With over 22 years as a channel sales executive in the high-tech industry, Larissa Crandall, vice president of Worldwide Channel and Alliances at Gigamon has extensive experience transforming global partner ecosystems. We spoke with Larissa to find out more about her dedication to the channel.
Since joining Gigamon, Larissa Crandall has played a key role in doubling Gigamon’s channel team. In her first year, Gigamon’s channel business grew more than 35 percent, resulting in an increase in revenue, channel-initiated business, and ecosystem alignment. Crandall also helped launch the creation of the Gigamon Playbook, built and executed creative demand generation, training and enablement programs.
This is what Larissa Crandall had to say about why more women should be encouraged to pursue a career in the tech industry.
Why is it important to recognise the success of women in business?
Recognising women’s successes is crucial for improving gender equality and levelling out the disparity between men and women in senior positions and in the technology industry more specifically.
In my experience, I’ve seen that women are less likely to push themselves into higher executive level positions because they think they need to meet every requirement of the role. In fact, it’s been reported that women usually apply for jobs when they meet 100% of the criteria, compared to around 60% for men. Hopefully, recognition of more women in business and tech can change this trend – as more diversity in decision-making roles makes for a stronger, more successful business.
Do you think there are currently enough women being recruited into senior positions of management in the tech channel? What can be done to encourage more women into these roles?
There aren’t as many women recruited into senior management positions across the industry, and as of the beginning of this year, only 26% of those in the total technology workforce are women. But this is beginning to shift.
For me, it’s important to focus on advocating women for higher-level positions because of their experience, not just because they fit in a certain diversity and inclusion bucket. To encourage more women into these roles, offering mentorship in the earlier stages of their careers is key. I sought out mentorship when I first left college and asked to be mentored by both men and women. This helped to break down barriers, allowed me to gain a huge amount of experience and, from here, I could grow into senior management positions, like my role as Vice President of Worldwide Channel & Alliances at Gigamon.
Ultimately, the involvement of men and women in the diversity process is vital. At Gigamon, our GigaWomen program is focused on the empowerment of women and welcomes all genders, meaning everyone is part of the change! It’s also important to ensure that each of these people has a voice at the table and feels part of a collaborative environment. The Gigamon team continues to break down the silos between leadership and their teams to avoid a they/them dynamic.
If there was a piece of leadership advice you’d offer, what would it be?
You have to feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable – this is what I say to my team. We’re in high tech, so every day is different and you can’t grow if you’re doing the same thing – ‘feeling comfortable’ – all the time. You must adapt and embrace change. Take the pandemic, for instance. It pushed us out of our comfort zone, but we were all in it together as an organisation. The leadership style of a business has to mimic this fast-paced change.
Why do you think the channel suffers from a diversity lag?
I think there is a lag in diversity because being in sales in the technology world has a perception problem; the industry can seem scary and complex from the outside. However, it’s ultimately about helping customers and partners with challenges and issues, which is exciting. If this can be communicated to a more diverse group of people, it could really help to improve the lag.
A career in the channel also isn’t the traditional route for women – following this path often means going against the grain. However, one way of closing the broader diversity lag is by creating more positions around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). For instance, Gigamon has created DEI Specialist roles to keep DEI front of mind and ensure we are recruiting the most diverse and experienced candidates.
Do you think there is still a significant pay gap between what women and men earn within the channel? If so, why is this still the case?
While there is a gender pay gap, this issue is also improving. Unfortunately, as women, we’re more likely to accept the offer given to us – around four in five women could be missing out on higher wages by not negotiating pay – whereas men tend to negotiate and demand more. We need to prioritise supporting women and allow them to speak up on their value and contribution to the team.
I’m proud to say, as an organisation, Gigamon pays attention to this. We look at all of our people and consider the experience and contribution of each person to ensure that we’re honouring their importance to the organisation. This must be top of mind for all employers.
What inspires you about working within the channel?
My background is sales, marketing, partnerships and alliances, and the channel is the perfect blend of all these skillsets. I can incorporate my experience of working with sales and marketing teams and build initiatives to drive partner growth. Yet, what inspires me the most about working within the channel is seeing our team at Gigamon create programs that align to partners’ businesses. We don’t push out an identical program to everyone that may or may not work. Instead, we pride ourselves on listening to our partners, understanding their aims, aligning to their business objectives and integrating Gigamon where possible.
What led you to pursue a career within IT?
I started in sales; my first job was selling technology for a solutions provider, before I moved up into the company’s leadership team. This experience helped me build a solid understanding of different parts of the business and have the confidence to achieve my current position at Gigamon. The route to IT, the channel or to an executive level can be different and definitely isn’t a straight line. For young people trying to break into high tech and leadership, it’s important to realise that it may be a convoluted journey – and that is ok.
Can you tell us more about your experiences and successes within your career within IT?
Alongside my earlier roles, Gigamon has been a huge success in my career. We announced going to market with the Catalyst Channel Program three years ago. In that time, we’ve grown channel revenue by 35%, worked tirelessly on bespoke partner programs and encouraged the entire field organisation to embrace the big change to a channel-first strategy. What’s more, this growth occurred during a global pandemic. We continued to grow with our partner community because we listened to them and tailored programs and engagement strategies to their individual needs.
To achieve this success with Gigamon, I drew on experiences from my early career where I progressed to lead some of the top sales reps in the country and spent extensive time with customers. This is where everything that I live, breathe and do every day originates. I’m always paying attention to ‘talking their talk’ and thinking ‘outside-in’, rather than ‘inside-out’. Recognising what is important to partners and understanding the challenges they are facing has been central to the channel growth I have led so far at Gigamon.
I’m also extremely proud of the work we’re doing at Gigamon in the cloud environment. Because of the pandemic, every partner and customer is analysing their business model and deciding how best to survive and thrive. Each organisation is now unavoidably integrated with technology due to accelerated digital transformation demands, and we’ve seen a laser focus on cloud adoption in the last two years. As a company, we are aligned to this; we’ve adapted to these changes and we’ve made sure we are prioritising two things – partner experience and customer experience.
Why is it important for women in leadership positions within the channel to be recognised?
Recognising women in leadership positions is crucial as it helps to show younger generations that the IT channel is a great industry to be a part of. The more diverse the future workforce, the more the channel will benefit from new ideas, creative thinking and, ultimately, business success. I think education can really help with channel diversification. For example, HR teams can organise enablement training for the entire organisation on issues such as unconscious bias which, if unlearned, makes the technology world and the IT channel a more welcoming space for diversity.
How have you expanded your channel team and grown channel revenue contribution to over 50% this year?
Our success has involved a lot of enablement training and communication. At the core of our channel growth is clear internal and external communication on what ‘good’ and ‘success’ look like, ensuring we are all working to the same standards and goals.
We’ve also spent a lot of time around collaboration and working with a ‘OneGigamon’ mindset. This means all of the extended teams, including C-Suite and investors, have been supportive of the channel-first mission. We’re therefore able to continue moving and growing with our partners at their pace and are in the best position to help solve business outcomes for our customers.
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