Member Q&A: Theresa Caragol on Women in Channel Leadership Roles
WiC is fortunate to have many experienced channel leaders among its members. Case in point, one of our newest WiC members is Theresa Caragol, a former channel chief and the CEO of Achieve Unite, a strategic advisory and performance partnering firm.
As the head of Achieve Unite, Caragol provides business acceleration services, including partner and channel development, go-to-market planning, M&A channel integration and executive learning forums. Prior to founding Achieve Unite, she held senior executive roles at Extreme Networks, Ciena and Nortel.
Caragol has 20 years of experience in building and managing multimillion-dollar indirect channel teams and strategic alliance business and programs from inception to sales success, which fueled her passion for coaching employees and mentoring young people into STEM fields.
She is honored to be one of 15 women selected for the First Leadership Foundry in Washington, D.C., an organization dedicated to mentoring and recruiting women for positions on corporate boards. Moreover, Theresa has received numerous IT industry channel accolades recognizing her work. These include the 2014 CRN Top 50 Most Influential Channel Chiefs, 2013 CRN Top 10 Next Generation Channel Leaders, and the 2015 Golden Bridge Gold Award for Best Program Leader.
WiC interviewed Caragol about her thoughts on women in channel leadership. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: Is the vendor Channel Chief position a good role for women?
Caragol: Yes. I think the channel is a great role for anybody who is strategic, values long-term partnerships and relationships, and is able to bring business acumen and technology acumen — specifically strategy, marketing, operations, sales, and finance to the table. I think it’s a great opportunity for anyone who values those elements. Some women tend to be nurturers and values-oriented and it works well for individuals with those characteristics and perspective.
Q: What qualities contribute to women having success in this role?
Caragol: Women can be successful in individual contributor channel sales roles — channel strategy, channel marketing, the channel program, and up through the ranks into the Channel Chief roles because they can often develop strong leadership by influence qualities. I firmly believe that the channel itself practices leadership by influence. Channel partners choose who and how they do business so we must lead by influence and value.
Q: Is it different for women to be in positions such as Channel Account Manager (CAM) or Channel Chief versus men?
Caragol: The difference for women in individual contributor roles versus senior roles, (and I would even add versus channel marketing roles), is in the individual contributor CAM roles. We have seen more women in channel marketing and channel program roles than in sales roles. However, with millennials and SaaS companies, that is starting to change. The higher you rise in the organization, there is still a likelihood that fewer women will be at the executive table. Although there are more women Channel Chiefs than ever before, women still hold a very small percentage of C- level executive roles to include CEO roles in Fortune 1000 companies, and corporate board seats worldwide. The good news is that there is an initiative in America right now that I am thrilled to be a part of called 20 by 2020. It’s a U.S. endeavor to get 20 percent of our Fortune board seats filled by women by 2020.
Q: You have been both CAM and Channel Chief — what advice would you give women aspiring to do the same?
Caragol: In some of my early channel leadership roles, I had to negotiate for my title and the associated compensation, from Senior Director to Vice President. Making sure you are on par with your peers (regardless of gender) is sometimes something you have to negotiate. This can be a difficult thing for women, but it’s our responsibility to manage our careers and achieve satisfaction. It is also our responsibility to play that part well and preparation always helps. Doing your homework beforehand with your teams is really important. Internally and externally, often your clients and colleagues are still men. Ensuring you are able to develop rapport and establish trust and bring value to those individuals in different organizations is critical.
The channel is no longer the stepchild to the technology companies. Strategic partnerships will be one of the top company growth enablers for businesses in the coming years. So if you like forming partnerships and value that type of a go-to-market model, then this is an amazing opportunity because we’re going to undergo significant forward momentum in this industry and partnering will be critical to success.
Q: What would you say to millennial women with an interest in the channel?
Caragol: I would say: explore it, find a mentor or a sponsor and learn as much as you can. Go to CompTIA and other industry communities, and really, really dive in.
Q: Is mentoring young girls important?
Caragol: I believe it’s critical, and it is all of our responsibilities. Studies and the research show that if we don’t interest girls in technology by middle school- not to fear the science of technology and math but rather to embrace it — they are not likely to come into the field. It is important we take that on as a mission. That is what other women have given to me and it’s my responsibility to pass it on and to help others. One of my mentors asks only that I pass it to the next person and I truly feel that’s the right thing to do.
Yes, women definitely can make it to the top — and it’s a significant challenge that requires hard work. We must persevere to overcome obstacles thrown in our way. So how do we get there? Establish goals and forge ahead to accomplish those goals through strategic connections and partnerships. We find sponsors and mentors for support, and we stay true to our vision and mission. Successful channels require nurturing, and mutually beneficial and profitable relationships-all things that most women do very well.
Gina Kennedy, VP, Marketing for Fusion, is a member of the WiC PR Committee