By Nicole Hayward
In case you missed the “best yet” Women in the Channel event at the 2014 Cloud Partners in New Orleans, here’s what happened.
On Sept. 7, 2014, more than 80 women attended the 8th Women in the Channel Networking and Enrichment Event in New Orleans. With boats chugging down the Mississippi River and nightfall as our backdrop, we gathered together to kick off Cloud Partners with a purposeful and meaningful evening.
“I know that when I arrive I will see women who are not only colleagues, but with whom I’ve become friends,” commented Nancy Ridge, president of Women in the Channel (WiC) and vice president of Telecom Brokers. “Those of us who have worked for months in advance planning the evenings always experience a few surprises [regarding event logistics] … but the buzz of seeing our vision come to life always outweighs the momentary challenge. We also share the excitement of welcoming our sponsors and speakers and seeing our vision take shape.”
Attendance at the New Orleans event was the highest yet. After networking over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, the night’s emcees, Bita Milanian, WiC board member and senior vice president of marketing communications at GENBAND, and Raquel Wiley, channel marketing for TelePacific Communications, welcomed attendees and our first speaker, Kelly Teal of Channel Partners.
Kelly gave an informational overview of this year’s Cloud Partners show, after which we joined together in a poll. Here are some highlights from the poll (full results will be available in the Women in the Channel Members Only Blog):
Who Do You Work For?
40% said: A carrier/service provider or hardware/software vendor
25% said: A company that provides services to the channel/service providers
29% said: A channel partner (agent/VAR)
6% said: Other
What Keeps You Up at Night?
51% said: Filling the sales funnel
9% said: Keeping up with the shift to the cloud
7% said: Finding/hiring the right people
7% said: Retaining customers
14% said: Staying relevant with increased competition
12% said: Other
Next up, participants of our highly anticipated Women in Leadership Panel took the stage. As the panel moderator, I was joined by esteemed speakers Lori Bonenfant, vice president of channel marketing for corporate, medium and indirect sales, Verizon Enterprise Solutions; Crystal Farley, vice president, channel sales, Windstream; Karin Fields, president and CEO, MicroCorp; and Donna Wenk, senior vice president, agent channel and strategic partnerships, Broadview Networks. I proceeded to ask them questions about their experiences as women in leadership roles. In that 40-minute panel, I believe we learned a lot.
We learned that we can be our biggest barriers to our own success — that sometimes we just we need to “lean in” and take credit for our own accomplishments. We explored challenges for the generations of women behind us in our industry: The number of women seeking higher education in the field of technology is trailing behind men, and offshore outsourcing may cost the U.S. support management positions that women typically fill. We received advice on how, as leaders, it is important to focus on team improvements while not forgetting our own areas of improvement. And, we noted a few tricks for maintaining work-life balance, even in the face of expansive responsibility.
The panel’s final topic of discussion set the stage for later in the evening: We talked about how to get women more involved in technology via college internships, mentoring new employees, and serving on career councils. On that note, Lori Bonenfant discussed the Women’s Association for Verizon Employees (WAVE), an organization with chapters around the world providing guidance to enable employee growth through individual development and promoting diversity in recruitment that fosters a positive work environment.
“The Women in the Channel events are an inspiration. I am constantly in awe of the caliber of women I interact with at these events,” said Rebecca Rosen president of Sales Enabled. “This event’s panel discussion with women leaders from BroadView Networks, MicroCorp, Verizon and Windstream was truly an inspiration and a testament to the intelligent and dedicated women we have amongst us in leadership roles.”
Let me pause right here to say the night was peppered with raffles, thanks to our sponsor Telarus. The panel ended with our second raffle of the evening, and then Hilary Gadda, WiC board member and director of channel sales for TelePacific Communications, gave a moving presentation about “Dream IT.” Dream IT is a program to encourage young women and women reentering the workforce to choose careers in telecommunications and IT.
“I loved Hilary’s presentation on Dream IT— it is an amazing opportunity for all of us to get involved and pay it forward,” commented Stacy Conrad, Director of Sales at MicroCorp. “I wish I knew women like this when I was young and choosing a career!”
To close the evening, Nancy Ridge gave a momentum-building overview of Women in the Channel and what’s to come. She shared a video, encouraging members to get involved in WiC committees and begin their path to the board.
Nancy Ridge also updated that Women in the Channel has [now 1,158] LinkedIn group members, approximately 140 paid members and more than nine active committees. Plus, she pointed out an emerging and exciting trend this year: Companies such as MicroCorp and Telarus have hosted Women in the Channel events of their own, extending the organization’s reach and impact.
On a final note, Nancy Ridge put it best in her recent blog to WiC members: “All that and more happened this year at the Cloud Partner Conference in New Orleans. As we often state, I truly felt this was ‘the best WiC event yet’; and why shouldn’t they keep getting better and better as the group grows and develops?”
A big “Thank You” to our panelists and sponsors, GENBAND, MicroCorp, Channel Partner Conference & Expo, TelePacific Communications and Telarus.
Nicole Hayward is vice president of marketing and product management at OnSIP, a leading provider of cloud PBX services with an award-winning reseller program. Actively involved in nonprofit organizations, she is a board member of Women in the Channel and a team leader for New York Cares.