Partners aren’t an extension of Aruba's sales team. Grothjan says Aruba must fit into their ecosystem.

Lynn Haber

August 21, 2020

4 Min Read
Top Gun 51 Profile: The Channel Is a Passion for Aruba's Donna Grothjan

Donna Grothjan of Aruba is a channel veteran. She’s been a channel advocate her entire career. Channel isn’t a stop along the road before moving on to something else. Grothjan is dedicated to the channel, and that is reflected in her years of working with partners and her vision of partnership.


Aruba’s Donna Grothjan

Grothjan, vice president, worldwide channel sales for Aruba, an HPE company, leads all aspects of the partner route to market. This includes go-to-market, sales, strategy and programs across all types of revenue-generating partners. Before this role, which she has held since March 2016, she was vice president of worldwide distribution for HPE. That lasted almost seven years. Also on her resume are management and executive positions at Juniper Networks, where she worked for nine years, and Ingram Micro North America — 15 years.

Grothjan is part of our Top Gun 51 for 2020. Introduced last year, the Top Gun 51 recognizes premier leaders in the indirect IT and telecom channel. There were three criteria considered in selecting this year’s group: advocacy for the channel; commitment to partners’ business success; and dedication to earning the channel’s trust. To come up with the list, we solicited input from those who know channel executives best. We’re talking about distributors, master agents and industry analysts.

Grothjan knows IT and the channel.

Channel Futures: You’ve been in the channel for a long time. What’s the biggest change you’re seeing now? And, as a channel leader, how are you responding?

Donna Grothjan: Everyone is experiencing what it’s like to live in a digital world and do everything digitally. I think what’s changed is learning to connect with people and hopefully still stay personal.

The sustainable relationships that we have and what we worry about today is that people are getting digital fatigue. There are so many digital events going on. And you need to make things impactful. So it’s important to think about the audience and what they’re thinking about every day and what we can do to help them.

Donna Grothjan of Aruba is part of Channel Partners/Channel Futures’ 2020 Top Gun 51. This program recognizes today’s channel executives who build and execute channel programs that drive partner, customer and supplier success. See the full list.

CF: What wins with partners today, and over the past six months?

DG: I think the biggest change that’s happened over the last six months is how customers want to buy. Customers were already moving to an as-a-service model. But definitely, the decision to make that change earlier is happening.

We’re seeing that with our partner base. Those partners who offer managed services or as-a-service offerings are faring better than others who don’t. So with customers moving to as-a-service, what we’re doing is making sure that partners have choice in how they support those customers.

And it’s not only the financial aspect. It’s the resources and managing the solutions that are implemented. So we’re working with our partners, asking if we have the right as-a-service offerings to support them.

For example, with network as a service, announced in early June, and managed connectivity as a service for our partners, they have the ability to offer it to customers. Partners can provide any design and implementation services and Aruba will …

… do the management, monitoring, administrative and operational services on their behalf.

Partners who have the capability to provide the managed services themselves, we’ll work to enable them.

CF: What do you feel resonates with partners these days?

DG: It’s great to be recognized [with the Top Gun 51 award] for something that you’re so passionate about, something you do every day and that you love.

I think some people take on a role in channels as a stop along the way. For me, it’s always been in my heart and soul. I think that comes through. In fact, both of my children started their careers in channels and IT. That makes me a really proud mom.

I think the fact that I’ve been a partner advocate for my entire career, I can relate to all types of partners – including distributors – because I’ve worked for them or with them in some way for the last 30-plus years. I think what resonates with partners is understanding and looking at the business through their eyes and what they deal with every day.

I’ve heard people say, “Partners are an extension of our sales force.” No, they’re not. We are a part of their ecosystem is how I look at it.

Partners are the ones providing the end-to-end solution for the customer. We’re a part of that. It’s our job to ensure that partners are an integral part of our company strategy. But to think about what they face every day, how we enable that, and how we fit into their ecosystem,  as opposed to being an extension of our sales team.

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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