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Channel Influencer of the Year: Janet Schijns, Unleashed

JS Group's Janet Schijns

On a whiteboard in her office, Janet Schijns has written herself a reminder: If it’s to be, it’s up to me.

“I have to find a way to make sure that the channel thrives, because right now I think it’s on a survival path, and that is not the channel,” Schijns tells me. “The channel has always been a thriving part of the tech industry. They’ve always been the tip of the spear to get people to adopt technology. They’ve always been who local customers called for help. We can’t afford to have … a reduction in the relevance.”

If it’s to be, it’s up to me.

No pressure, right?

‘Tech Business’ at the Turn of the Millennium

Janet Schijns

For more than 20 years, Schijns has been one of the channel’s leading champions. (Photo: Michael Wright)

Enterprise tech innovations were coming fast and furious at the end of the 20th century. In 1997, executives were tethered to their PalmPilots, knowledge workers were blown away by the arrival of Windows 95 and somewhere in a Stanford dorm room, Larry Page and Sergey Brin were preparing to spring Google on the world. Like most members of corporate America, Schijns was excited by the leaps forward in business evolution that technology promised. But unlike the rest, she was dumbfounded by these brilliant developers’ seeming inability to speak what she calls “tech business” and actually bring their revolutionary products to market.

Congratulations to Janet Schijns, our 2019 Channel Influencer of the Year! Download our spring digital issue to read about nine more channel innovators, 25 organizations to watch and 50 shades of gray (market) mayhem.

Schijns took a leap and decided to hang out her own shingle. Together with her husband Roy, she founded JS Group to help technologists get their innovations into the hands of customers. Over the next decade, her list of clients grew to include names such as IBM, Intel, Cisco, Nvidia, Microsoft and a line of others. One client was the beleaguered mobile data capture and delivery manufacturer Symbol Technologies, whose market dominance was decimated by accounting scandals in the early 2000s. Symbol eventually sold to Motorola for $3.9 billion in 2007. The move brought Motorola the technology that would come to make up most of its Enterprise Mobility division — and brought Schijns into the fold to lead the division’s go-to-market efforts as vice president of global channels.

It was 2008, and the pace of change in technology was approaching warp speeds. The channel was entering a tectonic shift as cloud and mobility changed the fundamentals of the game, with vendors and partners alike leveraging every resource available to stay relevant as proven business models eroded beneath them. Mobility was more than a technology advancement. It changed the way that people consumed communications, and the telco channel was forced down a path of reinvention.

“The whole industry shifted,” she remembers. “Sell a phone, get $150, and that’s it. That’s the end of it. There’s nothing else after that.”

Righting the Titanic of Telco

Schijns wanted to be able to influence how the industry reacted to that change. In 2010, she accepted the position of vice president of Verizon Wireless’ Business Solutions Group, and for the next seven years, she poured her heart and soul into its channel program.

At the time Schijns came on board, Verizon’s channel had a terrible reputation with many partners, in part stemming from …

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