Lisa McLin has been working with partners for most of her 15 years at Rackspace, but she never imagined ending up a channel chief.

McLin took an unlikely path to the channel leadership position at the San Antonio-based managed hosting company, starting out as a staff accountant in 2002.

Her stint crunching the numbers was short-lived—less than a year later, McLin was working the phones, delivering Fanatical Support to Rackspace customers.

Several sales positions followed, each more senior than the last, leading to her promotion earlier this summer to Vice President of North America Channel Sales and Alliances, the top channel position at Rackspace.

"I've always been working with partners, just not directly like I'm doing today," McLin told Women of the Channel. "This journey has allowed me to develop deep relationships with our customers and partners. Throughout my sales career, I always put customers and partners first and that has not changed."

As channel chief, McLin is looking to extend Rackspace's Fanatical Support philosophy of customer service to partners.

"I really see Rackspace creating a Fanatical channel program. We're at a place where we're very serious about it," she said.

"My goal is to create a strategy that allows Rackspace and our partners to grow through this cloud transformation."

A Fanatical channel would incorporate new tools and services for partners, empowering them to deliver their own version of Fanatical Support to customers.

McLin wants Rackspace and partners to sell private cloud together, with Rackspace providing infrastructure and services, and partners managing the day-to-day operations of applications.

To that end, Rackspace is also exploring a white-label program for some products that would allow partners to sell under their own brand, with Rackspace handling back-end service and support. And the company recently introduced new revenue-generating incentives, including a spif partners can earn on deals, she said.

In addition to its private cloud portfolio, Rackspace offers managed services around all three hyper-scale public clouds—Google, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

As the leader of Rackspace's alliances, McLin works closely with those cloud providers and vendors such as VMware, Red Ha, and Dell EMC, while also maintaining the relationships with global systems integrators like CDW, master agents like PlanetOne, and regional resellers.

The channel organization she now runs has a unique dual mission, she explained.

"We're special," McLin said. "For some companies, I am their channel. Others, they are my channel. And that's perfect to create a go-to-market tech alliance with these partners. Now we're selling solutions, not just these components."

McLin has also filled another important role at Rackspace.

As the vice chair for POWER (Professional Organization of Women Empowered at Rackspace), she's helping the next wave of talented women ascend to leadership, her part in helping close the gender-representation gap in the tech industry.

McLin sees mentorship as an important responsibility. Through POWER she works to expose young women to different parts of the business and senior leaders.

"I started in accounting. I continued to evolve and I'm helping other women here at Rackspace do the same," McLin told Women of the Channel.