By Edward Gately
Women in the Channel (WiC) President Nancy Ridge this week was presented with a Silver Stevie Award at the 13th Annual American Business Awards in Chicago.
Ridge, who also is vice president of Telecom Brokers, received the award in the Executive of the Year – Nonprofit or Government Organizations category. WiC, which she co-founded in 2010, is dedicated to accelerating the growth of women channel leaders in technology.
Ridge tells Channel Partners that winning the award confirms the business community’s “increasing awareness of the gap between the number of women and men in the telecom and IT industries, particularly in leadership roles.”
With 200 paid members, WiC has reached numerous milestones, including hosting Breakthrough Events, monthly conference calls on topics affecting women in telecom, IT and leadership, mentoring and advisory functions. The first local chapter was launched in Phoenix and its LinkedIn group includes more than 1,400 members.
“To those outstanding individuals and organizations that received Gold, Silver and Bronze Stevie Awards, the judges and I are honored to celebrate your many accomplishments,” said Michael Gallagher, president and founder of the Stevie Awards. “You are setting a high standard for professionals nationwide.”
Ridge has served national and key accounts in the telecommunications and utility industries for 20 years, serving in senior management positions. She was principal of a successful demand-side energy services company for 10 years, then moved into telecommunications as vice president of a leading consulting firm.
In the early 2000s, she was recruited by ATI to create its distribution channel and lead the sales effort. In 2004, ATI was recognized by Inc. Magazine as No. 41 on its list of fastest-growing companies having achieved over 2,000 percent growth.
Ridge joined Telecom Brokers in 2005 with a vision for creating a strong network of successful agents, engaged vendor partners and high-performing employees. She also served as a board member for Channel Partners in 2010-11.
In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Ridge shared her thoughts on winning the award, her goals and issues facing the channel moving forward.
Channel Partners: What does it mean for a high-profile leader in the telecom channel to have been chosen for this award?
Nancy Ridge: The judges represent business leaders from across the country and around the world, underscoring the fact that the problem of decreasing numbers of women choosing careers in telecom and IT, as well as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in general, is a global issue. To be honored by these esteemed leaders affirms the belief held by WiC founders and members that …
… righting the gender imbalance in telecom and IT is important to the industry as a whole.
CP: What are the biggest issues facing the telecom channel and what changes are needed?
NR: As we enter the Digital Age dominated by the Internet of Things, the telecom channel is changing profoundly. The pace of that change is unprecedented even in the recent history of exponential developments in technology. The telecom channel has seen its core products change from traditional voice and data services (local, long distance, toll-free voice, Internet access, point-to-point circuits and MPLS) to an ever-expanding list of telecom and IT services. VoIP, unified communications and collaboration, Ethernet, wireless, cloud and managed services and even hardware are common fare for today’s “telecom” partners. The long-heralded convergence has arrived and brought traditional telecom agent partners into direct contact – and sometimes competition – with IT VARs, MSPs and distributors.
As the channel seeks to redefine itself, in both role and identity, the emphasis has shifted to education and collaboration. Telecom partners must learn how to address the entire telecom and IT landscape for their clients, while VARs and MSPs must learn the network side of the business and retool their sales approach or risk losing customers. All partners must reinvent, rebrand and re-evaluate. Changes in strategy, product, marketing, partner programs and sales are required in order to adapt and grow.
CP: What is your personal philosophy and how has that guided you throughout your career?
NR: To be of service. To listen. To always be curious and question how I can contribute in any given situation. To recognize I need the help of others if I am going to grow, and to be willing to ask for and offer help in return. To speak up when I have something to say and to practice courtesy in the process. To take risks. To be loyal … to myself, my customers, my partners and my values.
CP: What are your goals going forward both in the channel and with WiC?
NR: WiC is poised for tremendous growth. Through our new Outreach Committees we are beginning to engage female leaders from enterprise companies and IT organizations, as well as expand our reach within the telecom space. In addition, we are developing a new program to reach out to middle- and high-school girls to introduce them to the tech channel and show them the amazing opportunity they have to build successful careers and lives just as we have. Through our new Angel Advisory Program, we are seeking to engage new members, helping them to grow their businesses and develop their skills by participating in WiC and its various committees. Look for more local chapters to take root so WiC members can support each other outside of the larger events. WiC also will be inviting the men in telecom to take a more active role in promoting and encouraging the women within their organizations to achieve the success we know is possible when women are leading.
Outside of WiC, in my role as vice president at Telecom Brokers, I am championing an aggressive acquisition plan that will allow us to speed our growth while also enabling smaller master agents to achieve their dreams of having the businesses and lives they’ve always wanted.
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