For Michael Wilson, Senior Manager Sub-Saharan Africa Channel at VMware, it is imperative that trust exists between channel partners and a vendor.
Describe your current job role and what parts do you find challenging
I am the Channel Manager for VMware Sub Saharan Africa, responsible for overseeing the channel team and all channel-led sales whether it be through traditional routes, alliances, or global partners/ OEMs. I’ve found that my day-to-day challenges include time management and resource allocation. I oversee a massive channel comprised of many VMware resellers and partnerships. Ultimately, I would love to pay more attention to detail to each function daily, but the time in the day is always limited when doing so, so I have a big juggling act to do as I am a bit of a perfectionist.
Explain how your company works with channel partners
VMware is a 99% channel focused company. We continue to invest in and grow our channel, as they are our primary route to market and they will continue to be over the long term. I truly believe the channel is an extension of the VMware team.
How do you ensure that channel partners flourish in a highly competitive market?
I believe that success is sure to follow in any relationship when there is honesty and good communication. It’s important that trust exists between channel partners and a vendor. They need to understand each other as they should work cohesively together and achieve results that makes everyone feel like they’re winning when they’re collaborating. Not all partners can do everything for a client. On occasions, partners do not like the honesty, but they certainly do respect it. We also support our clients through training, incentive programmes and a focus on relationship building between our teams.
What are the latest trends emerging across the channel?
Firstly, the growth of niche channel partners which are thriving since the inception of the cloud era.
Another trend that I’ve witnessed is the fall from grace that legacy partners are undergoing due to them struggling to compete against cloud native companies (partners). They have set too much focus, capital and time on systems that don’t give them the agility to understand and provide cloud offering and this has left them weighed down, making them unable to be as dynamic as their niche cloud native counterparts.
What is your management philosophy?
I believe that operating from a place of honesty and transparency is essential when dealing with your team. It’s the very least you owe the people you work with. This approach will ensure that everyone is on the same level of understanding, saving them from potential future breakdown’s in the long run.
What has been your most memorable achievement?
Moving to South Africa from the United Kingdom was not an easy transition for me and my family to make, but a lifechanging one at that. That said, it’s been the best decision of my life so far and I love living and working in South Africa.
What made you think of a career in technology?
Nothing really – I landed up in this industry by pure accident with no aspirations, but I have found it to be a perfect fit for me.
What do you think will be the hot technology talking point of 2020?
VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) of course. I don’t think there’s one major trend or a big bang on the horizon, especially not one as big as cloud was when it landed. What we are seeing is that people are becoming increasingly nervous about the cloud and are shifting certain workloads back on-prem as a result. Some companies are doing some much-needed introspection, looking at their IT processes and questioning their effectiveness, and I anticipate that a number of logical organisational and process shifts will be made. It’s not really a revolutionary talking point, but one that I do believe is long overdue.
What are your personal interests and where do you like to spend most of your time after work?
I’ve recently become a dad and have a young son, so he’s really taking up most of my time when I’m not at work. I also enjoy playing squash and spending quality time with my family and friends.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?
I don’t think I actually deal with my stress head on, but I do have some really good coping mechanisms – the exercise and squash really help when I can take my frustrations out on the court.
If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?
I haven’t really had many to change until now. This is the third company I’ve worked at and every move that I’ve made has been one in the right direction that’s helped me land where I am today. At the start of my career, I was in channel, then I moved to sales and then back to channel again. This confirmed even more so in my mind that where I am is the right place for me to be.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
In my opinion, everything in IT is an investment. From speaking to my customer’s, I’ve gathered that what they’re looking for and what they value most is flexibility and freedom, as well as being at the forefront of decision-making in their business, and that’s what VMware gives them.
This approach benefits their clients and helps the business reap a return on investment (from their IT investments) that pay off a lot more so than hasty decisions. The days of R50 million deals is over, at least from my perspective, it matters more that we add real value to our clients year-on-year and nurture the customer relationships we have.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Africa?
Maturity is a problem that always need varying levels of knowledge and care, depending on the region. I manage Sub-Saharan Africa, and all countries in the region are at different stages of their IT adoption cycle. I can’t just set up the same go-to-market for each market but must tailor them all specifically for the needs of the client. A lot of global vendors have a more general focus on technology that may work in the US or Europe, but it doesn’t always work in Africa as customers might not be ready to consume this style of off the shelf thinking. It is a challenge I need to address daily but a thoroughly enjoyable one.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
I have only been in this position since May 2019, but I have seen a lot of positive changes and growth in terms of the internal team’s morale over the last nine months. Employees are beginning to see that their actions make an impact on the organisation, and I can really see that difference in all they do. Prior to my arrival at VMware, there was no one in my position and the team was without a manager, so making a direct comparison of the changes at this point would be difficult to pinpoint.
What advice would you offer someone aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry?
Your name is your brand and relationship building are of the utmost importance. Making sure that those two things are credible, authentic and held in high regard is valuable. Staying true to a day-to-day routine with healthy, productive habits is another success factor, and is something that will stand you in good stead because those habits will result in long-term benefits.