Why I Joined the Channel: A 23-Year-Old’s Take on Our Industry
… an interest in forming and maintaining relationships.
Many of us started as sales people, but for the majority of us, the channel’s growing focus on building long-term rapport with customers is a breath of fresh air. Eventually I realized this was why the people I interviewed for articles kept saying the phrase “trusted adviser” over and over again. Businesses would rather work with a technology group that gets on their level to understand their needs and desires, rather than buy from a giant, impersonal vendor that’s just going to throw products at them (maybe a little simplistic of me to say, but I guess they say millennials see the world in black and white).
The weirdest aspect of the channel is that it combines geeks and sales people — two groups I never thought could coexist. I go to conferences and witness a weird kind of role reversal. The stereotypically reserved and intellectual “IT guys” are jabbering on and on about go-to-market strategies and the stereotypically extroverted and superficial sales folk won’t stop talking about SIP trunking and all of the network tiers (side note: wow, there are really a lot of network tiers).
I personally am a self-styled Luddite, but even that is changing. I keep trying to start conversations with my geeky friend Chris about SD-WAN, thinking that his job as an IT guy would make him an expert on the subject. He pretty much just rolls his eyes and complains that “everything is software-defined these days,” but I think that’s just because he doesn’t know what it is.
I showed my friends one of my columns, and now they won’t stop making fun of me for how much I write about MPLS and SD-WAN (they pronounce it “sid won” to get a rise out of me, and for what it’s worth, most of them are in favor of a hybrid approach).
The people in the channel are an odd bunch to interact with, but what you’re seeing is a group of people who are interested in becoming more well-rounded. They’re learning to adapt and better themselves in order to improve the lives of their customers, and they’re not just in it just for the money. Not that there isn’t money …
But here’s the problem. A lot of smart people say this industry is dying. CompTIA predicted that by 2024, 40 percent of channel-company owners will have retired. But although millennials comprise the largest portion the overall workforce, according to Pew, all you have to do is look at the people attending channel trade shows to see that our industry is not keeping up with the rest of the U.S. business landscape.
And the problem isn’t simply that there aren’t enough young people. The goal is not to fill up a hiring quota, but to find new talent that propel the industry through a time of upheaval. Forrester Research’s Jay McBain said this year that a new type of channel partner is emerging. A “shadow channel” of companies that don’t come from the traditional telecommunications space are increasingly playing the middleman between vendors and customers. More and more IT companies are incentivizing independent software vendors (ISVs) to work with them. Digital marketers and legal agencies are getting into the action.
Sunandini Verma is on of those disruptors. She’s a marketing wunderkind who started Amrev Media, a company that helps customers with everything from marketing to IoT to app development to managed IT. It’s not your parents’ channel partner.
“I’ve heard ‘no’ many times because of my age,” she said in a recent Q&A. “A part of why I started my own business was so …