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Jayne Haggard, training manager for Barracuda MSP, on her philosophy toward partner education and how a degree in art history led her to the channel.
March 30, 2018
Meet the Channel is a recurring Channel Futures column that leaves the C-suite and focuses on how channel trends impact the day-to-day job functions of employees “in the trenches.” This week, we sat down with Jayne Haggard, training program manager at Barracuda MSP.
Channel Futures: How did you get into the channel?
Jayne Haggard: My job at Barracuda MSP is actually my first job in the channel. I’ve been here about seven years, joining back when I was at Intronis. It was a job I fell into; I never actually applied. Somebody gave my resume to the company without me actually knowing about it, and they offered me a job. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
It was nothing I was looking for at the time. When I came it was a challenge. I’d worked at IT companies in the past, and I had actually just finished up a degree in art history. I was thinking I was going to go into that area in art galleries, which is where I was looking for a job. This came up. Neal Bradbury, who was one of the owners of the company at the time, interviewed me and it just seemed like a good match. I came in working in the support area and have grown with the company and moved into different positions.
CF: Were you in training when you first joined?
JH: I probably had a couple weeks of training and then I was on the phone with the clients, which is kind of a scary thing to do. But you grow with it and learn, and we actually had a very young support team. One of the goals was for me to come in and set some more good working standards within the support team. A lot of these people at the time were directly out of college in their first job. As we’ve grown and been taken over by Barracuda, I don’t think a lot of companies can stay in that just-out-of-college mentality. That’s where they knew they had to grow into a more professional atmosphere, not just within the company, but customer-facing as well.
CF: Tell me about when you first entered IT. What was it that drew you to that space, and what were your first experiences there?
JH: I always fall into these jobs. I came to the U.S. almost 30 years ago from the U.K. My husband was working with an IT company … that was doing insurance software. It was the early 1990s, and they were just transitioning from paper forms to computerized forms. The company they were doing this for was extremely specific on how these forms had to be created, and I came in and created these hundreds and hundreds of forms for them. Then I moved into doing documentation … I worked for Fidelity Investments doing the same thing in their training department, then I took a break and went back to college.
[The industry was moving] from manual processes to automation. I’ve done that a couple of times. I worked at the college where I was getting my degree at in the art history department … if you’ve ever taken an art history class, you always have the 35MM slides of the artwork. We converted more than 50,000 slides into digital images and documented it all. A lot of colleges were going through this, trying to convert to computerizing everything.
CF: So you really had to learn on the job just as that technology was really taking off, which reminds me of what’s happening in the channel now. Watching the cloud market mature a little bit, it’s clear we’re pretty much learning as we go. How has your focus changed from your early years to what you’re dealing with now?
JH: When I first stated at Intronis, it was purely just backup. As we’ve moved into Barracuda MSP, it’s really becoming not just backup. It’s the entire thing, how to protect everything. Not just protection, but preventive measures too. I think we try our very best to protect everything, but users also have to be accountable for what they do. That’s the other area we’re going to be focusing on, making people aware of ransomware, malware, phishing and hacks. We all have hundreds of emails come in every day, and I think we get very lazy about it and easily click on links. It’s making people more aware of what they’re actually looking at.
CF: Are your conversations with partners changing from a primarily technology focus to focus more on helping them train customers in just best practices?
JH: That’s where my role is going to be coming in. We’re definitely looking at more training. It’s one of our products we’re going to be selling. I think along with what happened last year with all the data breaches, it shows even the biggest of companies can be fooled and be breached. It’s a very good thing to sell to the partners and make them aware that it’s their responsibility. They can’t just sit back and assume that everything will be great.
I’m the training manager here, and though we haven’t actually started [the training program around how to educate users in best practices], it’s in the process. I’m definitely very much going to be involved in that. I was in the kitchen this morning and it was pointed out to me that that’s coming my way very quickly. Thinking about exactly how this is going to roll out to partners and how we’re going to sell it is coming very fast. The realization is there; it’s something we really need to do and to be educating our partners on.
Some of our partners will be very open, and the rest — it’s training. That’s where I come in, along with other people, to put out the right education to show them this is really important to do.
CF: This sounds like something that’s reflective of what’s going on in the channel that also gets you excited about the future of your specific job function.
JH: I’m in the nice position of working with pretty much all departments here. Things have moved so rapidly, and I’m responsible for putting out our certifications. Our training materials can become pretty obsolete pretty quickly. That’s the other thing I’m very aware of, working with people here that it’s a uniform instruction we’re giving out, no matter whether you’re talking to support or one of our sales engineers or it’s material that I put together.
CF: Speaking of certifications, how do you make sure you have all partner types, wherever they are in this journey, covered?
JH: I would like to hope that whatever training material we put out there is easy to understand. Our questions on any of our training material is not to trip people up, but just give them a quick check to make sure they actually did look at something. We try and make it so we address people who like to look at videos, or like to read text. For certification, you do have to actually do it online, but as an on boarding partner, some people work much better in a one on one conversation. Other people just want the material and sit down and learn it. I like to think we’re aware of different ways that people learn. We are trying to make it as easy as possible for someone to learn our products, but I hate things that are just so difficult [it frustrates partners]. We are selling to experienced engineers, so what I put out shouldn’t be so hard they can’t understand it.
There’s definitely a [wider breadth of training] I have to come up with now versus seven years ago. I’m only responsible for the training part of Barracuda MSP, but things like the firewall Barracuda sells, we actually approach them and say, “A lot of our partners have no idea about networks and things like that. Can you break it down a little bit more?” There’s this wide array of knowledge from people who understand how to do a file folder backup and the importance of that to the really complex firewall. That was something I was just in a meeting about. Our side of things, making some core materials to cover. There are certain things that with our products you need to know. And then breaking it down. Maybe the front desk person doing some billing within our portal, they need certain training compared to somebody who’s an engineer. No one wants to sit through something they have no idea about.
Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions
Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.
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