but a fellow channel partner. There was some complaining during that discussion to be sure, but there also was a determination to create a forum that would better meet their needs. And, so the Cloud Computing Forum (aka Cloud Girls) was formed.
Peterson and her confidant, Manon Buettner, principal of Nuvalo LLC, a data center and managed services consulting and brokerage firm, identified some initial functions for the group around educating participants, filtering important information and collaborating on complex solution sales. These goals, they felt, would be best supported by a small group. One obvious way to keep the numbers down was to limit membership to professional, technical sales women they already knew and trusted. Immediately, the two women came up with eight veterans based in the West Coast sales territory. Today, via referrals, the group includes 12 members representing vendors and partners, including CenturyLink Inc. (previously Qwest Communications International Inc.), Rackspace Hosting, HP, Navisite Inc., Savvis Inc., Terremark, Allyance Communications Inc.
One of the early invitations was extended to Crystal Gilbert, enterprise account executive – Southwest region for Rackspace. Gilbert said she decided to join after understanding the group would provide knowledge sharing at a senior skill level. The fact that the group was all-women also was a plus, she said. “It’s actually very difficult to find other women that have the seniority and the knowledge and the skill set in this industry," Gilbert said. “I think we all felt a connection and felt that we could develop deeper relationships simply because we are a very small group in a very male-dominated industry."
The Cloud Girls mission is to be an open, vendor-neutral, not-for-profit community of female technology advocates dedicated to educating themselves and their stakeholders -- organizations and customers — about cloud computing services. To accomplish this, Cloud Girls holds a monthly conference call exploring emerging market and technical trends. Members take turns preparing presentations and/or securing experts to speak to the group. Topics range from public vs. private cloud to security and regulatory compliance.