Here’s Advice From 20 Channel Chiefs For Someone Just Starting Their Channel Career

Channel executives on the CRN 2024 Channel Chiefs list were asked to provide their advice for someone starting their career working in the channel. Here’s what 20 channel chiefs had to say.

Sage Advice

The more than 560 channel executives that make up the CRN 2024 Channel Chiefs list collectively have hundreds – likely multiple thousands – of years of channel experience.

That’s why this year, As part of the CRN 2024 Channel Chiefs project, we asked channel chiefs what advice they would have for someone starting their career working in the channel. Here’s what 20 had to say.

Amazon Web Services

Ruba Borno

VP, Worldwide Channels and Alliances

Develop deep expertise: My first piece of advice is to develop expertise in something you are passionate about to earn credibility and build confidence. Gaining a reputation as a subject matter expert will help increase your network as other leaders will seek out your opinion to solve unique challenges impacting their respective businesses.

Invest in growth and development: It's so important to take a chance on yourself in service of your own growth. Be thoughtful where you invest your time by optimizing for learning and your own development. It's OK to not be good at something at the start, and hone and build that skill, to help grow and diversify your skill set.

Understand the value of communications: Great ideas will get lost if they cannot be easily understood and lack inspiration to motivate buy-in. It is so important to develop your communications skills, both written and verbal, to be able to articulate vision and inspire growth.


Mark Taylor

North America Channel Chief

See the world from your customer's eyes first, know your technology deeply and be passionate about it. And then work harder than everyone else - that still matters.

Cato Networks

Frank Rauch

Global Channel Chief

Most successful channel people that I know have had direct sales jobs, some marketing and some operational experience. Build your experience, learn from the different roles, acquire different skills, and you will be so much more credible and effective in the channel. Focus on execution versus relationships. Relationships will be built and strengthened through execution. Finally, never stop learning because the channel never stops evolving.

Check Point Software Technologies

Francisco Criado

VP, Global Partner Ecosystems

Spend time learning all the aspects of the channel and the many influencers during the sales cycle. Never burn any bridges and keep a strong network both inside and outside of your company.

Cisco Systems

Marc Surplus

VP, Partner Strategy & Programs

I encourage people to learn about finance and how our partners make money. They should not underestimate the importance of variations in partner business models, how our partners' P&Ls work, and how Cisco's programs and incentives affect partners' investments and their profitability. These things can make all the difference in whether a relationship works or not.

Dell Technologies

Darren Sullivan

Senior VP, Global Partner Program and Operations

Spend as much time as possible listening to partners directly. Understanding the unique aspects of partner business models and learning opportunities for improvement and growth are invaluable. There's nothing like spending time onsite dedicated to listening and learning.


Herve Tardy

VP, Marketing & Strategy, Critical Power & Digital Infrastructure Division

This is a relationship business. Know who you are dealing with and only trust those with a good track record of delivering on their promises.


Ken McCray

VP, Channel Sales, U.S.

Set goals and hold yourself accountable to them. Always be willing to work cross-functionally to drive alignment, teamwork and accountability. Always be willing to ask for feedback. Take time to recharge when you need it.

Intermedia Cloud Communications

Jonathan McCormick


Stay focused, stay curious, stay attentive, and realize that one of the best ways to learn about how IT touches every aspect of the business and consumer worlds is from the vantage point of the channel. View your role in the channel as an immersive learning experience, providing real-world, hands-on training that can serve as a tremendous foundation for a successful, lasting career.


Jason Yelton

Head of Global Programs and Enablement

Two foundations, the first of which is networking. Through your career you'll be amazed at the number of individuals you'll intersect with multiple times. The channel is a small community, so take time to get to know those in the room – you'll never know when that may pay dividends. The second is your attitude. People may not remember the purpose of the meeting, but they will always remember how they felt in your presence.


Dave Rogers

Senior VP, Global Channels & Alliances

When mentoring individuals who are starting a career in the channel my first piece of advice is: "Show Up!" Be an active participant in the business and don't shy away from conflict. Channel sales gets messy sometimes and conflicts must be resolved, not left unaddressed. Ownership of your roles and responsibilities are keys to success. You will gain trust from your peers and leaders by navigating difficult and complex situations.


David Zember

Senior VP, Global Partners and Alliances

Work as a seller first, then work in the channel. Sellers and partners need to know that you've walked a mile in their shoes.


Juha Harkonen

VP, Commercial Partnerships

Find yourself a good mentor who can guide your journey. Not all lessons have to be learned the hard way.

Scale Computing

Scott Mann

Global Channel Chief and VP of International Sales

My advice is to remember that a sale will last a quarter, but a relationship will last a lifetime. Build bridges that will help shape your future and actively review your strengths and weaknesses and work on them both.

Schneider Electric

Gordon Lord

VP, U.S. Channel Sales Organization, Secure Power

Everyone wants to meet with the C-level [executives], the decision makers, the top of the organization. That top isn't where you should always start if you want longer term success. When I started in the field as a young seller, I tried to meet with everyone in the organization from inside sales, procurement, marketing, engineering, etc. Prove yourself day to day and earn the respect of those around you. That will help you be more relevant at the top!


Ken Marks

VP, Worldwide Channels

Understand your partners’ business. Take time to walk in their shoes and understand what they have to deal with on a daily basis and how ideas, programs and processes impact the bigger picture.


Michelle Ragusa-McBain

Global Channel Chief

Find as many diverse mentors as you can (in and out of your company, male, female, etc., different backgrounds and experiences). Everyone has their "superpowers" and at the end of the day that diversity of thought and perspective will make you that much stronger and more well-rounded – professionally and personally.


Gregg Machon

VP, Worldwide Channels

I'm so fortunate to have spent the first half of my career in sales and sales leadership because I have a hands-on and very intimate understanding of how customers think and buy and how sellers build those relationships with them to influence their buying journey. So, I firmly believe that the BEST folks in the channel are ones that have that sales experience and can help their channel partners succeed.

If you're looking to have a career in the channel, I'd say do it! But, start out in the field working directly with customers. Then make the pivot once you've had some successes and can apply your experiences to a larger group of partner field sellers. It's an amazing career that can have a positive impact on so many others!

Wasabi Technologies

Marty Falaro

Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer

Learn everything you can about the channels and how they can help your company scale by providing go-to-market power that your company cannot provide without them. Find a channel expert in your company who you can learn from and invest time in doing so. Set your sights on becoming a channel expert and be open to learning and feedback from your partners and experts in your own company. There is no shortcut for experience.


Jeff Echols

VP, Channel & Strategic Partnerships

Your word is gold. When you say you're going to do something, you need to follow up and do it. Partnership for our business – and any business – is built on trust. When you over-commit yourself and don't follow through, you're undermining the trust you have or could have. So, follow up on the commitments you've made to build and strengthen those partnerships.