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Channel Champion Steve Pataky To Depart SonicWall After Three Years

SonicWall said Pataky will be replaced by Bob VanKirk, who has spent nearly two years spearheading SonicWall's efforts with the U.S. government and key strategic partners.

SonicWall sales and channel leader Steve Pataky will depart this spring after guiding the company through its spinoff from Dell and pushing its capabilities upmarket.

The Milpitas, Calif.-based company said Pataky will be replaced by Bob VanKirk, who has spent nearly two years spearheading SonicWall's efforts in key verticals, the U.S. federal government, and with key strategic partners. Pataky joined the company in early 2016 back when it was still part of Dell, and plans to remain with the company through April to assist with the transition.

"I was frankly in need of a break personally, and wanted to spend some time with my family," Pataky told CRN. "I really felt it was time to recharge my batteries."

[Related: SonicWall Puts Cisco, Fortinet In Crosshairs With Push Upmarket]

Pataky has helped SonicWall generate some $700 million in deal registration and grow its partner program to more than 17,600 solution providers after separating from Dell in November 2016. He joined SonicWall after driving stratospheric growth at FireEye, and has been a regular on CRN's annual Most Influential Channel Chiefs and Top Sales Leaders lists.

Solutions Granted President Michael Crean has "ridiculous admiration" for Pataky, saying that Pataky's eagerness to mentor the channel and ability to explain why a decision is made without compromising his own integrity make the man "one in a million." Crean considers Pataky to be a "good friend" who demonstrates his deep commitment to the channel by responding to calls and texts almost immediately.

"Business can be incredibly cutthroat and nasty and difficult, but Steve is none of those things," Crean told CRN. "He is genuine, he is honest, he is kind, he is compassionate, he is caring, and he is honest. Those are all the qualities that you want in your best friend."

Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based LAN Infotech, appreciated Pataky's willingness to pound the pavement and work the room at local events, going around to introduce himself and shake everyone's hand. And from a programmatic standpoint, Goldstein said Pataky made SonicWall's partner program much stronger through several overhauls.

"Steve [Pataky] has always been a straight shooter in laying things out," Goldstein told CRN. "I think he brought SonicWall back to the grassroots of where they first started."

Pataky said he's most proud of being able to reward the partners that stuck with SonicWall through the Dell years and reconstitute a loyal channel following that had really invested in their security practices. The partners Pataky hoped would stick with the company actually did, and new technologies, services and margin opportunities attracted a whole new generation of partners to the company, he said.

After departing SonicWall, Pataky said he hopes to lay on a beach somewhere and spend time with his younger 13-year-old daughter before she starts high school and help his older daughter who just graduated college relocate. Eventually, though, Pataky said he expects to get back in the channel game.

"SonicWall is a precious thing in the channel," Pataky said. "I couldn't be more thrilled to turn this over to Bob [VanKirk] and HoJin [Kim, VP of global channel sales]."

SonicWall CEO Bill Conner decided to tap VanKirk to replace Pataky thanks to his performance in the enterprise space and ability to squeeze out aggressive growth in the U.S. federal government space, where the company historically hasn't been as strong. Conner expects VanKirk to build off everything Pataky has done around supporting both SMB and strategic partners under a single strategic umbrella.

VanKirk's first official day as chief revenue officer was Tuesday, and he said he plans to double down on driving direct touch and awareness for partners by providing additional training and support. He plans to work closely with SonicWall's engineering and product management team around the company's future roadmap.

Conner said VanKirk will initially be focused on preparing his team and the appropriate marketing resources to support new capabilities and product innovations that SonicWall plans to roll out in the next 30 to 60 days. Specifically, he said VanKirk will be responsible for staying in the loop on what's coming technologically and communicating that information out to partners so that they're prepared.

Crean of Woodbridge, Va.-based Solutions Granted said he's been impressed by VanKirk's honesty and work ethic in their initial dealing with one another. Specifically, Crean said VanKirk has been very responsive when he has reached out to ask for advice.

"I'm hoping that Bob [VanKirk] becomes Steve [Pataky] 2.0, with his own flair and own way of doing things," Crean said.

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