Jumping Ship: 10 Channel Execs Who Swam To The Competition

The Revolving Channel Door

The tech market can be a cutthroat, competitive atmosphere with fierce oppositions -- and executives who sometimes cross over enemy lines. While not all companies compete directly, many are trying to lure the same skilled professionals, and talent poaching has certainly become an issue for employers, as they find themselves continually trying to find ways to retain their top talent. Here's a few of the latest splashes channel executives made by "jumping ship," ranging from the newest to some who are fairly settled in their new roles, as well as a look at how they're fairing in their positions.

1. Meaghan Kelly

Meaghan Kelly left her position as Hewlett-Packard's vice president of channel strategy last June to join SAP, a Germany-based enterprise software company. After four years at HP, three of which she spent as head of the SMB Advisory Council, Kelly moved on to become SAP's vice president of global channel marketing -- where she works with partners to execute marketing that's profitable for both SAP and the vendors. Although HP and SAP aren't necessarily competitors in the enterprise, they certainly compete for talent. A year after her move, Kelly is still the vice president of global channel marketing at SAP.

Alex Rooney, vice president of Vision33, an Irvine, Calif.-based SAP partner said that, although he hasn't directly met Kelly, he has seen some positive changes in SAP's partnership lately. "[There's been] more dedicated resources on the Business One side ... [and] a more dedicated focus in terms of demand generation and product awareness," Rooney said. "I don't know if that's because of her, [but] the timing lines up at about a year ago."

2. Mark Sondergaard

Sondergaard was the vice president of sales and then senior vice president of provider relations at World Telecom Group for four years, until May when he joined the ranks of MessageBroadcast, another automated communications company. While at World Telecom Group, Sondergaard focused on building the company's markets in the Eastern and Central U.S. as well as the wholesale and government sector, eventually moving into the channel and building relationships with solution providers worldwide. As the vice president of channel sales at MessageBroadcast, Sondergaard is now in charge of building the company's formal partner program from scratch since the company was "largely unaware" of the channel until recently, MessageBroadcast CEO Bill Potter told CRN in May. While World Telecom Group and MessageBroadcast have recently partnered together, both companies focus on telecommunication automation, enterprise technology and selling to the channel -- vying for the same markets and essentially competing for the same customers and executive talent.

3. Tom LaRocca

After 12 years at Hewlett-Packard, LaRocca left to join Oracle last January as its vice president of worldwide product strategy and alliances. Before he left, LaRocca was the vice president of partner development and programs for the solutions partner organization and played an instrumental role in the formation of HP's PartnerONE program. HP and Oracle have been heated rivals for years, duking it out in the same database market -- including going to court last year over a contract Oracle had with HP to develop software for its servers. A year and a half later, LaRocca is now the senior vice president North American channels and alliances at Oracle.

4. David O'Callaghan

After taking an early retirement from Cisco in August 2011 and founding the high-tech consulting firm O'Callaghan Capital, the former vice president of worldwide commercial sales at Cisco made a splash in May when he joined the ranks of VMware's channel team. O'Callaghan joined VMware as its senior vice president of global channels and alliances and works with partners on software, data centers and end-user computing. While Cisco and VMware are known to work together, such as their 2009 joint venture with EMC to create VCE, the two still indirectly compete in the virtualization market for revenue and top talent.

Mont Phelps, president and CEO of NWN Corporation, a Waltham, Mass.-based VMware partner, said he doesn't know O'Callaghan that well, but thinks his reputation in the channel will be good for VMware. "You can make a really good argument that Cisco is one of the most channel-friendly partners out there, ... and [O'Callaghan's] from that school, and I think he will clearly bring that experience to VMware," Phelps said.

5. Joe Vitalone

Vitalone returned to ShoreTel in May 2012 as the vice president of channel management, after a three-year stint in Americas sales at LifeSize. But, he left again in March for ShoreTel's rival Mitel. The two unified communication solution providers have long competed over the business software and virtualization markets. Due to the conflict, Vitalone's resignation was effective immediately, and Chuck Krogman was named interim vice president. Vitalone is now the executive vice president of sales in the Americas at Mitel and reports to the company's President and CEO Richard McBee, according to a Mitel press release.

Richie Bell, president of IPRO Media, a Texas-based Mitel partner, worked with Vitalone in the 1980s during his first stint at Mitel. "He's an experienced industry guy that understands what needs to be done [and] works very diligently to understand that process," he said. "We've seen a higher level of energy on the sales side and I think that's a trait that will carry on because that's just what he brings."

6. Frank Rauch

Rauch was vice president of U.S. channels at HP's Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking division until last year when he left to join VMware as its vice president of channel sales in the Americas. Rauch came to HP in 2002, after its acquisition of Compaq Computers, and was responsible for leading sales and enabling acquisition integration. In his new role, Rauch is responsible for all of the company's indirect marketing paths. In April, Rauch told CRN that there's a great window of opportunity right now for vendors, and companies need to "put more agility in the channel." While HP and VMware have a 12-year partnership going in the virtualization market, the two tech companies still vie for the same top executive talent.

Mont Phelps, President and CEO of NWN Corporation, a VMware partner, said Rauch didn't miss a beat in his transition to VMware. "People move around in this industry. Typically when someone comes in, there's a kind of get-to-know-you period, ... but with Frank there was none of that. He just jumped right in, [and] it was one of the best, quickest and easiest transitions I've seen."


7. Barry Davis

After working in the channel at ArcSight before and after its 2010 Hewlett-Packard acquisition and then more recently as the vice president of business development at Egnyte, a cloud infrastructure specialist, Davis moved to the corporate hardware proxy distributor Blue Coat Systems in November as its vice president of channel sales in the Americas. Previously Davis spent 10 years as the vice president of business development at Citrix, where he started and led the company's strategic alliance and partner program and held a similar title at ArcSight. At Blue Coat Systems, Davis reports to the Vice President of Field Operations Eric Cross and is working in the company's specialties of Web security and WAN optimization. While they're not main competitors, all of Davis' past companies go head-to-head with Blue Coat over customers and top talent in various areas: HP's ArcSight competes as an alternate security intelligence platform, Citrix competes in the virtualization market and Egnyte competes in the cloud server arena.

8. Michael Valentine

After more than five years at firewall manufacturer Fortinet, most recently as the vice president of sales and support for the Americas, Michael Valentine joined rival network security company Sophos in February as its senior vice president of worldwide sales. Valentine filled part of the gap after North American Channel Chief Matt Fogelgren left Sophos for software company Attivio that same month, but Valentine made headlines of his own just days later in an interview with CRN in which he announced that the enterprise-geared company would begin focusing on midmarket growth. At Fortinet, Valentine led the sales team during the company's IPO in 2009 and expanded its tech distributors as well as its internal channel team, Sophos told CRN. Though not main competitors, Fortinet and Sophos certainly compete in the cybersecurity world.

9. Kendra Krause

In another steal by Sophos, Kendra Krause made the jump from vice president of channel sales and operations at Fortinet to the same role at Sophos in April. During her time at Fortinet, Krause was named a CRN 2013 Channel Chief for her work focusing the company's channel program on midmarkets and introducing new incentives and lead generation -- which she continues to focus on as Sophos' vice president of channel sales. While the work may be similar, Krause told CRN in April that the two companies take different approaches to their security solutions, and Sophos' is more unique in that it combines endpoint and gateway solutions to create a "complete solution for security." While not each other's main competition, Sophos and Fortinet both vie for channel sales in the security market.

10. Christopher Doggett

For almost two years Doggett was the executive vice president of sales at Financial Recovery Technologies (FRT), a Medford, Mass.-based technology services firm, until his departure last March to Kaspersky Lab. As FRT's chief operating officer, Doggett led business development efforts and advanced the company's strategy for growth, according to an FRT press release. Before his time at FRT, Doggett spent four years leading global channel organization and sales at Sophos, a U.K.-based network security company. When he first moved to Kasperksy, Doggett was the vice president of channel sales and reported directly to Nancy Reynolds, the senior vice president of sales. Earlier this year CRN reported that Doggett was promoted to senior vice president of corporate sales in North America, where he is now in charge of developing and overseeing all business-to-business activity. While FRT focuses on follow through to investors in class action lawsuits, Sophos and Kaspersky have long been rivals in the cybersecurity space.