Mary Whittle has had a front-row seat to the transformation taking place in the enterprise through the lens of distributor Ingram Micro. Mary Whittle’s journey there began in 1988 when PCs were just becoming a household name. By 1996 she was chosen to establish a global marketing organization at Ingram Micro, and it was around that time she says globalization introduced enormous complexities in sales and marketing.
“My role was to pull together our leads in all of our countries. Those are the VPs of marketing, VPs of vendor management, and we became a team we just worked with whichever vendors needed us to,” Whittle said. “First we branded ourselves as a global company, and then we helped the vendors be able to do that as well in the various countries.”
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It’s work Whittle says she has continued to do in recent years. “It doesn’t get any easier,” she laughs. “It’s a challenge for vendors and partners alike.”
In 2000, Whittle established an e-commerce business as well as a technology consulting practice, and for the past 15 years has held prominent positions with powerhouses like Avaya and Motorolla. But today’s trends and M&A activity in the channel hasn’t escaped her. She remains fiercely passionate about the channel industry and says it remains overlooked despite all the legwork it’s doing to help businesses transform and modernize.
“There’s a group of organizations, hundreds and hundreds of them, as we know them as VARs, your channel partners, or, solution providers, and they are contributing somewhere between eight and $16 billion worth of revenue and value into the ecosystem that almost no end customer has any clue about. I just think that’s weird,” she said.
The top 100 solution providers in Canada alone have a combined revenue that’s roughly $10 billion.
She recalls speaking with public sector clients in Ottawa and says she received blank stares when she mentioned companies like Long View Systems, for example, one of Canada’s largest solution providers.
Whittle’s passion for the industry has transcended several decades, and she has also left significant impressions on other women in the industry.
“I remember my first day at Ingram Micro, starting as an assistant in the marketing department. Both nervous and excited – my manager took me around to introduce me to everyone. As we were walking the floor, this woman, dressed to the nine’s with a big smile, was heading our way came up to us and said “Welcome Jennifer, we are super excited to have you join the team,'” recalled Jennifer Villers, senior marketing manager at Ingram Micro. “After shaking her hand, she headed down the hall – and my manager said, that’s Mary Whittle, the VP of marketing. I was shocked, a VP knew who I was, and was so friendly. As I got to know Mary and work for her team it was clear – she was a strong leader, strategic, creative and amiable.”
Whittle says she has great confidence in the next generation of technology leaders.
“I have been in the industry for over 30 years, so I guess that does qualify me as an old-timer. When we were 20 and 30-somethings running the show and helping establish the tech industry back then, I think we did all right. I’m pretty confident that this next generation, which is probably better educated than we were, are going to do fine,” she said.