Women’s History Month: N-able’s Stefanie Hammond On Saying Yes, Staying Put And Being More Direct

‘I think I probably have one of the best jobs in the entire industry, and that’s pretty cool,’ said Stefanie Hammond, head nerd at N-able.

Stefanie Hammond’s secret to success is to say “yes” more often.

Hammond, head nerd at Burlington, Mass.-based vendor N-able and named to the CRN 2024 Channel Chief list, has been with the company for 19 years and credits much of her success to those who helped her get to the next step in her career, even when she didn’t believe in herself.

“I’m an introvert,” she told CRN. “It takes me a lot to put myself out there, but I knew that if people were asking me to do stuff, there must be a reason. Have confidence in yourself. If people are coming to you and asking you to do something, even if your immediate response is, ‘No, I can never do that,’ there's a reason why people are asking you. People see something in you, and you should embrace that, just say ‘yes.’ You never know what that experience could lead to and that has really been my mode.”

In her tenure in the IT channel, Hammond learned the importance of networking and being direct about career goals. While she didn’t always speak up, she realized the importance of it and is now teaching others how to find their own voice.

“I wasn't very good at that so I’m very appreciative that other people saw that and mapped a direction for me,” she said.

For Women’s History Month, CRN is profiling women in the channel about how they came up in the industry, lessons learned and what they want to pass on to others coming up in the IT channel.

Hammond spoke about how she landed at N-able by way of the banking industry, how she grew her career and how she found success.

How did you get into the channel?

My background is in finance and business administration. I actually came from the banking world, and I was working with one of the big banks here in Canada. I was doing loans, mortgages, investments and opening accounts but in the early 2000s we were still very DOS-based here in Canada. We were moving into upgrading all of our systems across Canada from our DOS into a Microsoft Windows environment. The bank put a team together across the country and we went out and we [weren’t the ones implementing] the technology, but I had to teach people how to use the new technology.

We were introducing a new CRM and I had to teach people how to use Word because they’d never had to do anything like that. I was put on a team where I managed teams and every week was in a different branch training. That project was about 18 months, and then they wanted to reinforce all of the sales and training behaviors with all the financial advisers across the country. I was living in Ottawa at the time, and they came up with this job called technology effectiveness coach. I moved into that role and got out of banking altogether. I was in charge of 54 branches and basically had to keep traveling and just reinforcing, ‘Here’s the new CRM that we put in. This is how you use it. Here’s Word and this is what we’re using it for. Here’s our new computer package.’

I was doing that for about a couple of years but all good roles like that, especially in a publicly traded company, you can kind of see the writing on the wall. I didn’t want to go back into a branch; I had too much fun doing this training. I noticed an ad in the newspaper, they were looking for partner development specialists at this company called N-able. I had no idea what N-able was, but I applied and got an interview. I couldn’t understand anything that this company did, but it was really interesting. Twenty years later and I’m still around this tech industry.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

In hindsight, my passion is actually nutrition and food science. I would have loved to have been a registered dietician. I would have loved to have taken a degree in food sciences as I’m fascinated by the way that food can help or hinder your health. It wouldn’t be business, it wouldn’t be tech—it would be food sciences. But I do enjoy where I’ve kind of fallen with my degree. I took everything from HR, accounting, economics and marketing, so it is kind of nice to come back full circle.

You’ve been at N-able for 19 years, what makes you continue to stay?

There are a few things. I think it is a fantastic company, they’ve been so good to me. I was their first remote worker before remote workers were even a thing. They’ve always had this vote of confidence [in me] and have always shown me the utmost respect. They’ve allowed me to really grow in different ways, even though I’ve always been an individual contributor. I hold that badge with a passion because I recognize my strengths are not in management but I’m a very good individual contributor. They’ve always given me great challenges and experiences, pushing me in ways where I never would have raised my hand. But because I’ve been with the company for so long, they recognized [it in] me even if I didn’t see it in myself.

I’ve been able to develop different qualities, different traits and different skills because of that. It’s nice that I’m thought about and respected enough for them to say, ‘Let’s bring Stefanie in and see what her opinion is on things.’ I’m not management, but I feel like in a lot of ways I’m treated in that way.

Who did you look up to when you were growing up?

I don’t know if I would have thought about it back then, but ... it’s people in my hometown, people at the grassroots level. It’s seeing people get out there helping their community, being involved in local charities and locals helping locals. A lot of my volunteer work in elementary school and high school was always with people that were dealing with issues facing our hometown. That’s still what I’m involved with today. I think we can build a better world if we can focus on local and helping our home. If we can build stronger homes and raise people up where we live, that only benefits the world as a whole. I wouldn’t say there was one individual person, but it was through my church, through my school, getting involved with charities and seeing people devote their time and their passions to really helping out our own. That’s what inspired me back then and continues to inspire me today.

Did you have any mentors early on in your career?

I know we joke that it takes a village to raise children, but I really feel it has taken the N-able village to get me to where I am today, especially when I got moved into sales. When I started, I was a partner development specialist. I was basically the infancy of account management, the infancy of partner and customer success. The salespeople did the sales, they brought the MSPs on board, and then my job was to help them grow their business and be successful, whatever that was back then because there was no playbook when I started. But then in 2011 I was going on vacation and just before leaving for vacation my boss told me, ‘Oh by the way, when you get back, you’re going to be a salesperson with sales targets.’

I had some fantastic mentors that just helped me through that because I was not a salesperson. To this day, I’ll say that I wasn't a salesperson. I’m not a salesperson. But I had some really great managers that recognized that sales wasn’t my background. My background was partner success and helping partners. They said, ‘Just take what you’re already doing, and the sales will come.’ They gave me that confidence.

I worked with David Weeks [vice president of partner experience] for several years. Mike Cullen was probably the biggest and best mentor that I’ve had. He was the one who actually raised me to where I am today. He was the one who created the head nerd role for me because he saw what I was doing on an individual territory basis at 100 partners at a time. He was really fascinated with, ‘What is Stefanie doing differently from all the other account managers where she’s hitting her numbers?’

He recognized that I was doing the training and the development. I was learning from David because David was very much that type of leader where he taught, he gave presentations, he taught us strategy and I just emulated that. It was Mike that really said, ‘Let’s pull you up to sales and take what you do at a 100-partner level and see if we can apply that to 25,000.’ That vote of confidence meant everything to me.

What’s the best career advice you've ever gotten?

Say ‘yes.’ Say ‘yes’ because it’s not in my nature. I’m an introvert. It takes me a lot to put myself out there, but I knew that if people were asking me to do stuff, there must be a reason. Have confidence in yourself. If people are coming to you and asking you to do something, even if your immediate response is, ‘No, I can never do that,’ there’s a reason why people are asking you. People see something in you, and you should embrace that, just say ‘yes.’ You never know what that experience could lead to, and that has really been my mode.

How is your experience as a mentor to others?

We actually have a formal mentorship program here at N-able. It started last year as a pilot and they’re expanding it now. I did raise my hand to say ‘yes,’ and I really have enjoyed it. I’m a mentor to a couple of partner success managers, formally and informally, and it’s just nice being able to pass my experiences along, especially to someone that’s new into the industry. This is a unique industry with a unique client base that runs a unique set of businesses. You can’t come in and just learn managed services.

I want to pass along the great positive experiences that I’ve had at N-able because the tendency is for people to jump ship [from one company to another], and I don’t want them to jump ship. I really take my role as a mentor to say, ‘There’s always ups and downs in every company. The grass is not always going to be greener on the other side. You need to stay put, you need to stick it out and you’ll be rewarded because of it.’ ... [I also tell them] you’re going to have your ups and downs but you’ll grow by going through them. A lot of my mentorship is around that.

How has the industry changed in the last 19 years for women?

I think we’re starting to see more and more women now. I love how we are really focused on building up women in this industry. You look around all these events and there’s not a whole lot of women to be had. But it’s a lot more than when I first started doing events in 2005. At N-able we’re having more and more women in senior leadership positions so you’re starting to see that, which I think is phenomenal.

What can the industry do more of for women in IT?

I think we still need to see more women in leadership and more women on stage at different events. When you go to events it’s still predominantly men up there on stage. I think N-able does a really good job in the past at our events but as an industry [CRN parent The Channel Company’s] Women of the Channel event is so awesome. It’s great to see different women from different areas with different experiences getting up there and giving those phenomenal keynotes. I’d like to see more of that.

What inspires you every day to make this industry better?

It is such a fantastic industry. It has so many nuances and I want people to come into this industry, stay in this industry and thrive in this industry. My whole role as head sales and marketing nerd is helping MSPs build profitable thriving businesses. We published our Horizons report and it surveyed 350 channel MSPs. One in four still say customer acquisition is a big challenge for their business, and that’s really how I want to, in my small way, make the industry better. I want to take the thousands of conversations that I’ve had with MSPs over the years and teach.

People are listening, they’re implementing it and they’re getting success from it. It still blows my mind 20 years later that people really value what I say. People take that and they’re able to build a better business because of it.

What’s been your secret to success?

I think staying put. People say, ‘Well, maybe you’re comfortable.’ But there’s a lot of benefit to be had, it goes back to getting to know a company and a company getting to know you. I haven’t been the most vocal in my career in saying, ‘I’d like to go here. I’d like to go there.’ I’ve just always just kept my head down, done my work, did it well but kind of stayed below the radar.

That’s actually what I would tell my younger self—be a little bit more forward, be a little bit more proactive. That’s really been my keys to success, staying put, building those relationships, building a network within my community and within N-able. Even though I may not know them, I’ve been around for so long that they know me or at least they know of me. Every day is different, and that keeps the job interesting. I think I probably have one of the best jobs in the entire industry, and that’s pretty cool.

What is some advice you’d give to women coming up in this space right now?

It’s the advice I'd give my younger self—be more direct. Be more vocal and know where you want to take your career. I wasn’t very good at that so I’m very appreciative that other people saw that and mapped a direction for me. ... And be a little bit more focused. Where are your paths for growth? Where are your paths for development? Then find a mentor that can help get you there, maybe open doors for you and help you develop a skill set so you can get into that direction. I wasn’t good at that and that’s something I wish I had maybe done a little bit differently.