CRN 2017 Women of the Channel Details

Heather Collins

Director, Partner Sales, Cisco

Location: Boston, MA


Number of years in current position: 1

Number of years involved with indirect sales: 6

Twitter Handle: @_Heath_Collins

Fun Facts:

Enjoys public speaking
Has a mentor
Is a mentor
Loves Spotify
Has a personal mantra
Has completed a marathon
Had a lemonade stand
Always wanted to be an Olympian

Biography and Background:
Heather is Director, Partner Sales at Cisco, with responsibility for partner revenue growth, solutions development and strategic alignment for Cisco's Federal Defense business. Heather started her career in finance at EDS, then moved to Federal sales at companies including Zenith Data Systems, Cabletron, Cisco, and Dell. She spent seven years working internationally in Europe and the Middle East, supporting U.S. Government agencies and NATO. A believer that life is a journey, she made a mid-career transition to non-profit work, serving as President and Executive Director of a non-profit focused on economic development and legislative advocacy in Maine. She held positions on Midcoast Maine's Governor's Advisory Council and the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, and frequently testified at the State House on legislative advocacy initiatives focused around economic development. She returned to the IT industry in 2009. At Cisco, she has held roles of progressive responsibility on both the direct and partner side of the house. Heather graduated summa cum laude from Boston University with a degree in finance. She lives in Boston and Maine with her husband John and their Jack Russell Terrier, Switch. She enjoys hiking, biking, cross country skiing, sailing, and running.

How have you personally helped advance your company's channel business over the past year?
My biggest focus this year has been ensuring that the team aligns their activities to each partner's unique business model and objectives. Instead of approaching a partner and saying "here are all of our products that you can sell", the team's conversations have changed, to say "what are your business objectives, relative to markets, technologies, and focus areas, and how can we work collaboratively to grow our mutual business around your objectives". As a result, the teams are having more constructive conversations with the partners, and partners are having an improved overall experience working with us. Partner satisfaction has improved. This also means moving away from the one size fits all strategy in enablement, and working on an enablement and education program that is unique to the specific objectives of each respective partner. Partner differentiation is really coming to the front through this approach, creating better alignment for us both internally and externally. It's also letting smaller, emerging partners shine - the teams understand their uniqueness better, and as a result, we are making investments in these smaller partners in areas that we may not have in the past. Overall partner revenue is growing through this new approach.

What are your goals for your company's channel business over the next year?
1. Help our partners achieve growth and profitability in the ever-changing technology landscape. 2. Develop programs, tools, training and resources that enable our partners to evolve their business so they can capture digital transformation opportunities. Focus areas include Customer-in selling, customer lifecycle/software (recurring revenue) and professional services. 3. Continue to aggressively drive our strategic priorities, including: 1) making it easier for our partners to transact with Cisco; 2) ensuring our collective go-to-market engines are aligned around the same priorities; and 3) sharing an equitable exchange of value that is commensurate with the evolving technology landscape.

What honors, awards or commendations have you won over the past year?
In the past year, I was awarded Cisco's Manager's Excellence Award for FY2016. This honor is given to top Cisco leaders who have shown exceptional abilities in collaborating, learning, executing, and accelerating business, as evidenced by a substantial year-over-year growth in Cisco Federal's System Integrator space. I also received 2016 recognition from Women in the Channel, in the Up-And-Comers Category, for work done with U.S. Federal Systems Integrators, creating strategies and initiatives to better align to the business models of this unique partner type, resulting in revenue growth and improved partner satisfaction.

Outside of your family, please name a woman you admire and why:
Heather Abbott, who was a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing, and lost a leg. She took a life altering experience, and out of it created something positive for others, via the Heather Abbott foundation. Her foundation's mission is to provide customized prostheses to individuals who have suffered from limb losses through traumatic circumstances. She speaks of being a private person, thrust into a public environment through a very negative experience, and she has used that publicity to do good things for others. She didn't let her experience define her, through it, she created her own new definition of herself.

What advice would you give to young women who want to begin careers in technology?
Diversify your experience. Don't take a linear career path - seek out as many different opportunities, in different areas of an organization, and working with as many different people, as possible. Too many people follow the predictable A to B to C model. Diversity of experience, people, and environments leads to better decision making, and better leadership. And to that point, put yourself in environments that make you uncomfortable. If you are always comfortable in your work environments, you are not learning and not challenging yourself. If you are uncomfortable, you are learning something new - so embrace it!

If you could be any movie character for one day in real life, who would you be and why?
Hands down, Ironman. What could be better than flying around the world in that cool suit, with all of its fun technology, and your own personal artificial intelligence assistant Jarvis at your beck and call?

If you could travel to a city you've never been to before, all expenses paid, where would you go and why?
Chiang Mai, Thailand, to immerse myself in food, cooking, flavors, and culinary experiences. I learned the beauty of cooking Asian food when I took a cooking class at the Elephant Walk Restaurant in Boston. They specialize in French Cambodian cuisine, and that experience began my Asian culinary journey, with Thai food being my favorite. I'd eat street food, go to food markets and hole in the wall restaurants, and continue to refine my cooking skills. Eating the most redolent curries, learning to make the perfect laksa, and smelling the aromas of grilled meats and chilies at markets. What a dream.

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