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Four millennials bringing fresh new ideas to the channel talk challenges and opportunities.
September 14, 2018
The millennial generation is a hot topic in business circles, but our newly formed Channel NX2Z aims to bridge the gap between baby boomers, Gen Xers and their younger counterparts through cross-mentorship, education and recruitment.
The group will host its Workforce of the Future Symposium Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Channel Partners Evolution. A panel of industry leaders — including Hilary Gadda of TPx Communications, Jason Bystrak of eFolder and Tiffani Bova of Salesforce — will dish out career advice for people of all ages.
In anticipation of the event, we’ve reached out to several up-and-coming millennials from the recently assembled Channel NX2Z board of directors:
Sunandini Verma, founder of Amrev Media, a Canadian firm that offers app development, marketing consulting and web design.
Dante White, senior channel manager with the unified communications provider RingCentral.
Bryan Reynolds, director of post sales for TBI, the Chicago-based master agent.
Aaron Leveston, national account manager with RingCentral and the co-founder of Channel NX2Z.
Channel Partners: Every generation has its stereotypes. Do you have a horror story of people making assumptions about you?
Amrev Media’s Sunandini Verma
Sunandni Verma: This happens to me all the time. I’ve had people ask me my age before giving me a project. Luckily, I always turn it around with technology and marketing strategies from new and innovative perspectives, but the reality is, it’s unfair to even ask my age. I’ve heard “no” many times because of my age. A part of why I started my own business was so I didn’t have to prove myself or have to break through the resistance of people older than me.
TBI’s Bryan Reynolds
Bryan Reynolds: I was presenting in front of a C-level executive at a provider, and before I could start, they stated how young I was to the entire room and made several side comments about my experience. I believe it was all in good fun, but the rest of the presentation was then not taken seriously. I’ve since been able to control a meeting/presentation, but it was a good learning opportunity for me.
CP: We’ve seen various statistics about the channel “aging out.” Do you feel that the industry is getting younger? How does that compare to the larger tech industry?
Aaron Leveston: Yes, I do see the industry getting younger. However, by comparison it doesn’t seem to be happening as fast as the rest of the tech industry at large. I believe this has much more to do with the lack of overall recruitment and engagement by the channel with the younger generations. It seems the recurring theme is that most younger workers’ channel involvement came by way of accident.
Reynolds: I absolutely have seen the industry getting younger. The channel that we play in is centered exclusively on technology, and technology is advancing at a faster rate than ever before. The generation that is coming into the channel is more adept at …
…adopting and embracing newer technology. Because of this, they’re able to identify with the industry a bit more closely and organically grow within it. That’s not to say there isn’t space for those who have a lot of experience, but the younger generation will most certainly overtake the channel very soon, both as sellers and consumers.
RingCentral’s Aaron Leveston
Verma: I don’t think that’s entirely true. I think every industry ages out because there are pioneers in each that people strive to be like, and they start young to reach their goals. However, technology is an interesting space because we have younger entrepreneurs and pioneers than any other industry.
Dante White: I see that sales organizations are getting younger. However, the channel still remains on the older end of the spectrum. Typically, to become a channel manager you must have advanced sales and management experience. This presents a problem, since most channel organizations are out of touch with how people are incentivized and learn nowadays.
CP: What do companies in the channel need to do to become a more attractive place for the next generation?
White: Education is key here. I think many younger professionals are unaware of the channel. Setting up a solid career path for new hires would be a great way. It’s not that channel isn’t attractive; I think it’s the best-kept secret in professional careers.
Reynolds: To attract consumers: embrace change. Understand who your customer is and who your customer is going to be. A lot of revenue is going to be produced by the upcoming generation, and if companies don’t realize that, then they might as well close their doors. They need to not only stay on the edge when it comes to technology, but also the techniques they use to attract and retain the next generation. They tend to think and make buy decisions differently. Don’t take that as a hindrance, take it as an opportunity.
RingCentral’s Dante White
To attract employees: Understand that the stereotypes of the future generations are just that. People tend to shy away from things they don’t understand. Embrace it. There are some very valuable minds in the coming generation, capitalize on it. The archaic “9 to 5” mentality doesn’t necessarily appeal to the next generation of employees. Instead, they value experience and contributions, and they value making a positive change above all. If your company is rigidly structured in a way that doesn’t promote this, you will surely lose out.
Verma: I feel there is a gap in helping each other advance in our careers. As a business owner in the industry, I feel it would be beneficial to find a way to generate leads and build genuine relationships to help each other. I find there is very little interest or true follow-up at events because there is no initiative to help each other. Perhaps a referral program or eligibility to be a vendor for some of the partners would motivate people.
CP: As someone who has entered this industry relatively recently, what areas stand out to you as areas where vendors, partners, master agents and so forth can grow?
Leveston: Being in technology, it is naturally assumed that innovation is our DNA. When it comes to the technology we sell, market and create, that is true. However, many of the techniques are antiquated when it comes to how teams are managed, HR functions and education.
Reynolds: Make an attempt to understand the next generation, but don’t treat them as …
… science projects. Connections matter; make them. If you are treating your next generation of customers as acquisitions, you won’t keep them.
CP: Is there a slogan or a philosophy that you try to follow in your business career?
Verma: Esther Hicks said, “The most valuable skill or talent that you could ever develop is that of directing your thoughts toward what you want.”
Reynolds: “Peaks and Valleys.” You may not always be taken seriously, make the best decisions or have a good day, but the most important part of it is learning from every experience and applying that knowledge to the future. It’s a simple concept, but effective. It has gotten me through a lot of down times. There’s always a peak after a valley.
White: Stay true. At the end of the day I have to look at myself in the mirror and feel comfortable with who I am, what I do and how I do it. I remind myself every day to not compromise my morals or convictions. I’m in this for the long run and my name or “brand” is important to me.
CP: What advice do you have for young people as they try to advance their careers?
Leveston: “Twelve months to show me, 18 months to make it happen.” This is the stance that I take as it pertains to my career. I’ve approached every opportunity as a stepping stone and have always been open with my managers about my desire to progress. Twelve months to show me that there is upward mobility and 18 months to give me an opportunity to get in that position. Since I know some will read this with a “millennial bias,” this rule can only be applied if you are a top performer!
Reynolds: Listen. We often want our own ideas put out there quickly in order to get ourselves noticed, but that’s not always the best practice. Your peers and managers value (just as you do with your peers and managers) someone who listens before they act.
Read more about:Agents
Senior News Editor, Channel Futures
James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.
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