Top Gun on Target: Top Gun 51 Winners Name Their Channel Mentors

As leaders in the channel, the members of the Top Gun 51 recognize the importance of mentors. Many are mentors themselves. All have been guided along the way, either directly or indirectly, by the advice and examples provided by other channel members.

For this installment of Top Gun on Target, we asked whom they consider to be their mentors and what they learned from her or him.

Some respondents had more than one mentor. Others, like Meredith Caram of Cytracom and Oliver Tuszik of Cisco, collected insights and information from a variety of sources.

The Channel Futures/Channel Partners Top Gun 51 recognizes today’s channel executives who build and execute channel programs that drive partner, customer and supplier success. See the full list.
Cytracom's Meredith Caram

Cytracom’s Meredith Caram

“I haven’t really had a ‘channel’ mentor. But I have learned a few things that might be helpful for others,” said Caram. “You should be a human with other humans. Expand your skills beyond the technical stuff. The technical pieces are critical, but so too are the other experiences you need as a leader. There are many inner and outer pressures all day every day where change and growth have to happen. Creativity and adaptability are what move us forward.”

“And don’t ever buy a pair of shoes you can’t run in,” she added.

Cisco's Oliver Tuszik

Cisco’s Oliver Tuszik

Like Caram, Tuszik didn’t have a specific mentor in the channel. “That would have been great,” he said. “Nevertheless, I really enjoy discussing channel topics with other players in the market. No matter if they are a competitor or working in a completely different mode, they have been the best coaches!”

“And as channel goes across all parts of the business, the best preparation to become a good channel leader is to run a partner program and run a vendor sales team.”

Scroll through the gallery below to see whom some of our Top Gun 51 members consider to be their mentors. You’ll also learn about the importance of mentors in their careers.

Michelle Accardi of Star2Star

Michelle Accardi

My mentor in the channel was — and still is — Michelle Accardi. Michelle has been my boss and mentor since I started at Star2Star seven years ago. I came into the channel with no prior knowledge or history in this space and she has pretty much taught me everything! So I would say the most important lesson is to always put the partner first in every decision we make. I am constantly thinking, ‘How will this affect our partners?’ That mindset really helps to frame every discussion and decision.” — David Portnowitz, Star2Star
Frank Ahearn of BCM One, Doug Sammiak of Vatic Outsourcing

Frank Ahearn, Joe Grauman and Doug Sammak

“I was fortunate in that several of the agent partners I initially engaged were very supportive of my immersion into the channel nearly 20 years ago. In particular, Frank Ahearn at BCM One (left), Joe Grauman at James Communications and Doug Sammak at Vatic Outsourcing (right) provided valuable insight. One constant was that each made it very clear that meeting the end-user’s needs was the win for both partner and provider. The truth of that hasn’t changed over the years and continues to be Granite Channels’ focus to ensure mutual success with our partners.” — Charlie Pagliazzo, Granite
Paul Hoffman of Informatica

Paul Hoffman

“My ‘mentor’ has been a collection of leaders who have help me shape my path.  From managers and company executives, to peers and industry thought leaders, they’ve given me nuggets of advice and guidance that drove and pivoted my path. The most impactful piece of advice I received was from Paul Hoffman, with whom I worked at Oracle and Informatica for more than a decade. Paul shared with me how motivation starts at the core of the individual. If you can uncover that unique personal driver and nourish it, your teams will be unstoppable.  That affected my management style to be very personable and probing, to discover and power that lever of greatness in all those I work with. You know when you are at the top of your game!” — Alyssa Fitzpatrick, Microsoft

Richard Murray of Telarus

Richard Murray

Richard Murray, former owner of CarrierSales and current COO of Telarus, taught me to stay calm and be patient, because it’s a long-haul game. You must be fair, be honest, pay attention to the details and do what’s right for both the supplier and the partner/agent. He also taught me a lot about reading through legal contracts.” — Ray Hicken, NICE inContact

Cynthia Rico of Fiserv

Cynthia Rico

Cynthia Rico provided sales and support to the channel community for more than 26 years. Just this month, she moved to Fiserv after spending nearly 13 years with IBM. It was during her tenure with IBM that she worked with Juan C. Perez.

“The most important thing I learned from Cynthia Rico was how to establish a professional relationship between the vendor and the channel community,” Perez said. “It must be based on adding value to all involved, transparency and integrity.”

Fred Traversi

Fred Traversi

Fred Traversi, former president of Rolta, chairman and CEO of Advizex and executive vice president of Lexmark. He taught me how to think and live in the partner CEO mindset.” — Frank Rauch, Check Point

Frank Vitagliano of GTDC

Frank Vitagliano

“Having the ability to reach out to someone any time to get advice or coaching is a great feeling.  I have many mentors who have different backgrounds, which is extremely beneficial to get different perspectives. But probably the one person who really stands out is Frank Vitagliano, currently CEO of GTDC. He taught me the importance of building a network well before LinkedIn was popular. A great network not only helps you to build a trusted inner circle, but also allows you to expand beyond, to make connections across geographies, industries and even generations and ultimately enables you to move things forward at a faster pace whether it’s personal or professional.” — Donna Grothjan, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company

Bob Williamson of Spectrotel

Bob Williamson

“I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to Bob Williamson. I have observed and learned so many things from working with Bob for the last 16 years. He is the ultimate quadruple threat of great salesmanship, relationship building, problem solving and product knowledge. He took me out on sales calls, helped me close our first enterprise deals and taught me so much about the channel. Ironically, his son Trevor is now a channel manager for Spectrotel and it’s great to be able to pay it forward!” — Ross Artale, Spectrotel

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