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Top Gun 51 for 2020: Meet This Year’s Best Channel Leaders

The editors of Channel Partners and Channel Futures have announced the Top Gun 51 for 2020.

Introduced last year, the Top Gun 51 recognizes premier leaders in the indirect IT and telecom channel. There were three criteria considered in selecting this year’s group:

  • advocacy for the channel
  • commitment to partners’ business success
  • dedication to earning the channel’s trust

A channel leader possesses integrity, knowledge and confidence. They have the ability to inspire others, commitment and passion. He or she is adept at recognizing the increasing diversity of partner types, revenue models, and partner and customer journeys.

In compiling the Top Gun 51 list, determined each year in tandem with the annual MSP 501, Channel Partners and Channel Futures editors solicited input from those who know channel executives best — distributors, master agents and industry analysts. They helped us compile a list that includes nine repeat winners, plus 42 other individuals representing big names in the channel.

The #TopGun51 for 2020 includes nine repeat winners, plus 42 individuals who serve in a variety of roles across the industry. They will be recognized in a special program during Channel Partners Virtual: Digital Events for the Modern Channel. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the Channel Partners Conference & Expo and Channel Partners Evolution have been combined into a three-day online event, Sept. 8-10.

In addition, three special award winners – Channel Innovator (thought leadership, innovation); Lifetime Achievement Award; and Rising Star (chief in the role less than two years) – will be announced during the program.

Click through our gallery below to learn all about the Top Gun 51 for 2020. Miss last year’s list? Check it out here.

Datapipe's Robb Allen

Tim Acker, Channel Chief for T-Mobile

Tim Acker of T-Mobile has always been among the most proactive and engaged of channel leaders. He has a deep understanding of the channel partner model and invests to achieve success. Thoughtful and engaged, Tim doesn’t rush to a decision that could impact the channel. Instead, he prefers to get feedback and carefully plan the best path forward. He is committed to helping partners grow their IOT and strategic mobility practices and is making the right changes to the T-Mobile program to ensure partner success. He has simplified programs, improved MDF, increased support and ensured that T-Mobile’s automation and platforms continue to expand to support the partners’ needs.

Ross Artale, President & COO of Spectrotel

Ross Artale has built SpectroTel around the channel and for the channel. An active advocate for the channel, Ross works hard the gain their trust. If a partner experiences challenges with a customer, Ross is right there. He doesn't hesitate to personally respond to an email or to pick up the phone and work to make sure that the customer has been taken care of and that the partner’s reputation has been protected. During his nearly 30 years of telecommunications experience, he has built a record of creating best-in-class service organizations. He joined Spectrotel as vice president of operations in 2007, was promoted to COO in 2012 and was named president the following year.

2020 TG51 - Tricia Atchison and Meredith Caram

Tricia Atchison, Managing Director, Worldwide Partner Enablement, Marketing & Communications for Citrix

Tricia Atchison brings focus and flexibility to Citrix's global partner marketing and enablement framework and programs to support strategic partner objectives. Before joining Citrix in 2019, Tricia was the vice president of global partner marketing at CA Technologies. She has worked in the channel for more than 20 years. In each of her various partner and marketing leadership positions, she has been a staunch advocate of the channel. Her education and enablement programs allow partners to evolve in synch with the changing channel. Tricia is a member of the Women of the Channel Advisory Board and has been recognized as a Women of the Channel each year since 2012.

Meredith Caram, Vice President of Sales for Cytracom

Meredith Caram combines strong business acumen, strategic thinking and a customer-centric passion to deliver exceptional results. An industry vet, Meredith started her career with AT&T and was there for 18 years. She joined Intrado in 2019 as vice president of global distribution and just this week moved to Cytracom. Meredith’s passion in developing impactful relationships and delivering significant results allows companies to create the most innovative solutions and accomplish more on behalf of the channel partner community. She is a leader who inspires greatness.

2020 TG51 - Geoff Chretien and Jennifer Colquhoun

Geoff Chretien, Vice President of Channel Sales, Master Agents for Genesys

This is Geoff Chretien’s second consecutive appearance on Top Gun 51. He's an accomplished channel sales leader with more than 20 years of experience in the telecommunications and software/SaaS industries. And he's known for his out-of-the-box thinking and his commitment to the channel. In his current position at Genesys, he’s responsible for leading the strategy and execution of the master agent channel for North America. He solicits input from partners before making any program-impacting decisions to ensure that Genesys is easy for them to work with.

Jennifer Colquhoun, Senior Director, Global Partner Program for OpenText

Jennifer Colquhoun joined OpenText in 2011 as manager of partner training and certification. Today she is responsible for bringing together the vast number of partner programs and models from OpenText’s many recent acquisitions. She advocates internally to maintain differentiation in partner engagement models where it makes sense — unique needs between the legacy OpenText products and Carbonite, for example. And through it all, she continues to build trust with the partner ecosystem by being honest and open about the future of the varied OpenText partner programs.
2020 TG51 - Robert Cooper and Kathleen Curry

Robert Cooper, Managing Director, Americas for Wildix

Robert Cooper joined U.K.-based Wildix in 2016. He established the Wildix U.S. office and served as U.S. country manager and executive vice president. In 2018, he became managing director for Wildix North America. Working out of the company’s North American headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, he manages an international team responsible for all of Wildix's operations in the Americas. Robert has more than 30 years of experience in sales, business development and successfully managing initiatives at large tech companies. He has extensive experience in bringing new concepts to market through the channel and is well-versed in how new market models and technologies impact the channel today.

Kathleen Curry, Senior Vice President, Global Enterprise Channels, OEM & Strategic Alliances for McAfee

Kathleen Curry has been a channel advocate in every role she’s had. Since joining McAfee earlier this year, she has been questioning at every turn how to improve partner profitability, engagement and support in the field. Kathleen is a channel-first leader who ensures her partners are top of mind across the organization and in the C-Suite. She understands what makes a partner successful. Further, she works tirelessly to ensure that her programs and the field teams deliver the strategic offers, programs and engagements that ensure that partner success. She also invests in her channel managers, making sure they have the skills they need to better engage with and support the partners.

2020 TG51 - Jim Delis and Andy Dignan

Jim Delis, Senior Vice President, National Channel Partner Sales and Partner Development for TPx

Jim Delis of TPx has more than 22 years of channel sales leadership experience. While it’s the first time he’s been included in the Top Gun 51, it’s by no means the first time he’s been recognized as a top channel executive. Well-known and well-liked in the channel, he’s received numerous top channel chief honors from a variety of organizations. He was  also selected for the Channel Partners Circle of Excellence for three successive years. In addition, he was named a 2020 Channel Influencer for his role in directing channel operations at TPx as the company embarked on a new era under the ownership of Siris.

Andy Dignan, Senior Vice President, Global Partners, Professional Services and International Sales for Five9

Andy Dignan has spent the majority of his career in the UC&C, video and contact center space. He moved to Five9 last year from a worldwide leader in IT. Then he immediately went to work using his experience to inject value, energy and the ingredients for success into the company’s channel strategy. From consulting and implementing to designing and selling solutions, his strength lies his ability to bridge the gap between the technical and business-level conversations. Whether it’s meeting with a CIO or whiteboarding with an IT manager, Andy is skilled at developing technical solutions that solve business problems.

2020 TG51 - Alyssa Fitzpatrick and Carolee Gearhart

Alyssa Fitzpatrick, General Manager, Worldwide Partner Sales for Microsoft

Alyssa Fitzpatrick’s work at Microsoft is being noticed by competitors. There is a clear indication that channel partners need co-sell, co-marketing and IP-led solutions, but this directly conflicts with vendors’ traditional sales models. Alyssa has one of the most difficult tasks in the industry, that of bringing together sellers and partners in one collaborative account management and sales motion. And she’s making it happen. She certainly has the chops for it. With more than 25 years of leadership experience, Alyssa has carried responsibility across more than 100,000 partners of all types. She has led significant business transformation efforts driving organizational changes, modern commerce initiatives and cloud adoption across the global technology ecosystem.

Carolee Gearhart, Vice President, Worldwide Channel Sales and Global SMB Sales for Google

Back for a second consecutive time in Top Gun 51, Carolee Gearhart advocates for the channel model inside Google — a company that hasn’t always had a channel. Carolee looks at all angles and options including small businesses that could help her partners drive success. She constantly explores ways to innovate and understand new solutions. She never loses sight of the big picture and how enablement, sales and marketing need to work together to ensure the success of their business partners. Carolee has more than 20 years of industry, international sales and executive management experience. She has accumulated an impressive track record of leading global channels, devising and executing sales strategies and delivering extensive growth to customers and businesses.

2020 TG51 - Garrett Gee and Donna Grothjan

Garrett Gee, Senior Vice President, Indirect for CenturyLink

Garrett Gee of CenturyLink was a member of the first Top Gun 51 group. Garrett joined CenturyLink in 2017, when the company acquired Level 3 Communications. He was channel chief at Level 3 and had been part of the development and launch of the company’s partner program in 2006. At CenturyLink, he helped navigate the complicated path to melding the two companies’ partner programs. He eventually took on the role of overall channel chief. The company has now aligned all of its partner types under a single agreement that includes enhancements to address the evolution of the indirect sales channel, the market and the industry. It has also expanded its global channel partner program into the EMEA region.

Donna Grothjan, Vice President, Worldwide Channel Sales for Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company

Donna Grothjan of Aruba leads all aspects of the partner route to market. This incorporates go-to-market, sales, strategy and programs across all types of revenue-generating partners. She previously served as vice president of worldwide distribution for Hewlett Packard Enterprise.  Donna has more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry, holding management and executive positions at companies including Juniper Networks and Ingram Micro North America. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from California State University, Fullerton.

2020 TG51 - Teri Hamann and Tim Hanley

Teri Hamann, Senior Vice President - Global Head of Partner Experience for SAP America Inc.

Teri Hamann is a respected technology leader with a distinguished 20+ year career in the software industry. In 2019, after 14 years with SAP, she took over their partner program. Since then she has been working to redesign the partner interaction with SAP to focus on the partners’ journey and experience — developing partner personas, aligning content and interactions with the persona needs and streamlining processes. When this new program and engagement structure launches, it will demonstrate SAP’s commitment to the partners’ success, putting the partners’ experience front and center.

Tim Hanley, Vice President of Strategic Sales for MetTel

People who work with MetTel’s Tim Hanley say that he is one of the channel’s biggest advocates because “he just gets sales” An extraordinary educator, Tim has been instrumental in making mobility and IoT a huge focus for partners. He has demonstrated the importance of such solutions during strenuous times such as the pandemic. Tim's not afraid to roll up his sleeves and help partners out on the frontlines, either. He’s an uncanny problem solver because he not only cares, he also always knows what’s going on with partner business. He’s technical, but approachable and partners genuinely like him. They trust him, too. He definitely means what he says and is 100% focused on growing partner and master agent business.

2020 TG51 - Jon Heaps and Ray Hicken

Jon Heaps, Vice President, Channel for Talkdesk

During his three years with Talkdesk, Jon Heaps has built the company’s channel team and created a program that partners can trust. As a senior communications executive and channel sales leader, Jon has a record of success and expertise in creating a clear corporate vision and executing change at the highest levels of global business. He’s innovative and excels at rapidly building and motivating high-performance sales organizations. As a confident and dynamic leader, he has a stellar reputation in the cloud distribution space. This enables him to leverage a wide range of business relationships and immediately drive results.

Ray Hicken, Vice President, Strategic Business Development & Head of US Channels for NICE inContact

Ray Hicken innovates the NICE inContact channel approach by advocating for innovative sales processes within the organization. Ray is committed to his agent’s success. He is always thinking of strategic approaches like accelerators, incentives and marketing integration to drive business. He has an insider’s knowledge of the company’s channel; he worked as a direct sales manager at inContact for five years. He moved on, but then last year accepted an invitation to return and oversee the U.S. channels. He works closely with senior leadership as well as leading a team to develop, leverage and execute growth strategies for all U.S.-based strategic partners.

2020 TG51 - Pat Hurley and Chris Jones

Patrick Hurley, Vice President & General Manager of Americas for Acronis

After years of experience building and scaling enterprise, midmarket and SMB software sales teams as well as delivering on SaaS GTM in the MSP channel, Patrick Hurley is now running the Americas business for Acronis. The company has really stepped up for partners in 2020. Patrick has provided tremendous support in driving new initiatives for the partner community. He was also instrumental during the launch of Acronis Cyber Protect. Patrick spends a lot of time on the road talking about how Acronis can help partners drive new business opportunity. He is committed to their success and developing partner programs that best meet the needs of their community. 

Chris Jones, Assistant Vice President, Channel Sales for AT&T National Business & Channels

Chris Jones is responsible for leading AT&T’s Alliance Channel Masters organization. The organization focuses on driving increased sales production and revenue growth nationally with master agents and their agent partners for the AT&T Alliance Channel and ACC Business. Chris understands the multifaceted aspects of a channel program. He not only focuses on pushing sales sectors, but facilitates feedback for ops, commissions, engineering and marketing. This ensures no aspects of the business are hindering progress of partners’ selling solutions. He works with multiple levels of partners’ companies and is open about areas a company may need to improve. He listens and takes action, continuing to follow up after PACs, working to navigate nuances and differences between ACC and AT&T to build more support and programming that really works.

2020 TG51 - Weyman Jones and Michelle Kadlacek

Weyman Jones, National Sales Manager for Dropsuite

Weyman Jones is dedicated to helping Dropsuite’s channel partners better understand the company, its products and how they can help customers. Weyman is  always ready and willing to assist. He is dedicated to listening and understanding partners so he can provide the right solution to meet their business needs. With more than 15 years of sales experience, Weyman strives to build long-term relationships with partners and customers. He does this by being prepared, keeping things simple, being creative, providing multiple lines of accessibility and always being accountable, owning the failures as well as the successes.

Michelle Kadlacek, Vice President, Channel Partner Program for Spectrum Enterprise

Back for a second time in Top Gun 51, Michelle Kadlacek proved to be a valuable resource in helping Spectrum through the bumpy process of the Charter/TWC merger integration. She has sincere commitment to the channel and partner experience. Michelle is extremely adaptive, flexible and goes above and beyond to provide a best-in-class partner experience. She approaches each partner and master relationship differently. She tailors her responses for all to add more value, in a personalized manner. Michelle is forthright. She does what she says she will do, is honest about any program shortfalls and works to course-correct programs that partners feel need improvement. She leads a great team by knowing differences of each relationship and building programs around those differences.

2020 TG51 - Colleen Kapase and Colin Knox

Colleen Kapase, Vice President, Worldwide Partner & Alliances for Snowflake

In formalizing Snowflake’s first official channel model and program Colleen Kapase advocates internally for partner profitability and engagement. This two-time member of Top Gun 51 fights for a level playing field with the direct team. This minimizes channel conflict around post-sales services, defines clear engagement rules and streamlines enablement. She faces a formidable task in getting Snowflake’s partner program designed and launched, then turning the company into a channel-friendly organization. Fortunately, she can draw on the experience she gained as a vice president at VMware, where she spearheaded the overhaul of their deal registration program and led their partner program.

Colin Knox, Head of Community Engagement for SolarWinds MSP

 Colin Knox of SolarWinds MSP has spent the past 19 years deeply embedded in the technology field. His vast experience includes developing software products, consulting and providing IT management and technology business advisory services.  A former MSP himself, Colin is a valued strategic partner and a trusted channel executive. He is committed to partner success and regularly provides expert insights on products and the MSP community. In 2011, he founded Passportal, which he later sold to SolarWinds. He has driven triple-digit year-over-year growth in the business each year. He has also led expansion of the award-winning product suite with use in 33 countries.

2020 TG51 - MeiLee Langley and George Leith

MeiLee Langley, Director of Channel Marketing for Nextiva

MeiLee Langley of Nextiva is passionate about the channel. She always keeps partners top-of-mind when creating content to help people succeed. MeiLee has out-of-the-box thinking. She has built a marketing department at Nextiva that is constantly able to evolve as the market changes. The agility of her department makes her a role model for other marketing departments on how to empower agents to be more successful. MeiLee is excellent at maintaining and creating relationships based in trust. She always follows through and works on improving her channel relationships. She is honest and forthcoming with her strengths as well as her weaknesses, which allows people to trust her as they make decisions for their agency or business.

George Leith, Chief Customer Officer & Executive Vice President of Sales for Vendasta

George Leith of Vendasta is tireless in his devotion to and engagement with the channel. He well understands the importance of the channel. He has driven his entire organization to create the right platform and services to allow the IT/telecom channel to win in an increasingly digital world. George spends times with partners, listening and responding to them, helping them grow their business. He believes the channel comes first in deal registration processes and always ensures partners are fairly compensated. With a focus on recurring revenue growth year-over-year and optimizing growth models, George believes in servant leadership and coaching frameworks as the best way to motivate and improve performance inside an organization.

2020 TG51 - Josh Lewis and John Lindsley

Josh Lewis, Vice President of Global Channel Sales for Alteryx

Even before the days of COVID-19, Alteryx’s Josh Lewis was committed to ensuring that the company’s channel model and programs align with the partners’ business models. So it was no surprise when he came up with innovative initiatives to help partners deal during the pandemic. Josh is committed to partners' business success. He is responsible for supporting the partner community in the U.S. and Canada and leading the North America channel sales team. He is passionate about creating real and lasting partnerships that bring value to all parties.  

John Lindsley, Vice President & Channel Chief – Cloud for Mitel

John Lindsley is a repeat member of Top Gun 51. This is due in no small part to the fact that he’s superstar when it comes to advocating for the channel. He has made Mitel, which once had virtually no focus on the master agent model, a leader in the space with the buy-in from all C levels. John heads up channel sales and strategy for the Americas. He leads a diverse organization comprised of channel development professionals, VARs, agents, distributors, DMRs and service providers. John and his team are responsible for business and relationship development, partner enablement, strategic UCaaS and CCaaS revenue growth and retention, partner experience, demand and lead generation, operational sales and market management across the SMB, midmarket and enterprise customer segments.

2020 TG51 - John Lizana and Zane Long

John Lizana, Senior Director, National Partner Programs for Comcast Business

John Lizana has spent more than 21 years in the telecommunications industry. The last 11 years have been at Comcast Business, with eight years in the indirect channel. John is a results-driven sales leader . He has earned numerous awards for his achievements, including the prestigious Comcast Business President’s Club and the Indirect MVP award for top performance. In his current role, John is responsible for setting strategy and growing sales revenue for Comcast’s top master agents. His contributions have played a major part in the growth and success of the Comcast Business channel program.

Zane Long, Senior Vice President of Global Channel for RingCentral

Another repeat member of Top Gun 51, Zane Long of RingCentral was called “leadership defined” by one master agency. Zane’s “Channel Harmony” concept allows partner and direct sales reps to work together without conflict on closing deals. And while many expected the channel program model he developed to go sideways, it has actually flourished. That just goes to show you what can be done with 20 years of experience creating and leading global partner programs. No wonder he’s been recognized twice by Channel Partners’ Circle of Excellence.

2020 TG51 - John Macario and Bob Maute

John Macario, Senior Vice President, Global Channel Marketing for Ribbon Communications

John Macario of Ribbon is a veteran of several acquisitions. Through it all, he has continued to educate successive executive teams on the importance of the channel and of spending on the channel. John is responsible for developing strategy, tactics and program implementation for Ribbon’s global channel marketing program. He has always gone above and beyond, especially in the area of through-channel demand generation. He has advocated for his partners. As a result, today they have a great mix of education, platforms and top-notch content. Before the pandemic sequestered everyone, John spent most of his time on the road, meeting with partners.

Bob Maute, Senior Vice President of Channel Sales for Evolve IP

Approachable, knowledgeable and committed to partner success, Bob Maute of Evolve IP can often be found in the field working with agents. A top producer, he has a history of leading sales channels to achieve bottom-line objectives while meeting or exceeding sales goals. Bob is recognized as a creative thinker, adept at identifying new market opportunities, creating tactical market plans and executing sales strategies that deliver significant growth. An advocate of the channel, Bob is also a champion of change, proficient in communicating and promoting confidence with the ability to collaboratively mobilize peers, executive management and strategic partners toward market leadership and strategic revenue growth.

2020 TG51 - Melissa McCoy and Mason Miles

Melissa McCoy, Vice President of Channel Sales for Flexential

Appearing for the second time in Top Gun 51, Melissa McCoy is always advocating for ways for Flexential to optimize the channel experience internally as well as for the agent community. She goes above and beyond in finding relationships that are mutually beneficial, whether it’s with providers, master agents, agents or internal departments at Flexential. Melissa can be trusted in all aspects. She works hard to build her relationships on the foundation of trust and maintain them for the long term. She uses her 20 years of experience in building and managing channel programs, alliances and go-to-market strategies to enhance a partner program that helps Flexential and its partners win more business together.

Mason Miles, Senior Vice President of Sales for CommandLink

Mason Miles is a growth accelerator for CommandLink. The channel knows him well and trusts him. He is described as a true sales professional whom any partner would want to put in front of their customers. While selling alongside partners, Mason has designed and deployed distributed enterprise networks for some of the world’s largest organizations. He leads sales for CommandLink as they challenge mega-telcos and single-product vendors by offering full solutions that simplify IT and ensure app performance/uptime with support from dedicated engineer PODs. Mason and the CommandLink team are redefining channel partner expectations as to how suppliers should perform for their customers.  

2020 TG51 - Laura Padilla and Charlie Pagliazzo

Laura Padilla, Head of Global Business Development and Channel for Zoom

It’s been a crazy year for Zoom. Remote working necessitated by the pandemic helped boost their first-quarter revenue by 169%. And right in the thick of it was Laura Padilla, leading the global partner sales business unit. Known, respected and looked to by the channel as a go-to source, Laura is investing in programs to ensure partner-led sales success. She is listening and learning continually which is the mark of a trusted leader. Tempering Zoom’s massive revenue with her knowledge of the channel’s power to drive brand awareness and brand preference in the technology space, Laura is working to help Zoom expand its channel reach.

Charlie Pagliazzo, Vice President of Channels for Granite Telecommunications

Charlie Pagliazzo oversees sales and support for Granite Telecommunications’ sales partners. This includes more than 300 contracted agent, wholesale and resale partners along with more than 1,200 subagent partners with access to Granite’s voice, data and network integration solutions. They generate more than $275 million in annual revenue. A 25+-year industry veteran, Charlie came to Granite in 2004 from another facilities-based CLEC where he was responsible for the growth and management of data centers, carrier services and international telecommunications operations. In 2016, he was selected as a Channel Partners Circle of Excellence award winner. He was chosen for his leadership, vision and innovation.

2020 TG51 - Guru Pai and David M. Parsons

Guru Pai, CEO for Privafy

Guru Pai of Privafy developed a unique security solution that changes the game for the security sales. He could have taken the product direct through online and enterprise sellers, but he chose to design the solution and its route to market to benefit the channel. Guru, a former Verizon executive, has long been a channel champion and this continues at this well-funded startup. Guru continually seeks feedback and makes changes to his solution, platform and compensation programs to benefit the channel. He understands that the channel is a highly valuable entity and that the needs of the channel to expand their profitability is key to the continued success of the channel.

David M. Parsons, Senior Vice President, Global Alliances & Partner Ecosystem for ServiceNow

David M. Parsons took the helm of the ServiceNow partner ecosystem a little over a year ago. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to redesign and relaunch a partner program that recognizes and rewards partners based on competencies, not just revenue produced. A program that recognizes the importance of services in producing happy customers. David also launched a global Partner Advisory Council program, meeting with more than 100 partners in five different cities to understand their roadblocks to growth and earn their trust.

2020 TG51 - Juan Perez and David Portnowitz

Juan C. Perez, MaaS360 NA Business Development Leader for IBM

Since 2018, Juan C. Perez has been responsible for IBM’s MaaS360 and IBM brand sales security portfolio, revenue and technology partnerships with all NA MSPs and cloud integrators. Prior to this, he was the IBM MaaS360 sales leader for Latin America. Juan was instrumental in driving new revenue through channel business including distributors, resellers, MSPs, partner alliances and all forms of business partner revenue streams. Always upbeat and supportive, Juan C. is dedicated to MSPs’ success. He works hard to elevate their voice within the IBM ecosystem.

David Portnowitz, Chief Marketing Officer for Star2Star

Star2Star’s business is 100% through the channel, so everything David Portnowitz and his team do is with the channel in mind. A 15-year marketing executive, David leads Star2Star's creative, digital and co-op marketing efforts as well as the training team. David has invested heavily in tools, content and resources for the partners to be better educated and better enabled to drive demand. He knows their businesses inside and out. This enables him and his team to drive programs that benefit larger and smaller partners. By putting an internal team and a channel-specific agency in place, David has shown partners that they have someone who is always there to help them.

2020 TG51 - Ray Potts and Rob Rae

Ray Potts, Director, Indirect Sales for WOW

As channel chief for WOW, Ray Potts manages a team of channel managers that support the company’s partners across its footprint. A results-driven leader with a track record of building indirect channel teams and programs from inception to success, Ray joined WOW in 2005. His team-building abilities are due in no small part to his expertise at creating relationships, liaisons and networking and business connections while managing strategic partnerships both internally and externally.

Rob Rae, Senior Vice President, Business Development for Datto

No surprise here — Rob Rae of Datto is included in Top Gun 51 again this year.  He has been recognized with numerous awards within the channel every year since joining Datto in 2013. Rob oversees various aspects of Datto's programs including events, marketing development funds, vendor management and partner advisory board. All of this is done with the goal of helping partners grow. Rob’s industry experience has been with 100% channel-focused organizations and with channel VARs, solution providers and managed service providers where he has helped in achieving their sales goals.

2020 TG51 - Frank Rauch and Angus Robertson

Frank Rauch, Head of Worldwide Channel Sales for Check Point Software Technologies

Frank Rauch has realigned the Check Point channel program to focus on partner profitability through enhanced incentives for deal registration. He is also increasing the predictability of Check Point’s actions with partners by aligning the field compensation plans and training on rules of engagement. We hadn’t heard much about Check Point from the solution provider community until Frank got there last year. He has been an advocate for the channel for more than two decades. Expect great things from him at Check Point.

Angus Robertson, Chief Revenue Officer for Axcient

Angus Robertson is a strategic thinker who is driving a ton of innovation at Axcient for the partner community. As the co-chair of the BAAP CompTIA Council, Angus is committed to listening to partners and creating resources to help them discover and adopt new, emerging technology. Axcient is 100% channel-focused. The strategy was driven by Angus when he joined the company more than two years ago. He is committed to the channel and finding new ways to help partners succeed. Angus is always listening to partners and helps Axcient drive change when it is needed or requested by strategic vendor and distributor partners as well as the partner community. 

2020 TG51 - Aqeel Shahid and Tina Smith

Aqeel Shahid, Vice President of Global Strategic Partners for Vonage

Aqeel Shahid has more than 20 years of sales and leadership experience in the software and communications field. He's been leading Vonage’s sales teams in both the field and channel groups for the last 13 years. Aqeel helps partners succeed in the UC space by sharing his extensive experience in the vertical — starting as an early adopter — with them. His peers consider him to be a natural born leader who is committed to providing excellence to both customers and his sales team. Prior to joining Vonage, Aqeel served in a variety of sales leadership roles at companies such as Eschelon Telecom, Integra Telecom and Sprint.  

Tina L. Smith, Vice President, Channel and Field Marketing North America for 8x8

Tina Smith of 8x8 is widely considered an innovator and respected leader. She’s excelled in her career because she knows how to drive results within organizations. Tina has been innovative in her marketing programs. For example, by sponsoring world-class speakers at leading partner events. She is supportive in strategic channel programs and familiar with the unique circumstances of the channel and their customers. Tina, who has 30 years of sales and marketing experience in the IT/communications industry, was recognized by the Channel Partners Circle of Excellence earlier this year. She has been with 8x8 since 2018.

2020 TG51 - Michael Stephens and Joe Sykora

Michael Stephens, Agent Channel Chief for Rackspace

Always an advocate for the channel, Michael Stephens helped Rackspace leadership understand the importance of the channel model. Responsible for driving growth within agent/VAR/private equity practices, Michael is extremely focused and committed to the success of partners. He’s great at thinking outside the box. At the same time, though, he’s also strategic about whom he puts into place to support the channel. He makes sure it’s someone who will resonate Rackspace’s culture down through the organization. Over his 25-year career, Michael has held leadership roles in operations where his responsibilities included inside sales, sales support, order entry, billing and collections.

Joe Sykora, Vice President of Global Sales and Channels for Bitdefender

For more than 20 years, Joe Sykora of Bitdefender has been an integral part of the IT channel. He has dedicated his career to its success. In addition to being an outstanding sales executive, he has an impressive record of serial entrepreneurship. In 1996, he founded InterSpace Computers, which was acquired in 2008. He founded Fortress Network Security in 2001 and sold it in 2010. Joe joined Bitdefender in 2017. Since 2019 he has been in charge of support for sales, channel and distribution strategy globally. He was previously with Fortinet. Before that he was president and CEO of Fortress Network Security, which was one of the first regional dedicated MSPs.

2020 TG51 - Erik Thomson and Oliver Tuszik

Erik Thomson, Senior Vice President, Partner Channel and Premier Sales for Zayo Group

If it wasn’t for Erik Thomson, Zayo might never have been able to shake its reputation for not being particularly channel friendly. As it is, Erik has proven himself to be someone who can be trusted, is fair and is always looking out for the channel. His efforts have resulted in the channel receiving tools and resources unlike anything ever provided before by Zayo. It must have something to do with his experience in the Marine Corps, where he served as a scout sniper platoon commander and aerial interdiction force commander. He knows how to get things done.

Oliver Tuszik, Senior Vice President, Global Partner Organization for Cisco

Oliver Tuszik has become an innovator in developing programs to help Cisco channel partners transform, own their competitive edge and even target the elusive yet lucrative small and midmarket opportunity. This has been essential for both Cisco and its channel partners. The shift to cloud has disrupted many vendor-channel partner business models, but no vendor supplier has been more impacted than Cisco. The company derives 85% of its revenue from partners. Responsible for managing and supporting more than 60,000 global partners, Oliver is always smiling, listening and thoughtfully responding to channel partner needs. He has become a change agent within the senior leadership team.

2020 TG51 - Dan Wensley

Dan Wensley, CEO for Warranty Master

Dan Wensley of Warranty Master has filled a number of channel roles during his career. In each and every one, he’s been the primary face of channel advocacy. In addition, he has donated his time, energy and effort volunteering in different roles with CompTIA for several years. At Warranty Master, Dan leads a team of #MasterMinds. This team helps IT service providers sell more and service less by automating the process for reporting the age and warranty status of all devices. He has a deep understanding of partners and their challenges and has been instrumental in helping them succeed, going above and beyond the call of duty.  


3 comments

  1. Avatar Michael Haley July 16, 2020 @ 8:39 am

    Great choice in recognizing Ray Potts, Channel Chief at Wow, as a Top Gun for 2020. I know Ray both personally and professionally, he is a great leader, as tireless worker and a good friend who always leads with integrity.

  2. Avatar jsamsel@verimatrix.com July 19, 2020 @ 12:36 pm

    Weyman Jones is an excellent choice for your Top Gun 51 list, 2020! I had the pleasure of working with Weyman as a colleague during my stint as head of marketing for Dropsuite and I can validate that not only is he 100% dedicated to MSPs, but he’s an honest, good-hearted man as well. Congrats to a great guy who has earned the recognition from the channel partners he serves!

  3. Avatar Dave Ingler July 22, 2020 @ 7:20 am

    Congratulations to Ray Potts. This is a much deserved honor. He is always responsive and is available if you need him.

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