Logicalis' Wendy McQuiston On Her 'Winding Road' From Music And IT Education To Leading A Fast-Growing Microsoft Practice

McQuiston says that embracing change and focusing on making others successful have been crucial to advancing her career.

Like many in the tech field, Wendy McQuiston says her career has involved a calculated pivot (or two) over time. But in her case, the pivots have been from some areas that few others in her position started out in — music and education.

"I had an unconventional and winding road to get to where I'm at," said McQuiston, who is the director of Microsoft Professional Services at solution provider powerhouse Logicalis U.S. "I learned very quickly to embrace change."

Logicalis itself is in the midst of a transition, from a product-centric to a services-centric sales approach, in order to help customers capture the digital transformation opportunity. And there, McQuiston has a crucial role in making both salespeople and engineers successful.

It's a role that McQuiston says would be much tougher without the unique background she has.

After starting out playing the piano at age 5, McQuiston always assumed she would go into music for a career — which she did for a time after graduating from Oakland University with a degree in music (she focused on organ and piano performance).

After college, she went into music education, where she realized she had a passion for teaching. She also realized that music is "a tough industry to be in," and that entering the technology field might be a wise next move.

"There's a correlation between the electronics in music [equipment] and in computers," McQuiston said. "I pivoted from teaching music to teaching computers."

She would go on to specialize in end user applications training, and work first as a technical trainer and then at Baker College in Michigan, where she served as the chair of the computer networking department. During that time, McQuiston gained expertise in Microsoft technologies while writing several books for the Microsoft Official Academic Course system (MOAC). 

Following her departure from academia, she worked for companies including Siemens and then spent time at solution provider Coretek Services, before joining Logicalis in 2014.

In mid-2016, Logicalis promoted McQuiston to head the company's Microsoft Professional Services practice. The role heavily leverages her background as an educator, with much of it requiring her to translate the technical details about Microsoft products "into something that's usable," she said. 

That means understanding the ins and outs of the Microsoft ecosystem, and then being able to get the right information to the right people within Logicalis — while also connecting the dots to the solutions from other vendors that Logicalis works with. 

"Probably 70 to 80 percent of my job is making sure people [within Logicalis] are successful," McQuiston said. "It's making sure people have the tools to take the message forward and the skills they need to execute."

New York-based Logicalis, which starts its fiscal year on March 1, is expecting to double its Microsoft practice both in terms of headcount and revenue in the current fiscal year, according to McQuiston.

Specific figures for headcount and revenue in the company's Microsoft practice aren't being disclosed.

The growth is spurred in part by the widening range of businesses that are attracted to Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider structure for procuring Office 365 seats and usage of the Azure cloud platform, McQuiston said.

Logicalis, No. 29 on the CRN 2017 Solution Provider 500, generated $1.6 billion in revenue in its previous fiscal year, with about half of that coming from its U.S. business.

Ultimately, McQuiston says she's proud that she was able to get to this point — overseeing a fast-growing opportunity for a major solution provider — after starting out with such a different career direction.

That took an ability to "use the skills that I have and reinvent myself based on that foundation," McQuiston said. "That's something you always need to be doing, especially in technology. You always need to be looking at what's next."

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