Meet the Channel: How the Cloud Brought a Veteran Sysadmin into the Sales Team

Paessler AG presales engineer Greg Ross on his path into the channel, how cloud has changed his job and why he's an integral part of the sales process.

Kris Blackmon, Head of Channel Communities

March 23, 2018

6 Min Read
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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 Greg Ross, presales engineer at network monitoring software and solution provider Paessler AG.

Channel Futures: How did you get into the channel?

Greg Ross: My first job out of college [in 2001] was one of those traveling technicians that comes to your site to replace your motherboard or your LCD, and tear apart the laptop or desktop. That was my inroad. I wasn’t actually focusing on technology; it was more of a side project coming out of school.

From there, I’ve been more or less in the trenches as a system administrator in different support roles, as well as engineering and administration roles from a local newspaper here in New Hampshire; that gave me a lot of experience with different technology and working on a very tight budget. From there I went to Brookstone corporate headquarters, which is up here in New Hampshire. That was a great experience with a national retailer. [Then I had] different roles, from EMC in a support role within a couple of end products, to Monster Worldwide when they were still going gangbusters and supporting the infrastructure there.

I’ve primarily had my career focused on building networks, building servers and infrastructure for end users inside the company, whether it be from management, or basically being responsible for a large portion of the technology for an organization. That’s led to this role, because it’s a technical role. I need to have a broad understanding of networks, of infrastructure, of servers and applications. I’ve been able to see it all for the most part, and that’s set me up well to relate to my customers, who are primarily dealing with the end user who’s looking to use PRTG and set it up on their network. That’s been a really good experience, more of technical sales, interacting with partners, interacting with the sales team and being that technical resource.

CF: What’s changed in your field between 2001 and now?

GR: It goes without saying the cloud has really been the biggest disruptor. Just going back to my previous role, I was an IT manager for a smaller organization — roughly 50 or 60 employees. Everything we did was in the cloud. We just had a couple of small servers on site, some networking gear, and then we were running out of Salesforce and Office 365. Our main application that we ran our business out of was cloud-based as well. So that was a big change for me coming from a larger organization like Monster where everything is still on premises. We had multiple data centers; we were responsible for racking and stacking servers.


That whole end of it is one of the biggest changes, both in terms of applications and infrastructure moving to the cloud. [Paessler’s] customers are very much involved in that process, and they’re all at different levels, of course, within the organization. Everybody is moving something to the cloud, or there’s a plan to move it to the cloud, at least as far as U.S.-based customers, which I’m primarily working with.

Everybody is talking about AWS, and from a monitoring perspective for us, one of the most common questions is, “How do I monitor my cloud?” [They] have some on-prem stuff, so the hybrid cloud is almost a given now in that they have this on-prem infrastructure. At a minimum, they have networks they need to support, they need to monitor, they need to have visibility to. Even if 90 percent or 100 percent of their applications are in the cloud, they have that need. In many cases they have multiple cloud applications or even infrastructure. They’re working out of Azure or AWS … I’m not seeing a whole lot of Google [Cloud] with my customers. It’s probably 90 percent AWS and Azure.

CF: Tell me about a typical day. How has that changed with this rise of cloud adoption?

GR: As an employee, having a very distributed global team, there’s a lot more reliance on cloud technologies like Teams or Skype for Business. That’s a pretty significant change for me, from working in typical offices to – especially here in the states and even interacting with international colleagues – we’re on the camera, we’re on the Teams or using GoToMeeting.

I just had a partner ask if we could go onsite to a customer, and it kind of stopped us in our tracks for a minute because we almost never do that. It was like, “Well, yeah. Yeah, we can do that.” The assumption now, and I think everybody gets it and customers and partners more often than not, it’s just to get on GoToMeeting. We’re selling software and services. If you can’t make a compelling pitch and demonstration over the web …

With partners and the overall sales process, there’s more trust or more expected ownership of the process, at least from my perspective, being the product and technical expert. Not to own the relationship between us and the partner, but there [are] so many opportunities that we become very much an extension of the sales team. I would imagine this is fairly common with other organizations, other sales teams, where you don’t necessarily have a sales manager on every single call. You own the technical process. You demo. You go through everything.

It’s hard for me to say how much that’s changed given I’m relatively recently [in] more of a sales role. I don’t know what it was like five or 10 years ago. Many customers want to have that hands-on, walk me through the process, make it easy. That’s the biggest thing, I believe. Everyone is so busy, and it’s really about making the process as seamless as possible. That’s really where [I] as a sales engineer and others come in to make the implementation, the configuration, the use case easy out of the gate. When they’re trying to figure out exactly what they need to purchase — the partners very much rely upon us for that. Some of the VARs who are really experienced may not rely upon us for that as much, and part of that is because it’s so easy to get on a GoToMeeting or WebEx and start working on their system.

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About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

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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