CRN 2017 Women of the Channel Details

Rita Walston

Senior director, Marketing programs, immixGroup

Location: McLean, VA


Number of years in current position: 9

Number of years involved with indirect sales: 10

Fun Facts:

Is fluent in another language
Enjoys public speaking
Has an advanced degree
Has worked for a solution provider organization
Is a mentor
Has a personal mantra
Had a lemonade stand

Biography and Background:
As senior director, marketing programs, Rita Walston oversees strategic programs for Arrow ECS's commercial business units and the immixGroup public sector channel marketing team. Her team provides strategic and tactical marketing planning, logistics, management, and support to IT manufacturer suppliers and solution provider partners. Rita has extensive experience in the creation and management of channel development, thought leadership, and lead generation marketing programs aimed at enabling the channel and building pipeline. She also is the strategic and tactical lead on immixGroup's annual Government IT Sales Summit, the industry's preeminent event delivering market intelligence, expert content from industry and government leaders, and unparalleled networking opportunities for its 900+ attendees. Prior to joining immixGroup in 2008, Rita was executive director of the NIST-funded Telework Consortium, which provided telework program consulting services and implementation support to federal agencies and other public sector entities. In addition to marketing, her 25-year career includes IT business development and sales, publishing, and media market research. Rita has a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and a bachelors degree in communications from Wayne State University in Detroit.

How have you personally helped advance your company's channel business over the past year?
The channel is fundamentally changing for many of our partners. As the annuity model of XaaS continues to grow, it creates a gap for some partners who have relied on new license revenue. Technology changes also continue to cause shift, expansion, and, in some cases, contraction of revenue streams. I believe business growth comes through building and strengthening the right relationships. My focus this past year has been to bring together OEMs, VARs, and solution providers to build and strengthen relationships, identifying and enabling synergies to better recognize and leverage the opportunities these changes and shifts are creating. I spend a lot of time collaborating with the different stakeholders in the channel and leveraging resources such as our market intelligence team. I then create marketing campaigns and networking opportunities that yield actionable information and measurable ROI. Our company has signed new OEM suppliers, new partners, and expanded relationships with strategic solution providers as a direct result of some of these events and campaigns.

What are your goals for your company's channel business over the next year?
In January, my role expanded beyond public sector to include commercial marketing programs. My goal for 2017 is to develop more cohesion and an overarching strategy between the commercial and public sector sides of our business. That includes improving and enhancing communication between stakeholders, and creating new marketing initiatives that leverage current resources to deliver greater ROI. I'll also focus this year on technology areas and providing the channel with actionable information and strategic networking to enable them to expand their reach in areas such as Internet of Things, cloud, cybersecurity, and big data management and analytics.

What honors, awards or commendations have you won over the past year?
I was recently nominated for Arrow's Leadership Excellence Program and was selected to attend the 2016 Women of the Channel East event. I also receive a UFO award nomination, which is our company's internal recognition for demonstrating action and results.

Outside of your family, please name a woman you admire and why:
I really admire Amy Kelly. Her official title at immixGroup is senior director of organizational development, but I think of her as our senior director of energy. She is incredibly dynamic and ready to take on any challenge. She has a heart for developing people and for bringing out the best in everyone. I've gotten to know her both professionally and personally, and feel privileged to call her my friend and colleague.

What advice would you give to young women who want to begin careers in technology?
Stay curious. Your career doesn't have to be linear: look for and embrace opportunities that may seem at first to veer from what you think is your career trajectory. Opening the aperture of what you're willing to learn or experience can take you amazing places. Develop a tough skin so that you can deflect negativity. And never, ever compromise your integrity.

If you could be any movie character for one day in real life, who would you be and why?
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie's interpretation)! Who wouldn't want wings that were so strong they could carry you above the clouds and never falter? The wings were an analogy of her inner strength. When she was betrayed and her wings taken from her, she struck out and became the villain. During that dark time she still protected the land that was entrusted to her, still showed compassion, still kept a spark of humanity. I love that she worked through the darkness and being betrayed, worked through people doing unjust things and came out stronger, leveraging that strength to mentor the next generation.

If you could travel to a city you've never been to before, all expenses paid, where would you go and why?
Prague. It has an amazing array of gorgeous architecture: Roman, Gothic, Baroque, Art Nouveau, Cubist - it's all there. There are nearly one thousand towers and spires in Prague. I want to stroll the streets and sit in the cafes and visit the gardens and drink it all in. I'd love to meet and talk to the people who live there - especially those who lived through World War II and the decades behind the Iron Curtain. They came through those dark times and emerged with the beauty, culture, and spirit of their city intact.

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