**Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of profiles featuring Channel Partners advisory board members. Meet Mayo-Pike and the rest of the board by attending Cloud Partners, a Channel Partners event. Register here.**
The way Jessica Mayo-Pike puts it, her company fell into the managed mobility space by chance and never looked back.
The telecom agent went “all in” about two years ago, after running a more traditional telecommunications business model for most of its existence. Mayo-Pike says the company learned of the demand when clients approached with concerns about managing mobile devices.
“‘We don’t really have an expense-manage[ment] mechanism in place. We don’t really have a process in place. Do you happen to know anything about it?'” she recalls them asking.
Mobile devices are becoming more and more prevalent. Gartner forecasts that more than half of Internet users will prefer to use tablets and smartphones over PCs by 2018. Many of the challenges from desktops and laptops – such as deployment, configuration and security – carry over to the mobile side, though Mayo-Pike says the monthly fee is a significantly different challenge for IT, financial and executive teams.
“‘Now, I [a hypothetical CIO] have to worry about managing a monthly spend,'” she said. “‘How do I add visibility into it? How do I control it?'”
The opportunity was huge, Mayo-Pike says, as “the VAR and telecom agent community was not even tapping into this whatsoever.” Even those who do pursue mobility define it differently, she wrote in a Channel Partners blog.
“But we saw how we could take this very robust, very sophisticated software-as-a-service platform that managed the life cycle of mobile devices,” she said. “And how we could build a business model around it, become subject-matter experts on it, and then take it to the channel and create a program in which other telecom agents or VARs can add this to their portfolio with us being that support mechanism they can rely on.”
Mayo-Pike pursues mobility opportunities as a managing partner at eXcelerate360 Inc. Some 10 years into her channel career, she follows the trends in her industry and posits her advice via blogs and events. She calls her management of a Cisco Gold VAR a turning point in her career, when her knowledge base flourished.
An Unexpected Career
Although Mayo-Pike is an expert on VARs now, she admits that she fell into tech sales just as her company fell into managed mobility.
“I think growing up, I leaned more toward subjects like history and English, less math and science,” she said. “So I really had no intention whatsoever of …
… getting into technology, nor did I really think I had the aptitude for it.”
She enrolled at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, to study elementary education, but through the bartending and waitressing jobs she worked as an undergraduate, she found a natural affinity for sales.
“I quickly learned that the more personable I was in connecting with people, and the quicker I worked, that my income was directly impacted,” she said.
She determined that she would break into the pharmaceutical industry, which was all the rage when she graduated. A related job fair at a nearby hotel looked promising, but it proved a dismal failure; without prior experience, she “couldn’t even get in the door.”
With the pharmaceutical track stymied, Mayo-Pike accepted an offer from a local telecom company. The union was impersonal at best. She cared little for technology and feared that she would be unable to answer complex questions.
“My game plan was to ride it out for two years, and then go back to the pharmaceutical companies with sales experience under my belt,” she said.
But after six months, Mayo-Pike wasn’t looking back. The fear of technical questions had subsided: Engineers and other experts in the company offered answers for the salesperson. And she sought out mentorship and learning experiences, asking the senior account executive if she could observe him during his sales calls.
“Even at this juncture in my career, I’m a big believer that you can always improve, no matter how far along you are, how much you’ve achieved, if you’re the CEO of a company,” she said.
To Mentor and Be Mentored
Mayo-Pike calls mentorship the most important factor in her career; she says it may be the key to more women joining the IT channel.
“I think the mentorship is not only instrumental for expanding your knowledge, expanding your business acumen, but it also is a way for you to make some really great contacts and connections,” she said.
Part of the reason why mentoring works, she says, is that it’s truly not a one-sided relationship. The mentor may impart all of the knowledge to the learner but will in turn receive confidence. This leads to the parties investing in each other.
But a stigma remains for the female employee …
… who collaborates with a male mentor, as Mayo-Pike paraphrases “Lean In” author Sheryl Sandberg: “If a male employee and his male boss go to a bar after work to talk business, it’s a strategy session, but if a female employee and her male boss go to a bar to talk business, then it’s a date.”
She recalls the first Channel Partners conference she attended some 10 years ago, where the few women she met were primarily the wives of attendees. She felt “extremely outnumbered” then, but now points to a change in the expo’s demographics. The number of women at the conference has increased, and it’s not uncommon to see an even gender balance in a room, she says.
Still, the perception of male-female workplace interaction must shift, Mayo-Pike says, lest women miss out on vital opportunities for networking and learning.
Now more advanced in her career, she finds herself in the position of a mentor, and it’s a role she feels honored to have. She says she prides herself on being able to explain things well, because she remembers the very path she took.
“When I first got into sales, I really needed people to simplify it for me,” she said. “So I always think back to that time when I was still learning everything and sometimes I would engage with people who would just talk way over my head.”
Mayo-Pike’s final exhortation concerns passion: People need to take a hard look at whether or not they enjoy their profession, and adjust accordingly.
“I really think that somebody has to be truly passionate about what they’re doing,” she said. “If I didn’t end up falling in love with telecom six months into it like I did – even though I didn’t think I was going to – I definitely would not be where I am.”