Cisco Names Insider as New North American Channel Chief

Cisco Systems Friday named insider Wendy Bahr as its new North American channel chief, filling the role vacated by Chuck Robbins last month.

As Cisco's new vice president of U.S./Canada channels, Bahr oversees all of the vendor's channel activities throughout North America. Her new post became effective January 7.

She fills a role that has been open for just over a month after her predecessor, Robbins, was promoted in early December to senior vice president of Cisco's U.S. commercial business.

Weny Bahr

"I'm really excited that we have someone in the role, Wendy Bahr, who can truly step up and build on Chuck's success, build on that really strong foundation that Chuck has put in place, but continue to innovate, really continue to be that good listener to our partners and that advocate to our partners back at Cisco," said Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of worldwide channels at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

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Goodwin also pointed to additional strengths such as Bahr's close relationships with Cisco solution providers, her experience in shaping Cisco channel initiatives such as the recent rollout of its Select certification for SMB partners and her innovation, demonstrated by the recent launch of Cisco's first virtual channel advisory board.

Bahr is a Cisco veteran of more than seven years. She has spent the last two-plus years in Cisco's channel organization, where she most recently served under Robbins as vice president of U.S. field channels for Cisco. Previously she was Cisco's vice president of U.S. commercial channels, leading the vendor's U.S. SMB channel business.

Before joining Cisco's channel team, Bahr spent about five years as an operations director within Cisco's field organization. Prior to Cisco, Bahr spent 10 years with Verizon, most recently as sales director for its enterprise sales group.

She is the first woman to hold the post of North American channel chief at Cisco.

Bahr said her diversified experience at Cisco will be brought to bear in her new role.

"I think the breadth and scope of my background, the deep relationships I've built with the segment leaders as well as being able to interface with partners when I was in the direct sales role gives me a very current perspective on the challenges that exist for our partners, for the direct sales team, and what I can do to bring them together more collaboratively, perhaps using our Web 2.0 tools in the future," Bahr said. "Those types of perspectives are very recent in my career here at Cisco, and I hope to bring those perspectives to help foster additional innovation in our channel program and ultimately to provide growth for all of us."

NEXT: Web 2.0 Will Help Partners Scale

Implementing collaborative tools to allow Cisco's channel and sales teams to work closely with solution providers is one of the key initiatives Bahr said she plans to focus on.

Collaboration tools will help Cisco meet the biggest challenges facing its channel partners: scalability, Bahr said.

"The good news is that we have an enormous, unprecedented opportunity. The challenge is as we continue to evolve, develop, and acquire new technologies, whether they be advanced technologies or emerging technologies, our partners have all kinds of concerns about how do they scale their business practices, how do they acquire top talent, how do they retain that talent, how do they ensure that the sales and technical skills of their field teams remain in line with the demands of the business," Bahr said. "Frankly, the synergy is that I worry about all of those same things."

Several solution providers said they are pleased with Cisco's choice of Bahr as the new North American channel chief.

"It's good for us because Wendy has always been a strong supporter of the commercial market, and that's where we play strongest with Cisco," said Deron Pearson, president and COO of Nexus IS, a solution provider in Valencia, Calif.

Pearson said he was pleased that Cisco chose an insider for the role. "It was my preference to have someone in there that we know with a strong track record," he said.

Benjamin Patz, president and CEO of Coleman Technologies, Orlando, Fla., said Bahr recently spent a whole day attending Coleman's last sales meeting.

"We're very upbeat about it. Wendy has a good grasp of partner needs," Patz said.

Solution providers said they don't want or expect Cisco to make any radical changes to its partner program, though they did offer a few areas of improvement for Bahr to focus on.

"Clearly Cisco's SmartNet service offering is still confusing to partners in the mechanics of the process. From a partner advocate point of view, it's something we've got to have fixed," Patz said.

Patz also said he'd like to see Cisco improve its business-to-business processes to make them easier and more automated.

But overall, solution providers said they just want Bahr to keep the Cisco channel program on its current track.

"We want her to continue to focus on partner profitability, which is something I know Chuck was keen on," Pearson said. "We just want to see that continue."