Ruckus' Cheek Wins Channel Madness Crown

And then there was one.

After three weeks and more than 350,000 votes, Sandra Glaser Cheek of Ruckus Wireless is the champion and last woman standing in the 2016 CRN Channel Madness Tournament of Chiefs.

Her opponent in the final round, AT&T's Brooks McCorcle, garnered enough votes that she would have won last year's championship round, but it wasn't enough to win this year, and it was Cheek who dominated the championship matchup.

/**/ /**/

/**/ brightcove.createExperiences(); /**/

Sponsored post

Cheek got off like a shot and took an early lead. McCorcle found herself trailing and rallied to double her votes in the final 24 hours, but it wasn't enough to make up much ground against Cheek's formidable defense. Cheek held strong to grab the crown with 83 percent of the vote.

Although she's been with Ruckus only since September, Cheek is already making her mark at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor. Fans credit her with providing strength and leadership to the already well-loved Ruckus channel strategy.

Gordon Martin, president of Tulsa, Okla.-based Peak UpTime -- a leading cloud strategic service provider in the Southeast -- said he is not surprised Cheek won the CRN Channel Madness contest. In fact, Peak UpTime rates its channel partnerships and the work Cheek has done at Ruckus in the top tier.

"Sandra is the cream of the crop, one of the top channel leaders in the business," he said. "She is very good at seeing things through the prism and lens of the solution provider, while at the same time staying firm on what the value is for the manufacturer."

Solution providers also lauded Cheek for having both vision and the ability to execute on that vision.

"She has great ideas and has the mind share of management [at Ruckus] to help execute them," said Gary Berzack, chief technology officer and chief operating officer of eTribeca, a New York-based solution provider and Ruckus partner. "She's embraced the company and is looking to help with organic growth."

Cheek brings a certainty to the partner-vendor relationship that is sometimes missing with other vendors, said Martin. "Her yes means yes and her no means no," said Martin, noting that some channel chiefs put off partners with a "we'll look into that" response.

"Certainty is paramount in the solution provider business," says Martin. "Sandra provides certainty even in circumstances where you would like her to fall on your side a little more. You know she is going to deliver for you when she says something."

Martin said he is especially appreciative of Cheek's channel leadership skills in the current market. in which many solution providers are transforming their business. "You want to work with the top channel leaders when you are going through a change like this," he said.

Cheek credits the passion of Ruckus' roughly 5,000 active global partners for driving her victory, calling her win "shocking" given her short Ruckus tenure.

"It's pretty shocking," said Cheek, vice president of global channel sales and marketing at Ruckus, speaking to CRN from Germany, where Ruckus is hosting a partner event this week (at which even solution providers overseas told her they had voted for her in the tournament). "It's a testament to the passion our partners have for Ruckus. Many of us at Ruckus are new because we are a growing company, and we have honestly never worked for a company where partners are so passionate about the company itself, wanting the company to succeed and the products themselves, so I think that's why you're seeing something like this, with me being relatively new."

This week Cheek is set to take the wraps off plans to add specializations to the Ruckus program as well as tools and initiatives to make partners "more self-sufficient." The changes will take effect in 2017. Ruckus is also in the midst of adding a 20-person inside sales team for the first time, which will generate leads for the channel, Cheek said.

"I think the direction of the program that I'm going to be announcing this week is going to be really welcomed," she said. "I've test-driven it with a few partners just to make sure that we're on the right track, and that's another reason why we're giving it [until next year to launch.] We want to get partners' feedback."

Cheek said the pending acquisition of Ruckus by Brocade, announced this week, is not expected to impact Ruckus' channel plans.

McCorcle, president of AT&T Partner Solutions, also garnered tremendous support throughout the tournament.

"It reminds me that AT&T Partner Exchange is only made possible because of the solution providers we serve," McCorcle said via email. "Our program recently turned three, and we pride ourselves on the unique, innovative and collaborative way we continue to work with our more than 450 solution providers -- much like a start-up business within AT&T."

McCorcle pointed to new offerings in the AT&T portfolio as part of the reason solution providers are so excited about their partnerships with the telecom carrier, including a new wireless portfolio and the cloud-based AT&T Control Center for launching, managing and scaling Internet of Things deployments.

"These additions follow on the heels of the program offerings we made available to solution providers in 2015, including our Certification Achievement Program that provides a progressive learning experience, Order Status Tool that provides daily status updates on a customer’s order, Enablement Playbook that helps maximize their success and fuel their transformation to a recurring revenue model, as well as a handful of third-party provided as-a-service offerings that enable them to drive an enhanced experience, and more," she said.

Both Cheek and McCorcle were proud to be part of an all-female championship round.

"When I was voting throughout the competition, I was voting for the women. I was actually pretty glad I wasn't pitted against a woman [until the end]," Cheek said.

The performance of women in the tournament spotlights "the valuable role women play in shaping new ideas, new business models and new formulas for growth," McCorcle said.

She also joked that men of the channel should take notice.

"Sandra and I can clearly bring out the votes. Guys, remember that!" McCorcle said.

Steven Burke contributed to this story.