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Circle of Excellence 2018: The Honorees Revealed

Channel Partners' Circle of Excellence

Between 2013 and 2017, Channel Partners inducted 44 channel executives into our prestigious Circle of Excellence, a program that honors IT and telecom channel leaders who help their partners create business value for customers.

The Circle of Excellence honors executives for their vision, innovation and advocacy of the indirect channel during a time of transition and convergence.

Thursday night, we welcomed 11 more into this group, and recognized three legacy members for their continued work in the channel.

Circle of Excellence winners are selected by Channel Partners editors. Click through our gallery below to see who (in alphabetical order) took home hardware tonight and why; then keep your eye out for a gallery in the next couple of weeks where we offer pictures from the event and explore the lighter side of these outstanding individuals.

Follow executive editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

Telarus' Roger Blohm
Telarus' Roger Blohm

Roger Blohm, executive vice president at Telarus, has been with the master agent/distributor for two-and-a-half years since Telarus bought VXSuite, where he was president.

In the past year, Blohm spearheaded sales of advanced services such as UCaaS, cloud security and contact-center services. He also leads partner-training initiatives and cloud strategy at the company, and managed the growth of the VXSuite product, which includes Telarus' exclusive circuit monitoring and VXSupporLine UC testing.

"Our Telarus Innovation Conferences (TICs) have revolutionized the way to do events," Blohm said. "Rather than speak to partners, our suppliers have the opportunity to build a case study with partners, so they leave with a completed playbook of solutions."
Datapipe's Robb Allen
Vonage's Bob Crissman

Now seven months into his run as SVP and channel chief at Vonage, Crissman directed the launch of the Vonage Partner Network, which includes a new partner portal and the debut of Vonage Teaming +. The company is focusing on making working with Vonage easier and more predictable for its partners. Crissman and his team are committed to better support its partners in all aspects of the sales and customer life cycle.

"We are the only company that has a leading UCaaS and CPaaS offering, providing unified communications capabilities for enhanced internal collaboration and embedded contextual communications via APIs for improved connections and engagement externally with customers," Crissman told us. "By bringing these technologies together and enabling our partners to sell and create solutions that lead to better business outcomes for customers, we are expanding the market for our partners and creating additional revenue streams for them for years to come."
BCM One's John Cunningham
BCM One's John Cunningham

As founder and CEO of BCM One, John Cunningham and his company this past year spearheaded an SD-WAN initiative to give their partners a solid solution and approach to offer to their clients.

"We didn’t want to just white-label an SD-WAN providers’ solution and say we had an SD-WAN product," Cunningham told Channel Partners. "Our position was rather to take an agnostic approach to SD-WAN and overlay carrier management layer on top. We help partners and clients identify the best SD-WAN solution based on their unique business requirements customized to fit now, and scalable to handle the future needs of an organization. By bundling the most appropriate individual products together into one simple solution, we ensure that clients get the reliability, flexibility and scalability to compete in today’s fast-paced world."

Cunningham predicts more consolidation in the channel in the coming year, with telecom channel partners looking to protect their revenue streams and positions in the market.
CenturyLink's John DeLozier
CenturyLink's John DeLozier

John DeLozier is vice president, strategic partnerships and alliances, CenturyLink. His two years as company channel chief have been very busy, particularly in regard to the company's acquisition of Level 3 Communications.

He and his team spearheaded improvements and enhancements to CenturyLink's Ascend Medals Program, which was carefully constructed to drive profitability for partners. Another huge initiative — Garrett Gee, VP, indirect channel sales, who came over from Level 3 in the acquisition, teamed with DeLozier to integrate two channel programs into one.

"When we combined our CenturyLink and legacy Level 3 channel partner programs, we made a very purposeful decision to take the unique approach of identifying our top 25 strategic partners, developing programs focused specifically for them, and creating a dedicated team focused solely on their success," said DeLozier. "[We] are laser-focused to make sure we are doing everything possible to drive strong, profitable growth with our highest performing strategic partners. We’ve built a program and benefits specifically designed to reward and drive their continued growth and profitability."
TPx's Hilary Gadda
TPx's Hilary Gadda

Hilary Gadda is director of national channel development for TPx Communications, a new role for her at the company. She is tasked with broadening TPx’s relationships with national and regional master agencies. One of the key initiatives has been to implement an intuitive and efficient on-boarding process for these new partners. To that end, Gadda was part of the team that created a partner education program covering TPx and its services and processes that can be delivered in-person, via webinar or on demand.

The TPx brand formed a year ago following TelePacific's acquisition of DSCI.

"Common feedback from our respective channels was their wish that we expand our footprints," Gadda told Channel Partners. "Since the two companies have come together, we now have national coverage and are able to serve our partners’ customers wherever they are located. Our coast-to-coast expansion is being driven by a channel-first strategy, so we’re also driving business through our partners as we grow our customer base across the country. In that way, we’re truly partners with our channel in building a successful business."
Avant's Jennifer Gallego
Avant's Jennifer Gallego

Jennifer Gallego, executive VP of Sales, West, for Avant Communications, has been instrumental in building a successful U.K. practice for the master agent/distributor — wile also supporting the company's push to expand its reach in the United States.

"Listening, learning and improving in partnership with our channel together form a core mission at Avant," said Gallego. "With that foundational premise in mind, I have applied my experience and relationships to drive knowledge-sharing across channel partnerships and to earn partner trust. Cultivating these relationships and transforming them into mutually beneficial, consistently productive recurring-revenue streams is my most important emphasis.

Gallego is proud of how Avant has expanded its channel over the past year — through effective training, enablement and investment in partner programs. The company is rapidly accelerating its business with more qualified partners, agents and suppliers.
Cyxtera's Tina Gravel
Cyxtera's Tina Gravel

Channel veteran Tina Gravel is senior VP of global channels with Cyxtera, a company that formed from the purchase of 57 data centers from CenturyLink more than a year ago.

She's still in the middle of her big project from the past year — migrating colocation channel partners from CenturyLink to Cyxtera. With her extensive background in security, Gravel finds herself doing a lot of training in this area. She also adds a personal touch that's missing with a lot of companies.

"I believe my personal involvement in making sure I visit, listen and participate with companies that represent the channel around the world, makes the difference," Gravel said.
Verizon's Bill Hooper
Verizon's Bill Hooper

Bill Hooper is managing director, partner channel, for Verizon Business Markets. He moved to the carrier giant after its acquisition of his former employer, XO Communications, where he was channel chief.

In the past year, Hooper aligned resources in specific geographies and worked to provide a more consistent partner/customer experience by having dedicated channel employees provide sales and operational support in their respective markets.

He expects sales and revenue growth for partners and carriers in the coming year, noting that "the channel continues to mature with partners becoming more proficient in helping customers procure the latest technology to help operate and manage their businesses."
Spectrum's Michelle Kadlacek
Spectrum's Michelle Kadlacek

Michelle Kadlacek is vice president, partner channel, for Spectrum Enterprise, a role she's held for a year and a half.

Kadlacek notes that with the segmentation of the cable company's partner channel in 2017, Spectrum Enterprise channel managers have been able to focus on driving fiber-based services with their partners, resulting in year-over-year growth in fiber-related services.

She expects the year ahead to be an exciting one.

In addition to continued growth in the channel, our clients are relying more and more on partners to advise them on how to work smarter, faster while increasing protection around cybersecurity threats," Kadlacek told Channel Partners. "Partners have an advantage and an opportunity to capitalize on this and offer solutions that will future-proof their clients’ businesses.
AT&T's Kevin Leonard
AT&T's Kevin Leonard

Kevin Leonard is the vice president of AT&T Alternate Channels, heading up the company's Alliance Channel program. In that position for nine years, Leonard now has been with AT&T for 35 years.

The past year has seen the carrier merge its Alliance Channel and Partner Exchange together under the AT&T Partner Solutions umbrella. The Alliance Channel itself has undergone a number of changes.

"In the summer of 2017, we launched pilots of enhancements to our program with several of our solution providers," Leonard said. "The goal was to test out different ways of going to market and doing business. Thanks to their input, we announced in November we were making the best parts of the trials available to everyone in the AT&T Alliance Channel."

Some of those changes include a new residual payment plan; access to more AT&T accounts; improved support on the back end; and a simplified partner agreement.
RingCentral's Zane Long
RingCentral's Zane Long

Zane Long has the title of VP, global channel sales, with RingCentral. He's most pleased with his efforts to implement Channel Harmony, which he says "expanded to the completeness of [RingCentral's] vision in 2017.

"Channel Harmony: One to Infinity" offers subject-matter experts in verticals and segments while paying the partner and direct team 100 percent to eliminate channel conflict on deals from one to infinite users.

Long looks forward to what should be a big year for partners and technology both in the U.S. and across the globe.

"I said that 2017 would be the year of the master agent; 2018 is the year of the 'national partner.' As the market catches on to the product of the century, UCaaS, it’s a land grab as to who gets their clients to adopt it. National partners are a growth vehicle for RingCentral as we continue to expand our enterprise customer base. Global expansion is top of mind, and we will continue building out our channel team to support UCaaS demand in EMEA and APAC."
Rackspace's Lisa McLin
Rackspace's Lisa McLin

Rackspace is in transition; the managed cloud provider just rolled out a new partner program that's designed to provide partners with better visibility and access into Rackspace’s portfolio of managed IT services across private and public clouds, application services, managed hosting, colocation and managed security.

McLin, the company's vice president of sales and channel chief, is right in the middle of it. She spent 2017 spearheading numerous initiatives to help realign the channel to the new Rackspace corporate strategy, which placed a heavy focus on the importance of the partner community. While many of these initiatives took place behind the scenes, McLin says they were critical in building the foundation for which our partners can thrive upon in 2018 and beyond.

She's proud of working to allow allow partners to sell managed services to meet the needs of their customers as they go through their cloud-transformation journeys.
Broadvoice's Rebecca Rosen
Broadvoice's Rebecca Rosen

Rebecca Rosen joined Broadvoice in 2017 as vice president of marketing. In this role, she has helped lead the company's transformation from a direct-to-partner organization to two-tier distribution through master agencies. This  has included significant investments in channel marketing, marketing and channel support staff, partner training and the company's cloud platform.

She's also been a driving force for the nonprofit Alliance of Channel Women.

"As part of the board of directors for the Alliance of Channel Women, I have been keenly focused on building a sustainable future for the organization that is committed to meeting the needs of our members and advocating women in the industry as a whole, now and into the future. This included championing a five-year plan for growth of the organization."
Comcast Business' Dalyn Wertz
Comcast Business' Dalyn Wertz

Dalyn Wertz is the executive director for indirect channel management at Comcast Business.

Wertz's accomplishments over the past year have been many, including: increasing focus on top-performing partners by dedicating a field engagement manager to drive business; building and launching a new marketing platform to help partners access the right Comcast Business content quickly; and creating an annual marketing summit with Spectrum to provide a forum to bring the marketing teams together from all of the master agents it works with — the goal being to deliver marketing best-practices from industry speakers.

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