Kristine Kirchner, VP of EMEA channels for cyber security company WALLIX, discusses more about her career and role in coordinating the company’s channel team towards success.
Kristine is leading a 15-person channel team in strengthening WALLIX’s presence within existing territories by working closely with MSSPs and accelerating the company’s Business Partner Programme. Michelle, Winny. Editor of PCR caught up with Kristine to find out more.
Tell me a bit more about your current role in your company?
I am the VP Channel EMEA for the cyber security company WALLIX. I joined the company earlier this year and I am responsible for heading up our channel strategy. A key part of our global mission is to grow our channel base and work closely with channel partners, resellers, value-added resellers (VARs), MSSP and OEM alliances across the world.
At WALLIX we have 180 partners from the small companies that signed one deal to larger ones. As part of my day-to-day role I support and oversee our 15-person channel team, which manages our distribution network through the WALLIX Business Partner Program. I’m also in charge of managing the program dedicated to influencers, which will allow us to support key accounts in international projects. My role is to think global but act local, ensuring we are working in a true partnership and that each of our partners are fully supported.
A second part of my role, but just as important, is focused on generating growth and expanding our presence when it comes to Operational Technology (OT) and working with Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) and developing the OEM business. This new approach is based on the development of our strategic alliances, which will help us to position ourselves in new markets and strengthen our presence in key sectors such as OT. WALLIX has an ambitious growth plan and by strengthening the partner program and expanding into key sectors, such as industry, healthcare, and financial services, we will be able to achieve this.
WALLIX is also strengthening its links with major integrators (GSI) to offer cybersecurity solutions, which are increasingly adapted to the unique needs of sectors subject to strong regulations, such as financial services.
What is your professional background within the channel?
During my career, I developed my experience in the channel by working with various tech companies and managing different accounts in both direct and indirect sales. I like to describe myself as an expert in software. I have spent a good part of my career focusing on this and I like to keep my finger on the pulse when it comes to the latest technology and software developments. I think it is important to not only understand the channel and how it operates, but to really understand the technology as well and where the industry is going.
My expertise in the channel has been built after years of experience working in a variety of channel related roles. I have previously worked at bigger well-known companies such as ORACLE, as well for start-ups where I have successfully helped brands launch into the channel for the first time. I can definitely say that I’m not a newcomer when it comes to the channel.
How have you found working as a female in the tech channel?
I absolutely love my role and I am lucky enough to say that from personal experience I have not noticed any major differences.
However, as an industry, it is widely recognised that we need a more diverse workforce. I personally feel that within the channel we are starting to achieve this, however there are still some sectors in the technology industry such as sales or software development that are more male dominated. I have found that if you are working in a forward thinking and innovative company then diversity will top the agenda and everyone’s ideas and thoughts are welcomed.
Do you feel the channel still has some way to go in addressing diversity and equality?
I’ve seen a lot of noticeable progress recently in addressing these issues. For me, it’s not a male or female mission – it’s a compound of people and profiles. From what I’ve seen, the channel allows more space for women as I had the opportunity to meet some amazing ladies along my journey. I would say there is also a different level of representation depending on the job role you have. As an example, in the case of sales representatives, which is a key position for a software vendor, I was surprised to see more men than women in this type of job. I’m not sure why this is the case, but it’s definitely something that I’ve noticed during my career. The same goes for the channel – I came across more women working in the channel environment, but I can’t seem to find a reason behind that. Of course, this is definitely something I’m happy to see but we shouldn’t forget there’s always room for improvement.
What challenges have you encountered working as a female in the tech channel?
From an industry standpoint, we need to do more around diversity and encourage more women to pursue a career in technology. Drawing from my own personal experience, luckily I have not encountered many challenges, and a key reason for this is because I strive to only work for companies where I really believe in the ethos and values. The company’s culture is always a good indicator of their perception of inclusivity.
Why are you passionate about the channel?
I love working in the channel and I’m passionate about it because every day I need to adapt myself to a new environment. Each challenge and day is different – for example, one day I might be working on managed security services and our product in the cloud, then I need to pivot and think about the future of the business and how we are going to sell tomorrow. The diversity of the work and the fact that each day brings something different is one of the most interesting parts of the job.
What plans do you have to drive your business forward?
The overarching objective in my role is to develop a global approach in different areas. My responsibilities include developing a channel programme and rolling out the programme across different countries worldwide and providing training on how to find new partners.
There’s a growing focus on operational technology, and a critical part of my role at WALLIX is bolstering the strategic alliances within this space. This work will then enable us to strengthen WALLIX’s presence in areas where cybersecurity is more essential than ever, in OT, healthcare and financial services for example.
Please could you explain more about the Business Partner Program?
The WALLIX Business Partner Program follows a classic model. We recruit a partner, train and certify them, and depending on the level of certification, they have a different level of partnership.
We provide partners with content, tools and an online portal to access information. All tools are developed to help sell products that depend on where they are located around the world. We have an academy for teams working on sales and pre-sales, who can find specific online tools for product training. We also set up various roundtable events to help partners to develop their knowledge.
What words of encouragement would you offer other women or other interested candidates to pursue a career within the channel?
I would say to all women who are interested in pursuing a career within the channel to go for it! A successful team requires diversity as each person brings something unique to the table, and diversity is the key for businesses to thrive. As a manager, I quickly jump from topic to topic, so candidates would have to manage this well. Candidates must also need to be willing to be part of the team because it’s a collaborative effort.
It’s important for CEOs to be mindful of balancing diversity and gender within their business, for any type of job – from technical positions, to sales. I know how tough it is for women to be hired in these positions, but diversity brings more energy, a variety of perceptions and a different style of leadership. It’s very rich to have diversity in the company, and men and women both deserve a seat at the same table.
What makes you passionate about your role, company and working in the channel?
What makes me passionate about my role is the very fact that there’s always something new to do and new challenges to experience – you don’t know what’s around the corner. The IT space is also moving at speed, and IT professionals need to continuously adapt themselves – it’s a very exciting time. Managed security services are a new way of doing business in IT and is also something I work closely on. It’s quite a new topic for a lot of companies and vendors, so it’s really key for us in the IT space to truly understand what we can do with it. Looking back to five years ago, practically no businesses had managed security services in their infrastructure, and this demonstrates how far we’ve come. We’re in a new world of business and it’s continuing to develop at pace.
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