Some executives manage by telling others what to do. Five board members of the Canadian Channel Chiefs Council (C4) have chosen to lead by example.
Jodi Bonham, Tara Fine, Mike Kerr, Hanif Mawji and Luc Villeneuve share the distinction of being the first graduates of Pathways, a rigorous new accreditation program developed by C4 to hone the talents and capabilities of channel professionals in the IT industry. As proven leaders in their field, these five channel specialists might have left the test-taking to those who are looking to rise through the ranks. Instead, they knuckled down and passed a tough, 90-minute oral exam.
“I felt an obligation to practice what I preach,” says Luc Villeneuve, Country Leader and General Manager for Red Hat, Inc., a world leader in providing open source solutions. “It was also a good opportunity to think about how we make things happen as channel professionals.”
Villeneuve is a channel veteran with more than 25 years of information technology sales and management experience, but until now, he has never had a channel title.
“There is a definite need for this kind of accreditation,” he says. “Prior to this, IT certifications have been more technical and product-driven. Pathways is designed to elevate the important role channel executives play inside technology firms and to bring credibility to the role of the Channel Chief.”
C4 Vice Chair Ron Cohen agrees that many IT certifications validate an individual’s knowledge of a specific technology or process. “At the Channel Chiefs Council, we wanted to create a certification that attests to an individual’s soft skills, including management skills and the knowledge of business best practices, sales, and marketing,” he says. “The C4 Pathways program is based on six pillars of knowledge and culminates in testing by a panel of examiners who have more that 100 years of combined channel experience.”
As the voice of channel professionals in Canada, the Canadian Channel Chiefs Council is ideally suited to accelerate the career path of channel professionals by providing the channel community with new standards and increased professionalism.
“It’s vital that we show the next generation of channel professionals that there’s an educational pathway to get from where they are now to where they’d like to be in the future,” says Jodi Bonham, IT Channel Manager with Eaton Industries (Canada) in the Power Quality Division. “Those of us who have been in the IT channel for 20 years or more agree that we got here by happenstance. There were no books to prepare for our role and no courses at university.”
Like Luc Villeneuve, Bonham felt a responsibility to take the Pathways program in order to see, for herself, just what was involved. As a graduate, she is proud to have a designation that recognizes her channel qualifications and eager to encourage others to follow her lead.
“After all these years of building business acumen, I can finally say I’ve arrived,” she says. “It will be up to the first Pathways graduates to evangelize this program as a unique opportunity and promote it as a way of attracting and training channel professionals.”
According to Mary Whittle, former North American channel chief for Avaya, prior to Pathways, there was no clear indicator of a channel leader’s strengths and breadth of experience. “Hiring and recognition decisions can now be made knowing a person has the requisite expertise and skill set to excel in a channel leadership position,” she says.
As one of the inaugural examiners for Pathways, Whittle was extremely impressed by the participants’ understanding of the unique role played by channel leaders and the challenges they face in today’s technology companies. “Canadian companies are in good hands with these newly accredited Channel Chiefs,” she says. “Simply taking the program, and being willing to have one’s skills scrutinized, suggests a great respect for the importance of performance measurement and accountability.”
With CompTIA’s 2015 study, HR Perception of IT Training and Certification, showing that 91% of employers believe IT certifications are a reliable indicator of employee success, Pathways has clearly arrived at the right time.
“I’m proud to be one of the program’s first graduates,” says Luc Villeneuve. “I’m also happy to be able to pass the baton to the next generation of channel leaders and say, “OK people. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. Now it’s your turn.”