**Editor’s Note: This is the final part of a series spotlighting our Channel Partners/Channel Futures Channel Influencers of the Year, selected by our editorial team for innovation in the “new channel.” (Read our profiles of Comcast Business’ Craig Schlagbaum, Forrester’s Jay McBain,TPx’s Hilary Gadda, 8×8’s John DeLozier, Office Depot’s Janet Schijns and BitTitan’s Geeman Yip, Datto’s Rob Rae, as well as our Influencer of the Year, Microsoft’s Gavriella Schuster.**
Zee Hussain didn’t know if he could hack it as a sales manager.
At 23 years old, he was one of the youngest leaders in AT&T, and his new promotion tasked him with overseeing a team and speaking the language of technology professionals.
He had impressed as an account manager and was used to coaching his peers, but this was a giant step.
“It was extremely uncomfortable. I felt like I was not ready for that assignment,” Hussain told Channel Partners. “It was one where you go to sleep at night, and you’re like, ‘What the heck did I get myself into? Am I really ready for this?'”
For our final Channel Influencer Spotlight of 2018, we explore the story of the man who leads AT&T’s partner strategy. Hussain came into a prominent channel role last year when he succeeded Brooks McCorcle and took the oversight of AT&T’s three indirect programs.
Chris Percy, who has worked alongside Hussain on AT&T’s business side, describes him as a man to whom people seem to gravitate. Percy says Hussain knows how to “dig in” to a new leadership position, learn the ropes quickly and lead.
“I call it the Zee effect. In our doubling down on the channel, Anne Chow, our boss, couldn’t have put a better person in that position. I think we’re stronger because of Zee in that position,” said Percy.
Hussain has frequently expressed his excitement for growing AT&T technological innovations like fiber, 5G and IoT, but his prognosis for the channel goes beyond products. The partners and partner programs that will rule are the ones that on a fundamental level seek to solve problems and deliver outcomes.
“I think the common theme that I see is that customers are not looking to be technology experts,” he said. “They don’t want to absorb the complexity of stitching different products together to build a solution. They’re not even looking for a solution anymore, to be honest.”
Hussain didn’t grow up a technology lover; in fact, he never dreamed of a sales career. But his ascension to a high-ranking role at one of the world’s largest carriers followed a serious of uncomfortable events.
As you read about the constantly changing tides of Hussain’s life and career, you’ll probably feel that the move to sales manager at age 23 was simply par for the course.
The story begins in …