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Red Hat Channel Reorg: Meet New Chief Stefanie Chiras

Chiras has a doctorate in materials science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and worked at IBM for about 18 years before joining Red Hat in 2018.

IBM subsidiary Red Hat wants partners this year to see a more unified experience across its sales, business development, marketing and other teams. And the person at the forefront of this transition is Stefanie Chiras, who was recently moved into the role of Red Hat’s channel chief at the same time as the departure of several high-ranking channel executives.

Chiras – whose formal title is senior vice president of partner ecosystem success – said her goal is to improve how Red Hat works with partners through a simpler build and sell process and greater cross-ecosystem collaboration to solve customer needs. Partners can also expect to see more collaboration announcements from Red Hat with the leading public cloud providers – not just parent company IBM.

“We don’t solve problems by ourselves as Red Hat,” Chiras told CRN in an interview. “We’re a platform company. We want to make sure that we’re making it easy for customers to use the technology with all the surrounding capabilities that are needed.”

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Chiras’ promotion was announced in November along with the retirement of Mark Enzweiler as senior vice president of global partners and alliances.

Steve Mungall retired as Red Hat’s vice president of global partners and alliances in December.

Former Red Hat Vice President of Sales and Services for North America Ernest Jones – named to CRN’s 2021 Channel Chiefs list alongside Enzweiler, Mungall and Terri Hall – left Red Hat in December. He joined Amazon Web Services as general manager, head of sales, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Hall – who held the title of vice president of global strategic alliances – “recently decided to leave Red Hat to pursue other career opportunities,” according to a company spokesperson.

Enzweiler Leaves After 40 Years In The Channel 

Enzweiler – who spoke to CRN before his retirement at the end of 2021 – praised the selection of Chiras as channel chief.

The former Red Hat senior vice president – who joined Red Hat in 2006 after 25 years with IBM in various partner leadership roles – said Red Hat has always worked with partners.

More than 75 percent of the company’s volumes go through partners, he said. But the company has room to improve. He particularly praised Chiras’ focus on multi-partner collaboration.

“We‘ve always been a company that partnered, but we’ve never really been a partner company,” Enzweiler said. “We will absolutely be coming to them with these adjacent technologies or adjacent partnerships … This is not a spectator sport for us. We can‘t sit on the sidelines and watch.”

He also advised partners to own their specialities and expand into a new technology or adding a new service because it’s trendy.

“If you’re great at this particular technology, you’ve invested in a very successful practice here, stay there and let the other pieces come to you,” Enzweiler said. “You’ll end up getting more in the long run.”

Technical Background

Chiras brings a product and technical background to the role of channel chief. She attained a doctorate in materials science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and worked at IBM for 17 years before joining Red Hat in 2018 as vice president and general manager of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) business unit. IBM closed its $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat in 2019.

In July, Chiras became the senior vice president of the Red Hat Platforms Business Group, which included responsibility for executing the cross-platform strategy for OpenShift, RHEL and other Red Hat products.

Chiras’ team reports to Larry Stack, executive vice president of global sales and services, and Matt Hicks, executive vice president of products and technologies.

“To me that’s very important because it is a go-to-market team where we work hand in hand with our partners, which covers both the ability to build and the ability to sell and the ability to co-sell and it pulls that into one, which is quite new for us,” Chiras said. “That’s core to the transformation.”

The Partner Ecosystem Success organization is led by a team of partner executives who previously sat in the sales and product and technologies business units. Chiras’ direct reports include Lars Herrmann, Steve Erdman, Maryam Zand, Rob McMahon, Ryan King, Greg Filardi and Connie Noyes.

Although Red Hat doesn’t disclose investment numbers or headcount growth in the partner ecosystem, it has hired nearly 3,000 new associates in 2021, now totaling 19,500 associates worldwide. Red Hat has also reallocated existing resources to support the partner ecosystem and encourage internal collaboration, according to the company.

The company has also worked with Boston Consulting Group for the past eight months as part of its restructuring, according to the company.

Notably, Jim Whitehurst – the former CEO at Red Hat who served as president of IBM until July, switching to a senior adviser role – worked at BCG for about 12 years, according to his LinkedIn account.

A Business Approach Beyond Sales 

Joe Dickman, senior vice president of Vizuri – a Herndon, Va.-based subsidiary of federal systems integrator AEM Corp. and Red Hat partner – told CRN in an interview that Chiras’ technical background is “crucial” for the company’s channel program.

“Red Hat technologies have been used for decades within organizations, but the complexity of transforming a customer’s business requires a new approach that does not just involve sales,” Dickman said. “Stefanie’s impressive engineering background is crucial in moving forward the new ecosystem both within internal Red Hat teams and partners. Engineers solve complex problems and design solutions. That is the future for Red Hat Partners – to be both problem solvers and solution providers.”

Dickman said he hopes to see Red Hat continue to deepen its partnerships with vendors such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services.

Last year, Red Hat and AWS announced the general availability of Red Hat OpenShift Service on AWS (ROSA). The managed service is meant to simplify how users build, scale and manage OpenShift Kubernetes clusters on AWS.

Red Hat also announced Ansible Automation Platform on Microsoft Azure to help with automating across hybrid clouds and edge deployments and Azure Red Hat OpenShift (ARO) for U.S. Government to give public sector users a joint-managed, supported enterprise Kubernetes service with the cloud.

Chiras said her goal is to bring together cloud partners, global and regional integrators, hardware partners, independent software vendors and other types of companies that work with Red Hat to provide services for customers.

“We are the nucleus to the transformation within Red Hat to focus on the ecosystem because it is a companywide effort,” she said. “Ecosystem is not one team‘s mission. It is the entire company of how we engage in that. There’s an organizational shift that I feel puts us in a position in order to engage differently with the channel and with partners.”

In November, Red Hat announced improvements to the functionality and user interface of the Partner Training Portal, including a new catalog experience, new and enhanced filters for content and more details for courses and learning paths.

Earlier this month, Red Hat announced the results of a Forrester study the company commissioned on partner opportunities. The study found that OpenShift creates a potential revenue opportunity for partners more than double the subscription revenues through implementation and ongoing management services, that Red Hat partners average a 10 percent gross margin on selling OpenShift subscriptions and that Red Hat partners average 70 percent gross margin on building and selling technology services.

Partners also reported the number of new deals growing an average of 30 percent a year when OpenShift is included, according to Red Hat.

According to Chiras, technologies that Red Hat is investing in this year include those that enable edge computing – including 5G – artificial intelligence and machine learning. Red Hat wants to help partners offer more managed services to customers, Chiras said.

“There’s a real appetite for customers to be able to get easy access,” Chiras said. “And we’re looking forward to bringing in and expanding our relationships with the public cloud providers, folks like AWS and Azure.”

Chiras said more information will come about how Red Hat field teams will work with partners. The company’s virtual North America Sales Kickoff event this week will provide more information.

“Red Hat is built on the channel,” Chiras said. “Our technology, our goal, our culture is built upon collaboration. Our intention as a platform company is to work with those partners who help bring our value to our customers.”

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