CDN’s Top 25 Newsmakers #5-1

CDN’s annual review of the unforgettable men and women who made impactful news in the Canadian channel community. This year’s list is comprised of 25 top executives from solution providers, the vendor community, distribution, government, and people who really matter to the Canadian channel. Plus, check out the special bonus newsmaker.

This week we’ll be compiling a slideshow of our Top 25 Newsmakers List. Click on to see our Newsmakers #5-1.

Number 5

John Chen, CEO at BlackBerry Ltd.

By: CDN Staff

In 2016 we said good bye to the BlackBerry smartphone. Waterloo, Ont.-based BlackBerry
CEO John Chen made the historic decision to exit the hardware business and leave development of future smartphones to its partners.

This decision was a sad news announcement for Canadian innovation as BlackBerry was at one time the darlings of the mobile generation.

Previously, Chen had said that if BlackBerry’s hardware business was not profitable within its current fiscal year, it would exit.

Chen said the company planned to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners allowing the company to reduce capital requirements and enhance return on invested capital.

He added that BlackBerry reached an inflection point with its strategy. While the financial foundation is strong, the company had already pivoted to software and that strategy is taking hold.

Number 4

Kevin Peesker, president at Dell EMC Canada

By: Mandy Kovacs

To say 2016 was a big year for Dell EMC Canada president Kevin Peesker would be an understatement.

The executive represented Canadian interests in what was one of the largest mergers in the tech industry’s history. The announcement that Dell and EMC were combining their firepower in a $67 billion mega deal was made at the end of 2015 but wasn’t actually completed until September 2016. While many tech experts thought the merger would be disruptive to the market, Peesker said it was a “seamless transition” for the two companies.

“I found that [the merger] was an incredibly positive experience and we’ve really hit the ground running,” he told CDN. “It brought together two great organizations and I was fortunate enough to travel across the country several times to meet and work with our new team members, as well as our legacy Dell folks.”

Dell EMC Canada also hired a new Canadian channel chief, Deanna Thomson, in December 2016 after an exhaustive search and more than 25 initial applicants for the role. Thomson, a 20-year Dell Technologies veteran, spent much of her career “in the end user space working with large corporations, and in the last few years, in the channel community building a great ecosystem for Dell in Western Canada,” Peesker said.


Number 3

Eric Gales, country manager at AWS Canada

By: CDN Staff

Probably the most exciting company in the channel in 2016 was Amazon Web Services Canada. Besides exciting AWS Canada may also be the quickest company in the entire IT industry in Canada.

In 2015 the announcement was made that AWS would put down roots in Canada and hired an experience, well respected leader in Eric Gales to fulfill that dream. Well, by the end of 2016 AWS Canada is a significant player in the marketplace with the channel signing hundreds of partners.

And, then Gales cut the ribbon on its first regions in Montreal. This facility ended up becoming AWS’s first region outside of the United States. An important milestone for the company and for Gales.

But that wasn’t all. Gales hired Rob Stevens, another highly thought of executive with tons of channel experience to become AWS Canada’s first channel chief.

The Montreal region is just one step towards a much larger footprint the company is building in the Canadian market, Gales said.


Number 2

Rick Reid, president at Tech Data Canada

On March 27th of 2017 Rick Reid will be starting his 19th year as the President of Tech Data Canada of Mississauga, Ont. His leadership tenure is unmatched in the Canadian IT channel community and only rivals last year’s Top Newsmaker of the year Harry Zarek, founder and CEO of Top 100 Solution Provider Compugen. The only difference is Reid’s term is uninterrupted. Zarek stepped aside from Compugen for close to two years after it was acquired by Norigen Communications Inc. around the turn of the century; only for Zarek to buy back his company when Norigen went bankrupt.

Circumstances could not have been any better for Reid and Tech Data in 2016. The first event happened in mid-February when his long-time rival Ingram Micro sold to Chinese conglomerate HNA Group for $6 billion. Then seven months later a blockbuster deal occurs where Tech Data acquires the Technology Solutions group of Avnet. At a purchase price of $2.6 billion this acquisition is the biggest IT distribution deal in history.

CDN is not suggesting that Reid played dealmaker between his company and Avnet, but it’s important to note the significance of this transaction to Tech Data’s Canadian operation and the entire channel community as a whole.


Number 1

Janet Kennedy, president at Microsoft Canada

By: Paolo Del Nibletto

Janet Kennedy is still living the dream. Kennedy told CDN on her first day as President of Microsoft Canada back in 2013 that her new position was her dream job.

As she enters her fourth year as the President of Microsoft Canada, Kennedy has set her sights on establishing Artificial Intelligence as a mainstream business opportunity. As the calendar turned the page into 2017, Microsoft announced it had acquired Montreal-based deep learning vendor Maluuba, a company described as one of the world’s most impressive deep learning research labs for natural language understanding.

But while her focus is on 2017 goals, Kennedy is CDN’s Newsmaker of the Year for what the Canadian operation achieved in 2016.

And, the list of achievements is a long one with four major initiatives that can’t be overlooked. The list starts with two data centres in the country, hosting the Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto and selling out for the first time ever, the acquisition of LinkedIn, and building on the Red Hat Canada partnership by fully committing to open source.


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