WOTC Execs On Cybersecurity, Hybrid Work, And Putting Partners First

At WOTC East 2023 keynoters and panelists discussed some hybrid work, upping your social media game, and cybersecurity. Here’s what five leaders from the likes of Dell and IBM had to say.


2023 proved to be another busy year for IT channel executives but getting the job done, whether it be in sales, marketing, or engineering, was only part of the challenge.

There are many trends in the IT industry that are reshaping the way companies are thinking about the workplace and their employees, such as the talent gap and hybrid work. Some of these trends are magnified for women employees, according to executives that took the stage at CRN parent The Channel Company’s Women of the Channel East 2023 conference in New York City this week.

The event brought together more than 1,300 attendees to network and learn from one another. A couple of big topics of conversation on the mainstage included how to navigate hybrid work and employee wellness at a time in which some roles are more isolating than others. At the same time, the merits of being in the office for some employees, especially younger women on the rise, was debated.

At WOTC East, keynote speakers and panelists shared their takes on some of the biggest challenges and trends facing the IT channel today and how they and their companies are working through those issues. They also shared their personal stories on ways they are growing their own careers and establishing better relationships with customers.

Here’s what five IT leaders had to say at WOTC East 2023.

Lori Cornmesser, SVP, Global Channels & Alliances, Deepwatch, On Navigating Hybrid Work and Employee Wellness

“When you’re fully remote, the people experience becomes the number one priority. Our people team spend a lot of time on personal development and different ways to connect people on Zoom. And really, that becomes the way that they’re addressing mental and physical health. -- that becomes a concern -- people feel isolated and alone. For a lot of us in different roles, like sales, we’re on the road. We get to touch people and go into offices, but think about my engineering team, they’re just behind a computer all day and they feel very lonely. I think it’s a lot of experimental pieces of what works and what doesn’t and a lot of feedback from the teams. But the other the other aspect of that is, we suffer from communication issues, right? That’s the other thing that starts to happen when you’re fully remote. Even though we’re a smaller company, you’d be amazed at how fast something travels and by the time it gets to person five, it’s like: ‘OK, wait, what?’ So, we have to really balance that. We’re working on it. I wouldn’t say that we perfected it. But it’s an intention for the company.”

Amy Appleyard, Chief Revenue Officer, LastPass, On The Lack Of Women In Cybersecurity

“Cybersecurity is an incredibly complex industry. It is an industry that has over 3,500 vendors within 16 different markets. But it is also one that does not have a lot of women. It’s wildly underrepresented as 24 percent of the [cybersecurity] workforce is women. What’s interesting is it’s an industry that thrives on collaboration between customers, researchers, vendors and partners, and that’s an area where women really shine.”

Cheryl Cook, SVP, Global Channel Marketing, Dell Technologies, On Using Social Media Authentically

“There’s a way that we can build relationships and connections online, but it has to be authentic. It ultimately is going to help us build trust. We’re in the people business. At the end of the day, people buy from people. We all talk about [how] the buyer’s journey has changed. We all grew up selling into the IT department. And now technology is just so pervasive across the business, we have to be able to connect with where our buyers are … [With social media] you get to know what I love, what I’m passionate about, and it helps foster a little bit of credibility and trust. I actually think, done well, you can really build relationships. Engage with your peers when you see a post. Write comments that are authentic, and that will absolutely drive a little bit of your followership.”

Laura DuBois, GVP, Product Management, N-able, On Being In The Office

“There’s something very real called proximity bias. [It’s] a bias that we all have as humans, that we are recalling proximity -- the people that you’ve seen last or the people that you’ve just spoken to. That’s hard to overcome if someone has a bias around proximity. You can be fabulous in a Zoom call, but I also think for women coming up, there is an advantage to have proximity. I think that’s a reality, and maybe it will change. I do think there is an element of generational dynamics here.”

Kate Woolley, General Manager, Ecosystem, IBM, On Companywide Transformation

“I was thinking about why we believe in transformation at IBM. If we take a step back and think about what our clients want, what all of our collective clients want, and they want us to meet them where they’re at. They want the technical expertise, they want value, they want innovation. There are partners who are not just playing us together, but who are actually working together and actively working together to bring the best solutions to them. That’s really at the heart of the transformation that IBM has undergone and it’s still ongoing. We still [have] a lot more to do.”