Meet 2020 LEAD Award Winner Kelli Ballou-McMillan

Mar 24, 2021

Kelli Ballou-McMillan, National Partner Manager at Five9, was one of four women to receive the 2020 Alliance of Channel Women LEAD Award recognizing exceptional female leaders in the tech channel. The fourth annual LEAD Award winners were honored at a ceremony during the ACWConnect Live! virtual event on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.

Before her promotion to National Partner Manager, McMillan began her career at Five9 as a Channel Sales Manager in 2018, where she was responsible for client success and growth strategies. Outside of her professional career, McMillan devotes time to Inclusion and Diversity programs. She is the Founder and Chair of Xposure Inclusion & Diversity Council, an organization that offers a collaborative space for those in technology to have access to career changing resources, education, mentorship, and outreach opportunities. In addition, McMillan is the Co-chair of ACW’s new DEI Committee.

ACW interviewed McMillan about her journey as a female leader in tech and the future of women in leadership.

Who is the woman who showed you how to lead the way (e.g., your role model)?

Raising four little happy and well-rounded brown faces, my mom was the first woman to show me how to lead and was my first role model. She was a banker from 9 a.m.- 6 p.m., but she made sure we had a hot meal before and after school, got to all of sporting events and filled in the gap with her community and family. I still don’t know where she found the time or the energy to remain present in our world and hers, but I’m grateful she did. One of the things I remember most is all of  is her colleagues that would meet us and share how much they enjoyed working alongside her. They would say how much they enjoyed her leadership and friendship in the workplace. Everyday wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, but her tenacity showed me it was OK to push through even when days are uncomfortable. (Thanks, Mommy!)

What are you doing to lead the way for other women in the tech channel today?

I believe that I offer the women a safe space to be their true, authentic selves. As a Black woman, I know all too well what it means to wear a shield and not highlight things about you for fear of others’ judgment. The creation of Xposure was so that they could align themselves with their dreams in this space. When you are confident in your tribe, you feel you can shoot for the moon!

What is one thing we could accomplish that would most benefit women in the tech channel going forward?

Show up and stand in the gap so that the woman behind us know that, one, we’ve paved the way and they can go further and, two, so they know their worth. Standing in the gap for that woman who is still learning the subtle nuisances about this space will help her go further and continue to grow in this special ecosystem of ours. We can do this by advocating for other women’s projects, becoming a mentor and celebrating their wins!