“What the heck is a channel partner?”
Sure, I didn’t say it out loud to the person interviewing me for the internship, but I thought it all the same. The recruiter briefly attempted to explain the industry that I would be writing about as an editorial intern — but realizing the futility of describing the channel, she stopped herself and simply said, “It’s about technology.” And I was sold. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was sold.
This entrance into the channel is not an unusual story to hear. The recently formed Channel NX2Z is recruiting and equipping the next generation of tech professionals to guide customers through an increasingly digital and data-driven world of business. The nonprofit addresses the glaring age gap between those who create and sell technology, and those who use it. And we believe that by connecting baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials, we can bridge this gap.
I was 20 when I stumbled into the indirect IT and telecommunications sales channel. I was a journalism student slowly coming to grips with the fact that print news was dying. I liked to write but didn’t know what to do with the skill. My previous internship at a local newspaper ended on the same day, as once again layoffs hit our editorial team (luckily, unpaid interns can’t really get fired, but that’s a story for another day). It was in this crisis of career uncertainty that I turned to the channel. Or whatever that was.
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I assumed it had something to do with TV channels. Maybe we were helping people set up their cable packages? It was the best guess I had.
Craig Galbraith, my supervisor fondly referred to as “The Voice of Telecom,” sat me down the first day. It was time to have “the talk.” It went something like this:
“Do you know anything about the industry you’ll be writing about?”
“It’s about technology, right?”
He explained to me that many manufacturers of business-oriented technology do not sell their products to customers. Wuuuuut? Rather, third-parties resell the solutions.
“So it’s like Best Buy.”
“Well, no, it’s a little more complicated than that …”
So there are these things called value-added resellers – whatever that was – and managed service providers (at least I knew what all of those words meant individually). And then there were master agents, which I assumed were telecom agents, but bigger. It seemed complicated, but I decided that I’d fake it til I made it. That’s the entrance story that most people in our industry share, especially the young people I meet. Brett Brockman, who works for the distributor Jenne, sold kitchen cabinets. Dante White of RingCentral had been a bouncer and an an auto body shop owner. Kyra Augustus of Telarus was a retail manager.
“No one ever told me, ‘Hey, you could have a career in indirect sales and telecom.’ But now that I’m in here, I can not imagine another career,” she told me.
Most of the people I’ve met in this industry were not “tech people” to begin with, but their common characteristics are twofold: a knack for problem solving and …