CRN Women Of The Year 2023: The Winners

At a ceremony held at the world-famous Plaza Hotel in New York, CRN and parent The Channel Company handed out trophies in 15 categories to women, allies and companies, a months-long process that began in June when the application was opened, included two rounds of judging and culminated with the 2023 Women of the Year Awards Gala event.

CRN gathered some of the IT channel’s top leaders Tuesday night in New York to honor the winners of the inaugural Women of the Year Awards.

At a ceremony held at the world-famous Plaza Hotel, CRN and parent The Channel Company recognized some of the channel’s most remarkable women, with the aim of not only spotlighting their achievements but also inspiring future leaders who will shape and grow the IT channel for years to come.

Over the course of the evening, CRN handed out trophies in 15 categories to women, allies and companies, a months-long process that began in June when the application was opened, included two rounds of judging and culminated with the 2023 Women of the Year Awards Gala event.

The evening also included the naming of the Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

Round one judges included editorial staff from CRN as well as leaders from The Channel Company’s Women of the Channel Community and Inclusive Leadership Network, who determined a list of finalists. In the second round, CRN editorial staff were joined by members of the IT channel industry as judges to determine the winners.

Here’s a look at the winners of the first-ever CRN Women of the Year Awards.

Dell Technologies

Community Impact Award

The Community Impact Award honors the philanthropic actions a company has taken to improve the world around us.

In this age of the growing digital divide, one of Dell’s founding principles is that everyone should have easy access to the best technology. Today, it is partnering with a number of organizations to foster digital inclusion and provide access to the tools, skills and resources underrepresented communities need to participate in a digital society.

Cheryl Cook (right), senior vice president of global partner marketing at Dell, accepted the award from Jacquie Rives, Women of the Channel Community Leader and Program Director at The Channel Company.

Schneider Electric

Diversity Employer of the Year Award

The Diversity Employer of the Year award recognizes an organization leading the industry in building an atmosphere in which a diverse workforce thrives.

The winner, Schneider Electric, is a champion for inclusive leadership that promotes a culture of belonging while providing equitable opportunities to employees around the globe. More than 99 percent of its staff falls under a comprehensive global pay equity review system.

In addition, the company has embraced an artificial intelligence-powered talent development platform. The AI tool eliminates biases, ensuring seamless alignment of new career prospects with their current employees. With a workforce spanning 109 countries and encompassing 182 nationalities, diversity is ingrained in the very fabric of the company.

Eileen Bishop (right), director of channel marketing and strategic execution at Schneider Electric, accepted the award from The Channel Company DEI Community Leader Cass Cooper.


Gender Parity Award

The Gender Parity Award is given to an organization with a strong track record of nurturing talent among women employees with hallmarks such as a diverse workforce, professional development opportunities for women and a high percentage of women in leadership roles.

This year’s winner, Caylent, has established a board to drive its DEI efforts and advance gender parity within the organization. The success of its efforts can be seen in the following statistics: More than half of the company’s leadership team is composed of women; women make up 25 percent of its workforce—up from 10 percent in the last year; and 28 percent of all women at the company received promotions in the last year.

Valerie Henderson (left), president and CRO at Caylent, accepted the award from The Channel Company’s Jacquie Rives.

John Dathan, Insight Enterprises

Ally of the Year Award

People of all genders have a vested interest in seeing women succeed in tech. In that spirit, the Ally of the Year Award spotlights men who are working to foster gender equality in the channel through sponsorship and advocacy.

Winner John Dathan, senior vice president and general manager, Canada, at Insight Enterprises, is an active ally for gender equality and diversity, participating in multiple women-focused IT organizations as well as allyship workshops at his company. He uses his position to seek out career development opportunities for women colleagues and urges them to grasp them. His passion is fueled by his experience as a single father raising a daughter.

Dathan accepted the award from The Channel Company’s Cass Cooper.

Ola Witukiewicz, ScalePad

Hidden Gem Award

The Hidden Gem category recognizes a woman who shines brightly even when no one is looking, someone whose organization knows she is indispensable but whose hard work rarely makes the spotlight.

The winner, Ola Witukiewicz, senior manager of channel engagement at ScalePad, is committed to promoting a supportive community and facilitating knowledge-sharing among her peers. She runs her company’s Partner Advisory Council, which she has doubled in size to 80 members this year, and her achievements include the launch of a monthly peer-to-peer networking hour for council members where they discuss challenges and learn from one another.

Witukiewicz (right) accepted the award from CRN Senior Associate Editor CJ Fairfield.

Caroline Berith, SHI International

Rising Star–Solution Provider Award

The Rising Star of the Year award goes to a promising up-and-coming woman at a solution provider organization.

The recipient of this award, Caroline Berith, head of growth marketing and demand generation at SHI International, began her career working in sales for professional sports organizations, which she credits for her “scrappy marketing style.”

Today she is building a demand generation and growth marketing program to scale SHI’s sales efforts, expose customers to its broader portfolio and drive new business opportunities.

One networking vendor credits its 75 percent pipeline growth in the first quarter to new demand generation campaigns Berith built.

Berith (left) accepted the award from Andrea Medeiros, senior director of digital content at The Channel Company.

Ellen Smith Rose, IBM

Rising Star–Vendor/Distributor Award

The Rising Star of the Year Award for a Vendor or Distributor, which recognizes a woman making her mark on her way to the top, went to Ellen Smith Rose, North America client leader, Ingram Micro, for IBM.

Smith Rose (left) manages her company’s relationship with Ingram Micro, one of the world’s largest IT distributors, focusing on growing software revenue, driving growth in the national market and increasing partner recruitment. Under her leadership, the two companies’ teams have worked together to create a broader mission, vision and execution plan.

Smith Rose accepted the award from CRN’s CJ Fairfield.

Tracy-Ann Palmer, VMware by Broadcom

Executive Mentor Award

The Executive Mentor of the Year Award celebrates women who have a passion for growing others’ careers, proactively helping women build their skills and rise to leadership positions.

The winner, Tracy-Ann Palmer, vice president of partner experience, programs, investments and compliance at VMware by Broadcom, is a career-long advocate for women in technology.

She’s led VMware’s initiative to exceed executive goals in representation of both underrepresented groups and women through coaching and mentorship.

She sets a goal for herself to always make time to mentor and is known for her willingness to share knowledge.

Palmer (right) accepted the award from The Channel Company’s Andrea Medeiros.

Donna Grothjan

Lifetime Achievement Award

Donna Grothjan was named as the first-ever winner of the CRN Women of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award. A 33-year channel veteran, Grothjan drove profitable growth for thousands of solution providers. She is known for her unwavering commitment to partners, along with her impressive track record as a channel sales leader and partner advocate at Ingram Micro, Juniper Networks, Aruba Networks and most recently as worldwide channel chief at HPE Aruba Networking, a role from which she retired earlier this year.

“To receive this award, and I’m sure you all know, it’s never because of you—it’s because of the people around you,” Grothjan said in her acceptance speech as she thanked several mentors, former colleagues and peers, as well as her family, for contributing to her career success.

“In my lifetime I’ve been fortunate and proud that those I’ve named today, along with many others, to call them my family,” Grothjan said. “So I hope that you all have found or find your forever families.”

She received the award from Frank Vitagliano, CEO of the Global Technology Distribution Council, who has known Grothjan for 20 years and worked with her for 10.

“She was recognized numerous times as one of the leading channel chiefs in the industry, and I cannot tell you how many lives she has positively impacted,” Vitagliano said as he introduced Grothjan at the ceremony. “In addition, she became a tireless advocate for channel partners as she ensured that she understood the potential impact, good and bad, of any program implementation or changes that she wanted. She’s an amazing friend, confidant and mentor to many of us in the room.”

Christina Crowley, Dell

Role Model Award

With the IT industry desperately short of woman in the workforce, role models are essential. This award honors women who inspire their colleagues and lead by example, setting the bar for channel leadership success.

The winner, Christina Crowley, senior vice president of global partner services sales at Dell, believes it is her responsibility as a leader to impart her learning to others. She makes it part of her job to give back time in mentoring and sponsoring team members not only at her company, but also within her partner ecosystem and in her community. She also sees it as her duty to share her career story—including her vulnerabilities—in multiple forums so that others don’t feel alone.

Crowley (right) accepted the award from Jennifer Follett, vice president of U.S. content and executive editor of CRN at The Channel Company.

Valerie Berezuk, Intermedia

Marketing Executive Award

Marketing teams sit at the heart of many successful channel businesses. This award honors outstanding women in marketing who demonstrate quantifiable demand generation and increased brand awareness for their company.

The winner, Valerie Berezuk, head of channel marketing at Intermedia, has held a variety of marketing, sales and leadership positions during her career. She is passionate about the customer experience and believes that communication and collaboration between employees and customers is vital to a business’s ability to thrive. That passion has carried over to her current position, where she spearheaded a comprehensive overhaul of her company’s Channel Partner Loyalty Program to enhance partner engagement and satisfaction.

Berezuk (right) accepted the award from CRN Senior Editor Gina Narcisi.

Sandra Antoun, Vintage IT Solutions

Sales Executive – Solution Provider Award

Sales has always been the bedrock of the channel. This award goes to an outstanding woman solution provider sales executive with a proven track record for building strong customer ties and driving growth.

The winner, Sandra Antoun, director of sales and marketing at Vintage IT Solutions, has expanded her company’s client base and increased revenue through innovative marketing campaigns and strategic partnerships. Her focus on building strong relationships with clients and understanding their needs has helped position her company as a trusted partner for businesses looking to leverage technology to drive growth and success.

Antoun (left) accepted the award from CRN’s Jennifer Follett.

Jas Sood, Palo Alto Networks

Sales Executive–Vendor/Distributor Award

This award goes to an outstanding sales executive working for a vendor or distributor with an established ability to understand customer needs and help her team and her partners win deals.

The winner, Jas Sood, senior vice president of sales, U.S. enterprise, at Palo Alto Networks has a personal philosophy that the channel is “family,” where relationships are built on trust, partnership and transparency. She has worked over the past two and a half years to create a dynamic change in how her organization works with the channel. With her focus on strengthening customer relationships, her team outpaced her company’s growth expectation over the past year.

Sood (left) accepted the award from CRN’s Gina Narcisi.

Dawn Ringstaff, Cloudflare

Channel Innovator Award

The Channel Innovator of the Year Award celebrates trailblazing women with a fresh business perspective who have shown outstanding capacity to instigate channel evolution.

The winner, Dawn Ringstaff, head of partner development at Cloudflare, has many outstanding accomplishments to her credit, including spearheading the design of new specializations within her company’s partner program and developing a new MSSP Program, which opened up new partnering routes to market and significantly grew Cloudflare’s partner base.

Ringstaff (right) accepted the award from CRN’s Jennifer Follett.

Kellianne Vanderdys, SHI International

Woman of the Year–Solution Provider Award

This award goes to the executive who most deserves recognition for her achievements in the IT channel over the past year, inspiring others and bringing about significant success for her organization.

The winner, Kellianne Vanderdys, commercial area sales vice president for SHI International, over the last 12 months has transformed the commercial business unit at her company by hiring more than 150 new employees, promoting sellers into leaders and front-line managers into directors. In fact, she identifies “transformation” as the most motivating element of her current role, be it elevating leaders or helping individual contributors grow into more mature sellers. Her colleagues describe her as a fearless, well-rounded leader who moves mountains while still exuding compassion and curiosity. It’s no wonder, then, that she has found ways to help her company and its vendor partners fuel their engines for growth.

SHI’s Sarah Coller (left) accepted the award on Vanderdys’ behalf from CRN’s Gina Narcisi.

Stefanie Chiras, Red Hat

Woman of the Year Vendor/Distributor Award

The final award of the evening, Woman of the Year at a vendor or distributor, recognizes an executive who over the past year has been an all-around standout in terms of channel acumen and leadership.

This year the award went to a woman who sets her company’s global partner strategy and plays a critical role in articulating the value of its product portfolio for partners.

Over the past year, Stefanie Chiras, senior vice president of partner ecosystem success at Red Hat, has focused on establishing and delivering a worldwide ecosystem strategy to support her company’s scale as a global entity, including organizing a new centralized global partner team and establishing new best practices for co-creating with partners on a global basis. She brings to bear both her technical expertise and her appreciation for building lasting partner relationships to expand her channel’s cloud business.

Chiras (right) accepted the award from CRN’s Jennifer Follett.

Congratulations to all of the winners of the inaugural CRN Women of the Year Awards!