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Friend and Colleague Carolee Cannata Is Mourned Across the Channel

“We often get to work with good people. We rarely get to work with great people that we can affectionately call friend and warmly refer to as family.”

Buffy Naylor

December 6, 2023

10 Min Read
Carolee Cannata
New Africa/Shutterstock

Beloved channel figure Carolee Cannata passed away Tuesday, Dec. 5, after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer.

A graduate of LaSalle University, Cannata first worked in public relations for a CBS affiliate station, then as the director of a home health care company. She joined the channel in 2019, when she was hired for national channel development at TPx.

Carolee Cannata

On her LinkedIn page, Cannata described herself as “the consummate ‘plate spinner’” and says that her career path “has included an array of marketing and sales with a bent toward content writing, public relations, event planning, client success, brand-building and media. I like the energy that comes with this kind of work; I love to watch a project/brand/event go from a collaborative idea in a planning meeting to a living, breathing entity that builds revenue and creates a buzz. I thrive on all the little details required to get the project to maturity.”

Cannata was hired at TPx by Hilary Gadda, now head of national partner management at Coro. “A smile that lit up a room,” said Gadda. “That’s something you hear often about Carolee. And it is true. That is the first thing you see. A dazzling smile. Then you get to know her and you see intelligence, compassion, generosity and kindness.

“I met Carolee several years back through her incredible husband Joe. She became a colleague and quickly a dear friend. She and I worked side by side in channel development. There was no one more talented than Carolee at communicating to the partners. She took the time to listen and truly understand their needs. She was their advocate and a game changer in our company. Channel work/life can be hard, but she made it so much easier with her sense of humor and spirit. She never let us take ourselves too seriously.

“Eventually we ended up working at different companies but stayed in touch at shows, in email and through phone chats. She was always my go-to when I had a situation I was not clear on how to handle.

“I had the gift of seeing Carolee at the Sandler Summit in September. I had not seen her since the diagnosis. I remember seeing her across the courtyard. We both screamed like little girls. I ran across as fast as my legs would take me and enveloped her in a huge hug! There was that amazing smile right in front of me. I was so happy I didn’t want to let go. We made our way into the ballroom, which was empty at the time. We sat down at one of the tables and chatted about her health, books, food, work, a little gossip and angels for over an hour. It was the greatest gift I could imagine.

“I am so honored to have Carolee as my dear friend. I miss you already.”

Cannata moved from TPx to Mavenir in 2022, then to GTT in 2022. She was director of partner development for GTT, reporting to Blaise Brady, GTT’s vice president of channel strategy and development.

“Carolee was a magnetic and dynamic individual who made a lasting impact on me personally, and on the channel,” said Brady. “As we know, the partner channel is unique. The relationship goes beyond business and spills effortlessly into our personal lives. The likelihood of being successful in the channel is built on two things. One, your ability to conduct business; and two, who you are as a person. Carolee was one amazing person. The channel is family. It’s not the family you’re born with, it’s the family you chose or chooses you. We all have our favorite members of the family, and Carolee was one of them. Carolee was a dedicated member of the channel. She had a warm and welcoming approach to every interaction; she was positive, kind and overall, a wonderful person. She readily shared her knowledge and expertise and made connections with many co-workers as well as lifelong connections within the partner community. To say her loss will be felt across our organization is an understatement.

“Her impact on the channel was felt by many. As proof I offer two brief anecdotes.  During the initial interview process to hire Carolee, I asked a couple of people in the channel for references.  One of them texted me back quickly and said, ‘Don’t think, just hire!’ A few months later I was at an industry event and a leader from a competitor approached me and said, ‘I don’t think we’ve ever met, but I envy you. You hired Carolee, and I wanted to hire her.’  

“We often get to work with good people.  We rarely get to work with great people that we can affectionately call friend and warmly refer to as family.” 

Ken Bisnoff, now senior vice president of customer success at AireSpring, worked with Cannata at TPx and again at GTT. He described her death as “a tragic loss,” saying, “Carolee loved the channel partner community, and it loved her as well. Her can-do positivity along with her credibility and effectiveness helped her make a difference with partners everywhere she went. I had the pleasure of working with her at TPx and GTT where she was always a superstar advocate to helping our partners achieve mutual success.  Our thoughts are with her family during this difficult time. She will be missed terribly.”

A member of the Alliance of Channel Women (ACW), Cannata was a member of the board and served on the sponsorship committee.

Speaking on behalf of the ACW board, Cassie Jeppson, board president and director of North America channel programs for Lenovo, said “Carolee was a light to everyone she met. Her kindness and positive approach were contagious! She was also tenacious beyond belief and that combination made her fierce and an inspiration to all of us. Carolee was a mentor and friend and will remain our cherished angel board member at ACW. Our squad will honor her legacy by being bold and authentic in everything we do. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Joe and Carolee’s family. May they find calm and peace in the loving memories shared.”

Kelly Danziger, general manager and vice president of channel at Informa Tech, worked on the ACW board with Cannata. “I treasured my conversations with her,” Danziger said. “She had the most soothing voice and presence.  No matter what my day was like when I heard her speak I immediately felt calmer.  She was the most genuinely kindhearted person who was so positive all the time.  She oversaw the sponsorship sales for ACW Connect Live events.  The creativity in the sponsorship packages and her positioning of the benefits was outstanding, she blew out sales every time — literally. She sold every sponsorship we had to offer. Mind you, ACW is a volunteer position, so she was doing this while doing her full-time job.  When she shared with us this summer that she had cancer, she didn’t let on what type or the severity of her situation.  She was just continuing to join our calls and talk about the enhancements she wanted to add to the sponsorship programs to better serve the sponsors and create more revenue for ACW.  The last conversation I had with her was when she and her husband Joe were heading to Paris the following week. I’m so glad she got to see Paris.  I will always remember her voice and the beautiful person she was inside and out. She was one who always left you feeling good after you were with her. I will miss her dearly.”

Jasmina Muller, founder and principal consultant at Partner Connexions, also met Cannata through ACW. “I am speechless, devastated and feel like I have lost a sister!  Carolee and I worked closely on the sponsorship committee with ACW when I first joined as a board member.  When I was introduced to her almost five years ago, she had this warmth about her. Her laugh was contagious and we just clicked. It was as simple as that; there was a connection.  We would have calls to go over our committee role and somehow every time it went into fun talk and we would literally be laughing throughout our time on the call.  When we finally met in person (COVID and other travel delayed us in getting together), it was like a reunion. At that moment I knew she was my sister!  I spent time with her a couple of months ago when she was in town for a business trip.  We spent a good three hours just catching up over lunch and it was like we never skipped a beat. She talked about the love of her life, Joe, and how they met. It was an adorable story. 

“I am honored and privileged to have known her for the time we had together. I will forever be thankful to have had the laughter and smiles she brought to me and our entire channel community. I will deeply miss her and the love she gave us!"

Khali Henderson, senior partner at Buzz Theory, knew Cannata from TPx and worked with her in ACW. “The first time I ‘met’ Carolee, she was a witty voice in an email campaign for TPx,” said Henderson. “She caught my attention before I even knew her name. The next time I ‘met’ Carolee was on an ACW virtual event. Obviously, she was a stunning beauty, but she was also vivacious and intelligent. When I actually met her through our work at ACW, I discovered a warm and giving woman. It’s no surprise that she quickly rose through the ranks at ACW to become one of our most loved leaders. She made a big impact in her short time in the channel. I‘m grateful to have been among her many channel friends and am deeply saddened that we lost her all too soon.”

Lori Graber, director of billing and order management for Telesystem, was another one of Cannata’s colleagues in ACW. “This is devastating and just hurts my heart,” said Graber. “Carolee was one of the sweetest and most genuine people I’ve ever had the privilege of having as part of my tribe.  She was one of the first Alliance of Channel Women ladies I had the pleasure of meeting and we immediately hit it off.  Carolee had a way of connecting with people in a way that had you feeling like you’d known each other forever!  Carolee had a smile that would light up a room and the charisma that would keep the room engaged.  She was truly a ray of sunshine.  Her positivity and energy were contagious.  She was an amazing person and will certainly be missed!"

Ashley Cole, senior channel manager for Fusion Connect, also worked with Cannata in ACW. “Carolee was more than a colleague and a mentor to me, she was an amazing friend and an inspiration,” said Cole. “Her smile could light up the darkest of rooms and her laugh could warm the Arctic. She was pure sunshine and the most genuine person that you could ever meet. She was a champion for everyone around her, celebrating everyone’s success as they were her own. Simply put, although I’m deeply saddened by her passing, I smile, because my life is better having had her in it.

Cannata’s infectious laugh and sense of humor were known throughout the channel. Maddie Bird, associate marketing manager of channel for Inform Tech remembers, ““I remember well the day I met Carolee. We were in line at the airport to board a plane to an event, and she accidentally set off an alarm in the terminal by leaning against the wrong door. We had a huge laugh together, joking about me ‘hiding’ her from airport security (who never came looking). She was just so funny and good-natured about the whole situation. At every event I saw her after that, she always had a big hug and a kind word for me. I will miss her.”

Cannata is survived by her husband Joe and their adored dog Giorgia.

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About the Author(s)

Buffy Naylor

Managing Editor, Channel Futures

Buffy Naylor is managing editor of Channel Futures. Prior to joining Informa (then VIRGO) in 2008, she was an award-winning copywriter and editor, then senior manager of corporate communications for an international leisure travel corporation and, before that, in charge of creative development and copywriting for a boutique marketing and public relations agency.

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