What to make of Microsoft Canada’s new president

I don’t know exactly what to make of Janet Kennedy’s appointment to the corner office of Microsoft Canada.

She is, with all due respect, unknown to the Canadian market. While I think it is really progressive to give this opportunity to a woman executive, Microsoft chose not to hire a Canadian for this plum job. Despite the pleas from the channel community and customers. While I totally understand that its Judson Althoff’s decision to choose whomever he sees fit for the job, Kennedy will have to deal with questions from channel partners, customers and the media on how long she plans to stay in Canada. Eric Gales, the former president of Microsoft Canada, avoided all this by becoming a Canadian citizen. Short of Kennedy pulling a Ted Cruz (Canadian-born U.S. Senator) and renouncing U.S. citizenship for Canadian, this will be an issue that has to be addressed.

This is what Max Long told CDN when asked how long he planned to stay in Canada. “I can’t predict what will happen in the next three years. But I will say that I am accountable for Microsoft Canada. I have to grow the business and I want it to be the best in the world. I know that other presidents, such as Phil Sorgen and Simon Witts, held this role for three years but I do not think that’s a bad thing. There is no time limit on this job. If I want to stay here and Microsoft wants me to stay in the role then I’m here if it’s what my family wants. I just want to do the best job possible for Microsoft Canada and the channel partners.”

Yesterday, I met with Brian Gumbel, McAfee‘s vice-president of the northeast and Canada. A similar decision was made at McAfee where its Canadian president was replaced by an American executive (Gumbel) who will be based in New York and manage the Canadian operation from afar; well, not that far, New York is just a short plane ride to Toronto. Gumbel asked me if he was being portrayed in the media as the typical “ugly American.” The ugly American stereotype is of a loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant, and ethnocentric behavior of American citizens, according to Wikipedia.

I did not think that at all of Gumbel, who I found to be very thoughtful and totally understanding of his situation. I think Kennedy, to be really accepted by the Canadian channel and customers, needs to find this level of understanding. The Canadian market, despite the many similarities to the U.S. market, is a completely different landscape and while Kennedy may have found success in her previous role as a regional vice-president of the enterprise and partner group (EP&G) in the U.S. Central Region a similar approach just won’t jive here.

If Kennedy is the executive that will stop the revolving door at Microsoft Canada, she should get herself on a plane and meet with as many channel partners and customers across Canada as she can. Another issue she will have to face is the unique culture at Microsoft Canada. That might be a bigger challenge than establishing Canadian roots.

Many channel partners and customers have told me that the current state of Microsoft Canada is a mess. I don’t think that Microsoft Canada is a mess, but I can see where these executives are coming from. What Microsoft Canada need desperately is leadership and stability. It’s a challenging time for Microsoft overall. It’s in a transition phase in its history and what Microsoft Canada employees, the channel and customers need to know from Kennedy is that she believes in this new strategy and the opportunity it brings to Canadians.

I wish her luck.

One quick hit before I go. The IAMCP Canada is seeking nominations for its Executive Board. These positions are open to all members of IAMCP Canada. The Executive Board creates the strategy and plans for the organization as well as oversees the operations of IAMCP Canada. This Board provides an interface to Microsoft in Canada and globally. The IAMCP Canada Executive Board works with the local chapters (Eastern, Central, and Western) to drive programs and there is interaction with the IAMCP International Board and the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) planning committees from Microsoft.

The Board consists of nine individuals of which six are functional roles and three are IAMCP Chapter Presidents. The Board positions are as follows: President, Vice President/Secretary, Treasurer, Communications, Events, and Women in Technology. The term of each position is two years and it’s a volunteer position.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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