Channel Legend Vitagliano Thanks Mentors, Family In Heartfelt IT Hall Of Fame Induction Speech
Frank Vitagliano, a beloved channel stalwart whose honesty, reliability and relationship-building skills fueled more than four decades of tremendous IT sales achievement, acknowledged his IT Hall of Fame induction with gratitude and humility during an acceptance speech given late Tuesday night.
With throngs of channel titans in attendance for the ceremony, which took at place at The Channel Company's XChange 2017 conference in Orlando, Fla., Vitagliano thanked his wife, his daughter and a handful of industry mentors whom he felt were instrumental to his long and successful career.
"If I tried to pick one word [to describe my feelings], it wouldn't be proud, although I'm certainly that. It wouldn't be satisfied, because I honestly believe you can never be satisfied. There's always more you can do," Vitagliano said. "It would be thankful. I have a lot to be thankful for."
A 33-year veteran of IBM who went on to hold leadership roles with Juniper, Dell and most recently Computex Technology Solutions, where he is president and CEO, Vitagliano peppered his speech with jokes – many of them self-deprecating – and reminisced.
Vitagliano's voice wavered when remembering his late father, also named Frank, a lifelong truck driver who in 1972 helped his son land a job working in the IBM mail room.
"He wanted me to do well, whatever profession I chose, I'm pretty sure he didn't think there'd ever be a chance that his son would get into the IT Hall of Fame," he said.
Vitagliano recounted how his father would help him make his tie every day before work. A few years later, he recalled the elder Frank preventing him from leaving IBM to run his uncle's tuxedo rental shop.
"He made it clear in no uncertain terms that it wasn't going to happen," Vitagliano said. "For some strange reason, I listened to him. He was right. That was my second break."
Vitagliano acknowledged Jane Vitagliano, his wife of 40 years, for her unwavering support throughout his IT career.
"Whatever success I've had, she's been right there along with me and was a major part of it," he said. "I could not have done it without her."
Vitagliano also made it a point to express how proud he was of his daughter, Jillian, a third-grade school teacher in Atlanta. He said XChange 2017 was the first IT industry event she had ever attended.
"Those of us that work in this industry get caught up in what we do every day," he said. "She does something that really matters and will have an enormous impact on the lives of hundreds upon thousands of young children."
Two of Vitagliano's early mentors at IBM also earned praise: former general manager of distribution channels marketing Dave Boucher, a fellow IT Hall of Fame inductee, and former supplies business manager Ross Venuti.
Venuti gave Vitagliano his first sales job, which had him selling typewriter ribbons and type balls. Venuti was an unfailing source of advice and guidance throughout his career, Vitagliano said, as well as a role model who helped shape him into the tremendous channel chief he became.
"One of the nicest human beings you'll ever meet," he said of Venuti. "He's calm, genuine, the nicest person there is. For years, about the worst I could get from him was, 'good grief.' Who says good grief?"
Boucher didn't boast the same friendly demeanor as Venuti, Vitagliano joked. But the former IBM channel chief was the finest salesperson in the business Vitagliano can ever remember meeting, and he learned a vital lesson from Boucher early in his career.
While working in Atlanta, a then-homesick Vitagliano remembered wanting to transfer to a position in his hometown of Boston. Boucher told Vitagliano he could take the job if he wanted, but really pressed him to think about whether that was the best move for his career. If Vitagliano stayed in Atlanta, Boucher said he would accelerate his career trajectory.
Ultimately, Vitagliano did stay, and Boucher followed through on his promise.
"I learned you have to be honest with people, give them your word, you then do what you say you're going to do and it'll work out," Vitagliano said.
In addition, Vitagliano credited colleagues Steve Pataky and Donna Grothjan for significantly influencing the success he enjoyed as SVP of global channels at Juniper. Without them, he said, those achievements would not have been possible.
As he enters the IT Hall of Fame, Vitagliano will be enshrined alongside the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and other titans of the industry.
Bob Faletra, CEO of The Channel Company, noted that while Vitagliano may not have the same heights of fame and fortune of those giants, Vitagliano taught him and countless others in the channel about values that truly matter – honesty, integrity, loyalty, hard work and listening to everyone.
"I am more honored to give out this award tonight than [with] any of them," Faletra said.
Vitagliano, a native of East Cambridge, Mass. and an avowed Boston Red Sox fan, closed his induction speech with a quote credited to retired New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter: "Time flies, memories fade, but friends and relationships last forever."
"I believe in that, and I could not have said it better," he said.
As the ceremony ended, the entire room rose to its feet, applauding the man many of them affectionately know as "Frankie V."