XChange 2014: 9 Lessons To Live By For Women In The Channel

Channel Leadership Do's And Don'ts

Hundreds of solution providers descended on San Antonio this week to explore the latest in IT channel trends and best practices at The Channel Company's XChange 2014 event. On Tuesday, that theme continued, with a specific focus on women in technology.

During the XChange Women of the Channel Panel, tried-and-true best practices for leadership, career building and mentoring were shared by IT executives Anita Pandey, vice president of global marketing at AirTight; Kim Lasseter, director of the global Oracle Partner Network (OPN) at Oracle; and May Mitchell, vice president, North America marketing at Symantec.

Here, according to the panelists, are 9 failproof lessons for thriving in the IT channel.

More Mentors Is Better Than One

"Find multiple mentors. It's so critical," said Symantec's Mitchell (pictured).

"It doesn't have to be female. It's a combination of getting a mentor in every functional area that you may want to go into. Obviously, I play [in] sales to marketing, but try to find somebody in different areas -- someone in development or someone in finance. Broaden out your knowledge base."

Do What You Love

One of the messages from Oracle's Lasseter (pictured) was a simple one: If you love your job, you'll always do it well.

"I would say, for me, it's [about] finding something you love," Lasseter said. "…You'll be really good at it and you will find that super talent that you have. And then have a plan B, so if things don't go quite the way you think [they will], you will actually have that next step already planned out."

Think Differently About Networking

AirTight's Pandey suggested a new way of thinking about social networking that, in the end, could leave a longer (and better) impression.

"Approach networking not as how can someone help you, but how can you help them," Pandey said. "That's how people will remember you, and you will be known for being resourceful. That will actually pay greater dividends than the reverse."

Don't Underestimate 'Soft Skills'

No matter how well you know your business, if you can't communicate effectively with others around you, that knowledge is no good, urged Pandey.

"In business school, I paid the most attention to finance and the more quantitative part of the business," Pandey said. "I wish I had gone to more of the soft skills classes, having come from the more engineering side. It does come down to basics. It's about people. So pay attention to the cultural lens and the political lens, and just really watch people."

Take A Step Back To Move Forward

Sometimes, moving laterally within an organization is the best way to eventually move up, said Oracle's Lasseter.

"Take a lateral [position] to move up," she said. "I was never willing to go down or over and, why, I have no idea other than sheer stubbornness, maybe. …But don't forget to look around you for opportunities, even if you have to go down half a step to then be able to accelerate your career."

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

"Take risks," said Symantec's Mitchell.

"First of all, you've got to develop your niche. I think everyone needs to develop a story. What are you good at? But don't stay in that niche too long. You know it, you know how to do it, it's repeatable. But take risks. … I had a lot of opportunities presented to me, but I didn’t take those risks because I didn’t feel like I was ready. But you know you are ready. Just do it. Go for it. You are never going to feel 100 percent ready."

Work With Your Team, Not Above Them

Even the highest-level leaders need to work side by side with team members and those reporting to them, said Oracle's Lasseter.

"You have to be able to bring the network together, bring resources together and work with them in a team environment, but you also have to be willing to go in and roll up your sleeves, and get it done with your team," Lasseter said. "I have a rule… don't ask me to teach [my team] anything I'm not willing to do."

Get Out Of Your Team's Way

According to AirTight's Pandey, the best leaders guide their teams, but let them think for themselves.

"It comes with experience, for sure, but I think [being a good leader] is learning quickly how to identify what creates a multiplier effect and quick wins to that. So figuring out how I am going to get [there], whether it’s the path to revenue, etc., and then picking those players that you can quickly identify and [knowing] what motivates them and bringing them together," she said. "And then, get out of their way. I think getting out of their way is the big thing. That's what a leader is. There is a difference between being a manager and a leader. A leader gets out of the way. What you are really doing is facilitating. You are actually bringing out the best in your people by doing that."

Treat The Hiring Process Like The Sales Process

"I would say one of the characteristics [of a good leader] is [to] build strong teams," said Symantec's Mitchell.

"Always treat the hiring process like a sales process. You never know. Always have a plan B. Constantly look for those qualified candidates, hire the best, [and then it's about] empowerment. And then, as a leader, help them make decisions. …Help them make decisions, and then move on."