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Intel Canada’s new boss has some big shoes to fill

Intel Canada's new

Last September, Intel Canada’s Elaine Mah had some big shoes to fill. After the departure of Doug Cooper, Mah stepped is as only the second country manager the chipmaker has ever had here. Formerly the company’s Canadian business marketing manager, Mah told CDN she doesn’t have any particular personal agenda to push forward in this role. Instead, she’s working hard to understand the broad scope of Intel’s operations, especially in the consumer and channel markets. She is also active in social media and blogging, which she says helps her engage more with users. In this edited transcript, Mah gives CDN her insights on the past months in the new role, her thoughts on ultrabooks, and the opportunities Intel products are bringing to its partner community.

CDN: What are some of your goals as the new country manager at Intel Canada?

Elaine Mah: Doug (Cooper) is a giant in the industry, having been with Intel for 28 years, so definitely big shoes to fill. In terms of my goals, this is really about continuing to champion the role of technology in helping the Canadian economy continue to be competitive, and as productive as possible. That’s an ongoing challenge that we hear almost daily in the business pages these days, the need for businesses to be more productive and competitive and you know we really feel that making smart investments in technology is key to that. Doug was very encouraging and had full confidence in me. He just said, follow your instincts.

CDN: What are some of the strengths you’re bringing to this position from your previous roles?

EM: I’m very fortunate in that I’ve had an opportunity to really engage with our users. I’ve had a board of advisors that I’ve worked very closely with over the past few years that really have kept me grounded in the key issues that are faced by Canadian businesses and the challenges that they need to overcome in order to stay competitive and improve their productivity, and so having grounding really gives me the perspective that I think I need in order to look for the direction that we need to face.

CDN: How do you plan to differentiate yourself in this role?

EM: At this point, it’s still so new and I don’t have a personal agenda to drive, so I’m really becoming more comfortable with all aspects of Intel’s business. Obviously I spent a lot of time focusing on the enterprise space and so really, becoming more involved with our consumer and retail side, and our channel side, is something I really look forward to.

CDN: What are some of Intel’s plans and your ideas for tackling the mobility space?

EM: As far as mobility goes, we introduced the ultrabook category, so that’s really job one- establishing the category and really bringing that opportunity to market in terms of what it offers for our end user customers. This is our biggest push since the introduction of Centrino over 10 years ago. That’s going to be major for us. Obviously coming up toward the end of this year is the launch of the Windows 8 operating system, which has touch capability included in it, and that’s really something that we’re very committed to- the best Windows 8 experience on Intel architecture.

CDN: What’s the opportunity for the channel with ultrabooks as opposed to any other laptop?

EM: The opportunity for channel is certainly significant because it is a new category. Obviously the channel has always been very important to Intel in terms of its ability to be very nimble and responsive to the marketplace. It’s a key focus for Intel to really make sure that we’re equipping the channel with the building blocks that are necessary in order for them to participate and be competitive in the ultrabooks space, so making sure that they have the components available to them in order to put their own device to market is important.

CDN: Is the opportunity for ultrabooks more among the system builder community?

EM: It’s in both the reseller and the system builder space. The system builder community, the channel community, continues to be of critical importance in Canada. There’s a significant amount of business through the channel. To be able to continue to support them properly is certainly a key factor of what we’re doing at Intel Canada. We are continuing to invest in providing our channel community with the tools and resources they need to serve their customers, making sure that we continue to invest in their training and in the support and the services that they require in order to satisfy the needs of their customers. That’s of critical importance to us.

CDN: What kind of reception are you getting to ultrabooks in Canada?

EM: Definitely we’re very encouraged by the reception we’re getting and by the things that we’re hearing. People are hungry to have access to the ultrabook devices and really take advantage of mobile computing. More often than not, we’re all road warriors and we even hear of hallway warriors, where you’re not just sitting at your desk anymore. You are collaborating and you need the devices that allow you to be on the go and productive at the same time. We’re really hearing a lot of enthusiastic responses when we’re able to bring the ultrabook in.

CDN: Do you foresee hybrid tablet-ultrabooks being in demand?

EM: It’s certainly something that we know is of significant interest to the user community and it’s really based on again, providing options and choice to how the end user is both consuming and creating content.

CDN: What are some of your plans for tackling the small business market in Canada?

EM: It’s going to continue to be a focus for us. Obviously, small business is a vital part of the Canadian economy, given the number of small businesses overall and also the number of people that are employed by small businesses across Canada. It’s a vital focus for us so we’ll be continuing to engage with the small business community to understand where they are facing challenges, how we’re able to address some of those challenges through technology, being able to share some of their success stories and really driving their businesses to be more innovative and competitive. We’re very committed to making sure that we’re able to shine a light on those businesses that are really seeing the difference that the technology is making to them.

CDN: What are some opportunities you see with digital signage in Canada?

EM: There’s all sorts of opportunities for digital signage. There’s a lot of niche opportunities for our channel partners from security to digital signage to storage that will only serve to complement their solutions offering to their customers, and digital signage is certainly a significant one that we see out there, both in terms of the opportunity to be able to build customized solutions but also to work with what is becoming a much more robust ecosystem in Canada. We’re actually seeing the opportunities show up a fairly broad spectrum. Certainly you’re seeing a lot in the retail space, but the commercial opportunities are showing up, like banks or Tim Horton’s. There’s really such broad opportunity and applications for digital signage that the sky’s the limit at this point.

CDN: You’re pretty active with blogging and in social media. Why is that important to you for your position?

EM: It’s something that is certainly partly a personal choice, in terms of that capacity to have direct engagement with the user community in Canada and to be able to get feedback and conversation and dialogue opportunities. So often, especially when you think of large corporations, it’s a one-way conversation going out, and there aren’t a lot of channels that allow for the two-way feedback. That’s something that I look for and it’s also the opportunity to hear my voice as opposed to just the corporate press release that comes out.

A bit more about Elaine Mah:

Twitter: @e_mah

Favourite book: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Favourite movie: The original Star Wars trilogy

Alma mater: University of Alberta

First job: Apart from her paper route, being a marketing director with Pattison Outdoor