Women of The Channel 2014: My First Job

My First Job

CRN asked this year's Women of the Channel honorees to look back at their beginnings and share tales of how they got their start. Some pointed back to early jobs as lifeguards, babysitters and store clerks. Others wrote about their first "real" jobs post-college, both in and out of tech. A common thread is that all of them learned valuable life lessons that helped shape the professionals they are today. Here's a look at some of the first jobs held by the 2014 Women of the Channel and the wisdom they gained from them.

Amy Abatangle, Untangle

Vice President, Sales & Marketing

My first job was bagging groceries part-time at 15. I quickly learned uncomfortable lessons about standing for hours, punching the clock, and paying union dues and taxes. I gained valuable skills while keeping up with demand during peak periods like the five o'clock pre-dinner rush -- how to smile and make small talk when I didn't really feel like it. I learned that people appreciated it when I didn't crush a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs -- the basics of customer service. I've taken that customer focus with me throughout my career.

J. Susan Ahmed, Edge Solutions

Vice President, Services

My first real job (not counting babysitting and high school part time work) was with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. I was the administrative assistant for rural projects that were being conducted in various locations throughout Iraq. In that capacity, I worked with individual project managers from many different places including India, the U.K. and Egypt.

Jennifer Anaya, Ingram Micro

Vice President, Marketing

My first job was at a ski shop in Mission Viejo, CA. I was responsible for floor sales and inventory management, and I loved it!

Jill Atcheson, Presidio

Director, Digital Marketing

My first job was working as a sales and marketing manager for a large hotel chain. It really did teach me the value of leading with customer service and putting client satisfaction first. I also quickly learned the power of "small talk" and professional networking --skills that have been critical to me as my career matures.

Jennifer Axt, EMC

General Manager, U.S. State & Local Government and Education, Sales and Partners

I started my own business at the age of 12 years old teaching baton twirling to younger girls. Having my own business at a young age taught me discipline, patience, financial management, organizational skills and how to brand myself. The experience has shaped how I manage my business and career today.

Melanie Barrier, NetApp

Channel Sales Manager

This is an ironic story, especially given the fact that I have worked in storage and channels now for nearly 20 years. My first job after college was as a LAN administrator. The very first day on the job, our server crashed due to a drive failure and of course the prior LAN administration team did not have a backup. I learned early in my career how important partners are -- because due to their expertise and enormous generosity of time, my department was back up and running with a repaired drive the very next day!

Melody Brown, Data Core Software

Vice President Sales, Americas

Working in the tobacco fields of Trapp, KY (my hometown) as a 6-year-old.

Maria Cannon, Cisco Systems

Vice President, Worldwide Partner Organization

My first job out of college was a sales internship. I had studied engineering, so it wasn’t exactly a natural choice but prior to my graduation I had met IBM’s president, and asked him what was the most important job he had held during his career -- it was sales. My key takeaway from the conversation was that learning to sell provides an appreciation for the fact customers and partners are part of every decision and the fundamental skills of selling transcend any role you ever have.

Michele Chasse, Dell

Director - Dell Global Channel Training & Enablement

I worked at my father’s wholesale electronic distributorship. I was 16 and did almost every job there from clerical work, stocking shelves, delivering shipments to local customers and eventually purchasing and making sales calls. It was a small company and is what started me on the path to multiple positions within the technology industry.

JuliAn Coy, Explore Consulting

Vice President, Professional Services

I was a paper girl for a small local town paper from age 9 through high school and grew my paper route (subscribers) over 325 percent. What a great beginning in sales, customer service, managing relationships and running from dogs!

Michelle De Hertogh, EMC

Sr. Director, Strategic Partner Marketing

In my first job after University, I managed plasma engineering in a semiconductor wafer fabrication unit and had three technicians on my team. The chips we built were for missile systems. After that, I managed large teams to build the software required to launch and fly several ground missiles.

Pam Doyle, Fujitsu Computer Products of America

Director of Education

My first job was in a mailroom. When the non-profit organization I was working for moved into electronic data processing, I was offered a computer-related position, which launched my career in the computer industry. As my career advanced, several women mentors recognized I had strong communication skills and encouraged me to pursue that aspect of the computer industry.

Annie Flaig, HGST, a Western Digital company

Vice President, Americas Sales & Channel Marketing, HGST

My first job was a janitor for my father’s physician office, where my older siblings and I helped clean his office. Having this experience when I was younger, I can now truthfully say, once you’ve cleaned someone else’s toilet, you never want to clean another toilet again!

Michelle Graff, Pure Storage

Director of WW Channel Programs and Marketing

At age 12, I was asked to coach and teach children’s gymnastics on Saturday mornings at the gym where I trained. This allowed me to offset some of my own training costs, which my parents paid for. It was a valuable lesson in learning how to fund something I was passionate about through alternative sources (in this case, continuing my training and offsetting the cost to my parents).

Rebecca Handley, Avnet Technology Solutions

Director, Sales

My first job was as a waitress in a very busy bar-b-que restaurant in San Antonio. As a waitress you have to be able to anticipate customer needs, multitask, make a connection with your customers all while having fun. Your customer will know if you don't enjoy your job. I truly believe this job helped prepare me for sales which, in the end, is all about customer service.

Michelle Jones, Steelwedge Software

Vice President, Channels & Alliances

My very first job was at age 12 as a page in our local library. I returned all the books back to their shelves when they came back in. I had various administrative jobs -- from secretary in our local police department to full-time receptionist at a hair salon during college -- before I went into the workforce full-time. I cut my teeth in customer service and moved quickly into indirect sales and channel management. Once I got into channels, I never looked back.

Jane Linder, NWN

Managing Director

I was a computer programmer. This was some years ago -- before people could learn programming in high school or college. The company I worked for trained us in a classroom for three months. They turned us loose in various departments of the insurance company to develop custom software.

Cecelia Marrese, IBM

Vice President, WW STG Channel Transformation and Volume Sales

My first job was working for IBM as a chemical engineer in Lexington, Ky. I was a product engineer for typewriter and printer ribbons. I am a great example of the need to re-invent yourself and your career as the market changes!

Brooks McCorcle, AT&T

President, Emerging Business Markets

My father was a Presbyterian minister and discovered a symbol called the Shout of Joy in a book on extinct languages. It was an ancient Egyptian pictograph meaning ’shout of joy’ and also a primitive Chinese symbol for God. In my first entrepreneurial experience, between the ages of 12 and 14, I created and sold jewelry featuring the symbol to friends and churches. This enhanced my creativity and love of art, which continue to drive my creative process in the business world. The Shout of Joy is a registered trademark my family owns and jewelry continues to be created under the license.

Katie Meckel, Hewlett-Packard

Senior Manager, WW Partner Enablement

If we’re not counting the years I spent waitressing and scooping ice cream in my teens, my first job was with Fidelity Investments. After graduating from college I moved to Boston and worked in their institutional retirement company, where I was responsible for the operational management of HP’s 401(K) plan. Funny how that loop closed when I joined HP 15 years ago!

Claire Millsap, Managed Maintenance

Director of Solutions Development and Sales Consultancy

Crazy enough, my first job was at Kentucky Fried Chicken, and no I do not know the Colonel's recipe.

Jackie Paralis, OKI Data Americas

Senior Marketing Manager, MPS/BTA

My first job was as a preschool and kindergarten teacher in Cherry Hill, N.J. for a private child development center. After graduating from college, I moved from Pittsburgh, Pa. to Cherry Hill, N.J. and procured this teaching position within two weeks. It turned out to be one of the most rewarding and memorable jobs I have ever had. It provided me with an opportunity to try new, creative and innovative learning techniques with a strong focus on the performing arts (including music, acting, dance and puppetry) which enabled every child to discover a passion for learning.

Lauren Robinette, Samsung KNOX

Sr. Manager Channels

I assembled every Apple II that Apple sold in 1978.

Shannon Sbar, APC by Schneider Electric

Vice President, Channels, North America

My mother owned a retail business, and I started working for her at an early age with odd jobs and then moved into sales. It's a wonderful lesson to work for a parent and see the intimate details of how to run a business. I am grateful for the exposure she was able to give me.

Kathy Shoop, CA Technologies

Sr. Director, Global Channel Marketing

McDonalds -- I worked all through high school learning every aspect of the franchise. I started as a cashier and became the first female crew chief in Sioux City, Iowa before I graduated and went on to college.

Sarah Smith, ShoreTel

Business Development Manager

My first job at the age of 14 was at Dunkin' Donuts. Both of my older sisters also worked at Dunkin’ Donuts because it was one of the few jobs that would hire a 14-year-old. My Dad drove me to work at 5:00 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday morning. I worked there for two years and during that time I was promoted to manage one of the Dunkin’ Donuts inside of a gas station. Big time for a 16 year old! This job taught me the discipline of rising early and to do your best every day.

Christy Thompson, ScanSource

VP, Worldwide Marketing

My first job was working on my family’s farm. Growing up on a farm was an incredibly difficult and rewarding experience. It afforded me life-long lessons on the value of a strong work ethic, the importance of a collaborative team, and the significance of learning to let go of those things that are outside of your control. Those are lessons that I use every day, even though my current role couldn’t be more different from my work on the farm!

Barbara Vaigauskaite, CMIT Solutions of Hollywood


A TV reporter ... I was 15 and got my first gig on national television on a program geared for teenagers.

Jennifer Walzer, BUMI

CEO and Founder

I auditioned and won a coveted spot as a dancer at Disney World when I was 16. It was a lot of hard work, but incredibly rewarding. I learned a lot about customer service and the importance of creating an experience, being organized, having standards and appreciating process.

Deborah Williams, Polycom

Senior Manager - Field and Channel Marketing

I was a Tour Guide at Anheuser-Busch, Inc. during college. Growing up shy and having failed at public speaking in my classes due to fear, this experience gave me no choice but to cast my fears aside and step up to the challenge. I was representing one of the largest brands with incredible brand variation through various products, social outreach, and promotions in the world. Through this experience, I discovered there was no basis for my fear -- and (at the time) was a great brand representative and delivered tours to celebrities, politicians and even NASCAR drivers!