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New VMware Americas Channel Chief Tara Fine: Why It’s ‘All Hands On Deck’ For Partners

O’Ryan Johnson

“At the core, I’m a partner advocate. Internally, externally I am committed to being the voice of our partners to influence our strategy. With or without Broadcom, that doesn’t change,” Tara Fine told CRN in her first interview since taking the role.

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The New Americas’ Channel Chief for VMware Tara Fine is uncompromising in her commitment to the partner ecosystem vowing she will be with “the voice of the partner” whether or not Broadcom’s $61 billion plan to buy the company comes to fruition.

“Over the last six years that I’ve been at VMware, I’ve worked with my predecessor to really deeply understand this business, and where the challenges are,” she told CRN in her first interview since being named to the job. “I know where we need to improve. That being said, at the core, I’m a partner advocate, internally, externally I am committing to being the voice of our partners to influence our strategy. With or without Broadcom, that doesn’t change.”

[RELATED: Broadcom CEO Hock Tan On VMware: ‘We Can Offer Better Products Without Raising Prices’]

She said while much of her 25-year career has been focused in Canada, she is looking forward to talking with and learning from partners across the continent.

“This role, while similar, it’s a broader scope. The difference today is I get to be a trusted advisor as we go to market in our partner program,” Fine said. “For me, I just couldn’t be more excited about that. I am committed to continuing to listen to our partners. I don’t know it all.”

Fine reports to senior vice president and general manager of Americas Sales Dan Zugelder.

Ricky Cooper remains the company’s global channel chief as head of worldwide channel and commercial sales at VMware

Fine spent 19 years with Dell Technologies where she was promoted to sales manager at the age of 25. Then she was named the first Canadian Channel Chief, responsible for developing and executing the go-to market strategy for the Dell Technologies Partner ecosystem in Canada.

VMware’s partner-facing team has taken some hits following chipmaker Broadcom’s announcement in May that it would acquire the company. Former VMware channel chief Sandy Hogan left to become the Chief Revenue Officer at solution providers SADA, while former North American Channel Chief Bill Swales left for a role at Lenovo.

The $61 billion acquisition of VMware was approved by company shareholders on Nov. 4, however regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are taking a close look at the merger, with US authorities with the Federal Trade Commission more than 120-days into a “second request” investigation of the deal.

Broadcom has said it anticipated a close look by authorities owing to the size of the potential merger.

The European Commission stated this week it was informed of the deal by Broadcom. It too has just undertaken a “phase one” investigation. It could have a decision by Dec. 20 to either approve the deal or carry out a more lengthy investigation.

Fine took a break from her first moments in the role to speak with CRN.

A lot of folks have talked about where the value lies in the merger with Broadcom, and from different perspectives, but for you now with responsibility for the partner ecosystem, what are you telling partners when they ask you about how this is going to help their business, and help them make money? 

Let me try to answer that in a couple of different ways. Number one, in terms of the Broadcom question, we are still an independent company. Still operating our go to market strategy as we have built it out. I think in terms of Broadcom, based on what we are hearing, if that acquisition goes through. Hock Tan has just come out with a recent blog stating how important partners are to our ecosystem.

Its going to be incredibly important moving forward. So I am incredibly optimistic about the role our partners are going to play in our future. I also know that the leadership team here has been advocating for them to be a core element of our go to market. So, a lot we don’t know. In terms of the way it is today, we’re ‘All hands on deck’ in terms of the criticality of our partners as we move forward in this multi-cloud world.

What’s it like to have responsibility for an organization that has been such a big talking point of hot tan. Can you talk to me as little about where your objectives are and how you are approaching this, in terms of taking on a responsibility that has been a headline? 

What I can tell you is over the last six years that I’ve been at VMware, I’ve worked with my predecessor to really deeply understand this business, where the challenges are. I know where we need to improve. That being said, at the core, I’m a partner advocate, internally, externally I am committed to being the voice of our partners to influence our strategy. With or without Broadcom, that doesn’t change.

That being said, while I’ve been part of this organization, I’ve been part of the organization leading the Canadian ecosystem. This role, while similar, it’s a broader scope. The difference today is I get to be a trusted advisor as we go to market in our partner program. For me, I just couldn’t be more excited about that. I am committed to continuing to listen to our partners. I don’t know it all.

In fact, I was on multiple calls this morning getting partner feedback. We were at a federal partner event on Wednesday in Virginia, really just taking it all in and trying to understand what are the key areas that we need to go solve, so that our partners will continue to make money with VMware and infact continue to be a more integral part in how we go to market, in the future.

That’s where my head is focused.

What are the biggest challenges facing the VMware partners in the Americas and how are you and VMware helping partners meet those challenges? 

I would say the first one is we have to simplify. I think we’re complex and we need to simplify. I think simplification is a superpower. It sounds easy. Its not. We have to figure out how to go do that. Understand where the root of the problems are in terms of what those partner challenges are and understanding what those kind of two or three areas, urgently that we have to fix, and be maniacally focused on those.

I know we try to accomplish a lot. I think we need to really hone in in terms of making a real difference in some of those areas for our partners. You know, we’ve evolved a lot in the last few years, both in terms of our solution set, our go to market, our routes to market, different buying vehicles, different types of partner communities. How do we work with multiple communities at the same time?

Its complex. Anything we can do to just to help simplify that will have a direct positive impact on our partners and ultimately on the customers that we work with.

What are you telling partners about how to prepare for a possible economic downturn? 

Something that in my experience that I have seen is always being focused on what’s best for the customer. If we stay focused on that and delivering outcomes for our customers it solves for itself in that way. I think that’s how we add value. We need to stay focused on that. We’re all in this together. I think everyone is going to be challenged. The more we can help our customers with those challenges, the more we will differentiate ourselves in the market.

What’s your message to partners with all of the motion surrounding the VMware channel, Broadcom’s take over, economic headwinds, so forth? 

I don’t take it lightly that our partners have put their trust in us and invested in us. We’re focused on continuing to deliver those exceptional outcomes and continuing to build and grow that trust with our partners.

That’s at the core and center of it all. It is my passion to help our partners succeed and building a

O’Ryan Johnson

O’Ryan Johnson is a veteran news reporter. He covers the data center beat for CRN and hopes to hear from channel partners about how he can improve his coverage and write the stories they want to read. He can be reached at ojohnson@thechannelcompany.com..

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