CRN 2018 Women of the Channel Details

Vanessa Simmons

VP of Business Development, The Pythian Group

Location: Ottawa, ON


Number of years in current position: 8

Number of years involved with indirect sales: 6

Twitter Handle:

Fun Facts:

Sits on a company board
Has worked for a solution provider organization
Has a mentor
Is a mentor
Is an extrovert
Can ride a horse
Likes playing video games

Biography and Background:
Business has been in Vanessa's blood since she took up selling Avon at age 10. Over her 21-year high tech career, she has handled the full range of marketing, sales and business development functions, serving today as VP, Business Development at Pythian. In 2013 Vanessa launched Pythian business development, and for the past three years has focused on supporting Pythian's transformation into a cloud-first/cloud-forward technology company. She has actively built relationships with Google, Microsoft and Amazon and preserved Pythian's historical partnership with Oracle as cloud transformation continues to sweep the data world. Those relationships have helped drive Pythian's cloud business as the fastest growing practice, coming from the strength of Pythian's relationships and excellent technical reputation. The energy, drive and results orientation Vanessa brings to her work at Pythian also find an outlet in her passion for great food, wine and artisan cheeses. She is an accredited Cheese Sommelier and Cordon Bleu-trained chef. Her weekly Friday afternoon cheese tastings at Pythian's Ottawa office aren't to be missed! Vanessa came to Pythian out of roles at a number of technology companies including Digital Fairway, Fastlane Technologies (Quest Software/Dell), Eftia OSS Solutions and N-able (Solarwinds).

How have you personally helped advance your company's channel business over the past year?
The cloud has transformed Pythian's traditional database business. We've evolved actively to keep up. That's meant cultivating new partnerships, preserving legacy ones, and making sure we have the right-skilled team to meet emerging needs. Change can be disruptive. As part of our "no one left behind" approach, I orchestrated a highly successful Business Development Cloud Throwdown last year. We offered staff funding for professional development and training related to our cloud focus. Within 10 minutes of being announced at an all-hands meeting, the 20 slots were taken. By the time the meeting wrapped, nearly 80 people had registered, and all were accepted. Our partners supported with training vouchers, offsetting our costs. Participants said they felt engaged and re-motivated. HR called it, "One of the best programs run at Pythian last year." We ended up with 30 new Google certifications, 25 Amazon certifications and 5 Microsoft Azure certifications. The Senior VP of our Services Business, Keith Millar, says partners have told him they appreciate the speed and responsiveness I bring. He's also said my ability to align business leaders and technical contributors with the overall goals of the business is a big benefit. I'm very proud of that.

What are your goals for your company's channel business over the next year?
My mantra this year is, "Better, faster, more in the cloud": better at how we approach and deliver cloud projects and communicate with partners and customers; faster at getting projects started up, even as more come in; and helping more clients get started on their cloud journey. I want to focus even more on data science and machine learning as specializations and ensure partners understand how our data-centric cloud capabilities support them. As a hard target, I want to double our channel partner revenue. And, of course, I want to keep Pythian top of mind with all our cloud partners.

What honors, awards, or commendations have you won over the past year?
In 2017 I was promoted to the position of Vice President of Business Development, an increase in responsibility and accountability I was eager to embrace. Externally, it was a great honour to be nominated for an Ottawa Amazing People Award as a cancer survivor and longtime supporter of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and Operation Big Turkey, as a champion of Ottawa-area food businesses, and for the role of "super aunt" I've taken on with my sister's kids since they lost their mom to cancer last year.

Outside of your family, please name a woman you admire and why:
Without a doubt, that would be Siobhan Devlin, Pythian's General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. She's the epitome of grace under pressure and has the biggest heart. We've worked together for more than seven years - she's been my rock and I'm grateful for her wisdom and friendship. Siobhan always looks for a solution that works for everyone, which you don't typically see in a legal department. She is always looking to partner with her "client", whether us in business development, sales, or customers. If you ever receive a gift from her, it will be wrapped beautifully -she knows details count!

What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
"Never take no for an answer and don't settle. Anything's possible." That comes from my mom. I think I knew it back then, but it's the kind of thing you need to remind yourself always. When I was 10 and asked to sell Avon, I wasn't told I was "too young". I knew I could do it. My parents backed me. I did sales, inventory and deliveries for four years, and had top performance. I'd also say, "Be kind. Treat others the way you want to be treated." That's really the foundation of any solid relationship - trust and confidence.

If you could master any new job-related skill, what would it be and why?
I'm happiest serving others. I'd really like to learn a trade. At Pythian I make things happen, but I don't actually make things. I'd love to acquire the skill to create something. I've looked into volunteering with Habitat for Humanity as an avenue. I'm also interested in floristry. Flowers bring such joy to people: the ability to put together an arrangement that is beautiful and makes people smile; it's part art, part craft. Neither are directly related to my job, but I'm always growing and feel a variety of skills, tangible and intangible, contribute to who you are overall.

What's the best book you read this past year and why did you like it?
The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz really resonated: the idea there's no playbook for life or leadership, especially not the hardest parts, personal or professional. We all can relate. I had cancer at 30, I lost my sister last year. Big and small changes happen at work every day. We're all human and need treat others as we want to be treated. I like the idea that when you get down to basics, even when you have to make difficult decisions, if you take the high road, and do the right thing, you can live with them.

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