Five channel influencers talked about their paths to becoming leaders.

Claudia Adrien

May 4, 2023

3 Min Read
Channel Influencer panel CP Expo 2023

CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO — How does one become a channel influencer? It’s a question that doesn’t have a simple answer. Each year, Channel Futures selects individuals who embody certain qualities of leadership and authority within the industry. To get a sense of the je ne sais quoi these individuals possess, look no further than Wednesday’s keynote discussion at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. There, five channel influencers talked about their paths to becoming leaders.

“If you asked me two years ago if I would be in a channel job, I would not have had a freaking clue,” said Riya Shanmugam, group vice president of global alliances and channels at New Relic.

However, that hasn’t stopped Shanmugam from embodying the qualities needed to be an influencer. She said she embraces her role as channel leader at New Relic for all the opportunities it provides.

Shanmugam explained it’s a position that requires interaction with legal, finance, sales and other departments within the company.

“If you want to be a CEO one day, the channel chief job is one of the most holistic positions one can have,” she said.

The journey within the channel didn’t begin in a vacuum of self-reliance for the panelists. Rather, they talked about the individuals who made an impact on them.

John DeLozier, president at Intelisys, Channel Futures’ Channel Influencer of the Year for 2020, who helped moderate the panel, asked the speakers: “Who has influenced you? Who did you look up to in the channel?”

Jennifer Gallego, executive VP, global sales at Avant, said her path began with a social interaction at a bar. At the time, she had just received her nursing degree. Yet, at the bar she ran into friends who were working in the channel. Their enthusiasm rubbed off on Gallego who thought, she said, “Maybe I can do that.”

Gallego added: “I got in the channel and never looked back.”

For Craig Patterson, senior VP of global channels at Aryaka Networks, Channel Futures’ Channel Influencer of the Year for 2023, he could pinpoint both the individual and their work that made an impact during his early days.

“I’ve had to work among some of the best,” Patterson said.

He made a point to name drop Jay McBain, now chief analyst at Canalys, and his research which gave Patterson insight into the inner workings of the channel.

“I wanted to follow all these [leaders] and figure out what they’re doing,” Patterson said, who has at this point worked in the channel for more than 20 years.

How a Channel Influencer Defines the Channel

Craig Galbraith, Channel Futures’ editorial director and panel moderator, asked: “What do you tell people what the channel is?”

It’s a complicated answer, the panelists said. And it’s one that causes confusion even for members of the panelists’ own families.

Ryan Walsh, chief strategy officer at Pax8, said: “If I were explaining it to my parents, they would get a glazed look.”

John DeLozier added this his parents still think he sells cellphones for a living.

Craig Patterson’s folks always ask him to “fix the printer.”

Humor aside, the panelists used those family experiences to make a larger point. Partners are the key to explaining the intricacies of the channel that become palpable to customers.

“There’s always going to be a role for our partners to demystify the situation,” DeLozier said.

However, Gallego said there’s room for improvement.

“We do a decent job of marketing within our industry. But we need a bigger megaphone. Getting outside of our industry is important,” she said.

That megaphone extends to reaching out to a younger generation.

“If I’m talking to someone young, [I tell them] you get to learn about this business, go to market and that the technology is complex,” Walsch said. “The journey only just begins when you sell something.”

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Claudia Adrien or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About the Author(s)

Claudia Adrien

Claudia Adrien is a reporter for Channel Futures where she covers breaking news. Prior to Informa, she wrote about biosecurity and infectious disease for a national publication. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and resides in Tampa.

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