Black History Month: ACW Members Leading and Reflecting

Feb 24, 2022

In celebration of Black History Month, we’re honored to highlight five of our members, all unique and dynamic leaders at their organizations and in the channel.  Their passion and drive help create meaningful change, and we’re fortunate they share their time and talent with ACW.

Kelli Ballou-McMillan

As Director of Global Partnerships for Five9, Kelli’s stated mission is simple: Learn about her clients’ goals and help them grow their business. With a background in the financial sector, Kelli was a supplier manager and partner support manager for Intelysis before joining Five9. She also is the founder and chair of Xposure IDC, the tech industry’s first Business Resource Group designed to provide a collaborative, career-changing space recognizing that “diversity and inclusion can mean many things to many people.”  Kelli shares her perspective on how to be an ally:

“Allies in the channel can champion Black women by amplifying their voices. During meetings, agree with their great ideas and support their execution. Also, amplify their voices by mentoring them on ways to present to the group so that they can be heard. Remember, a true ally also supports when their colleague or friend is in their presence and in their absence.”

Staci Corbett

After an established career in ad sales for print media, direct mail strategy, and digital and broadcast sales support, Staci joined the channel. She was Next Marketing’s Director of Channel Services and worked for Vonage as its Channel Marketing Manager. As an experienced team leader (and across multiple industries), Staci shares her thoughts on how to champion black women in tech:

“Black women are triple minorities in tech due to race, gender, and a disproportionate representation in the industry as a whole. Allies can best champion black women by speaking truth to power in those rooms where we are not represented, in those rooms that we don’t know exist. Being an ally means that you recognize bias and inequity, support change with tangible actions, and support ongoing initiatives to create a more inclusive, diverse workspace.”

Lori Cornmesser

Lori is a trailblazer for all women in the tech space. Her more than 25 years of in-depth, executive-level experience in managed services, networking, security, hardware and testing give her the industry expertise and the desire to lift and inspire others. In her current role as Vice President of Global Channel Sales, she’s in charge of startup CyCognito’s first-ever formal partner program. Recently, she took time to share these insights with ACW:

“In gendered workplaces, all women are under pressure to conform to dominant masculine behavioral norms. Black women, however, are also under pressure to change how they dress, wear their hair, and speak, and also to become more sociable and less ‘ethnic.’ This forces Black women to feel they are losing a sense of authenticity. A woman’s sense of authenticity is essential to her emotional well-being, productivity, and personal satisfaction. Yet because Black women are under pressure to conform, even highly successful Black women, such as graduates of Harvard Business School, report they find it difficult ‘to be themselves’ at work. Thus, Black women pursuing careers in the workplace are continually walking a tightrope between ‘fitting in’ and feeling authentic.

In thinking about women and work, we must always remember that women do not come in only one flavor. And depending on their distinctive social identities, they can face very different obstacles as they seek to advance in their careers.”

Akilah Murrell

Akilah is a self-described “channel marketing enthusiast.” As Senior Channel Marketing Manager for Channel Maven–a division within–she provides marketing leadership and direction to drive sales and industry influence increases.  She’s also on the ACW board of directors and involved in its mentorship program. Akilah’s professional focus is to advise and guide global tech companies to realize their unique positions in the marketplace; for her career, she shared what some words of wisdom she received: was

“Healthy boundaries secure success. Unhealthy boundaries restrict your success (be careful of the ones who are always trying to place limitations on you).”

Mayka Rosales-Peterson

As Senior Manager for the Managing Partner Program at AppSmart, Mayka is responsible for the overall framework of that program–branding, messaging and more–for the national technology distributor. For ACW, she’s on the board of directors, chairs its DE&I committee, and is the immediate past chair of the communications committee. Mayka is also a communications chair for Xposure Diversity and Inclusion, a national organization dedicated to improving diversity and inclusion in the technology sector, among other board and volunteer positions. Always an advocate for others, she credits her grandmother with some excellent career advice:

“The best advice given to me was from my grandmother. She always used to say, ‘Closed mouths don’t get fed.’ In other words, always ask for what you want. It’s hard sometimes to speak up for yourself, especially for me as an Afro-Panamanian woman. I’ve learned that there isn’t a better advocate in this world than you. The more you speak up and advocate for yourself, the more barriers you break and opportunities you form.”

Thanks to these dynamic women for sharing some wisdom.