Keeping it simple

Keeping it simple

Stronger partner engagement is top of the list for Websense's first local channel sales manager, Mark Spencer. He recently talked to ARN about his partner aspirations, channel history and the need for simple but effective programs.

What was your first job?
I worked at North Sydney TAFE as an electronics engineer for about five years and completed an electronics certificate during that time.

How did you progress from there to IT?
I was always more interested in the digital side of electronics and enjoyed design and working in the computer area. It was pretty sparse in those days -there wasn't a lot of computer work in the courses we did, but that changed and by the end I had begun to specialize in digital electronics and computing.

Where did you go from TAFE?
I did a couple of engineering and technician jobs for about 10 years before switching over to sales. I've been there ever since. It was a mixed experience - I learnt what I was good at and then found myself in channel. I joined Express Data in 1998 and spent four-and-a-half years there before going over to Symantec. I spent four-and-a-half years there in a channel role and joined Websense as channel sales manager in April.

What do you like about your current job?
It's got a lot going for it. In my last few roles, I've painstakingly looked into the companies before I joined because I wanted to be very sure about the direction I was heading in. My view is that Websense is really going places. It's got fantastic technology and has got to the point where it's growing through acquisition. Websense's technologies are leading in the three sectors we play in, according to Gartner. The people in the company are also fantastic - it's like an extended family. And that reflects in the way we work with the channel.

How many people does Websense have locally?
We have eight in Australia currently, but we could go to around 70 people with the SurfControl acquisition. The regional VPs are now working on the strategies around that, so it's a bit early to talk about the acquisition. We only have a snapshot of each company at this stage.

Your channel role at Websense is a newly created position. What scope has that given you in developing strategies?
When I came on board, I loved the look of the role because it had a lot of autonomy. Websense is a dominant market leader worldwide, but in Australia we're about even for market share in Web filtering. That means we have a reasonable amount of scale. And I can leverage our global practices, particularly around channel, to develop a local channel model. With our dealer registration program for example, we just had to tailor it to suit the Australian market, work with our distributor and that's up and running.

Over the last 10 years I've taught myself all the nuances and different types of channel model and I think I understand what works and what doesn't. That's what I've tried to put into our programs now. The main thing is making it easy and the good thing about our model is that it's quite simple: it's easy to understand, to price product, to register deals, and connect with Websense.

What's the big focus for you over the next 12 months?
Certainly new business, like every other vendor out there, and our channel model is designed to do that. We typically generate leads ourselves for channel and help partners to generate new business themselves. Integration [with SurfControl] is also going to be large on the agenda, but we don't want to jump in and change things. We will need to maintain both channels and make the most of those opportunities. And then channel engagement. This is new for Websense - although we are a completely channel organisation, we haven't had that representation in Australia until my appointment. Now that we have programs in place, I'll be making sure partners are up to speed and find it easy to deal with us.

What's the biggest achievement of your career to date?
I think the thing I'm best at is identifying where I should work. If I don't do that correctly, the job becomes a labour and your future is not very bright. Outside of that, I think everybody can say they've kicked some numbers, and it's been easy enough to do that over the last few years.

Do you have any dislikes in the IT industry?
MS: One of the things that stands out for me and gets on my nerves is bad practice and bad design. For example, in the context of programs, software development and connections with IT companies, I hate being asked to enter things twice. It's the 21st century and we have programs that should be able to manage that. I really believe keeping it simple is something that should be top-of-mind when people design programs, systems and even software. We have so much technology - it's not hard. Anyone should be able to use the technology.

What's the next big thing in your industry?
In the content security space where Websense plays, it's definitely going to be Web 2.0 and the challenges that will be brought forward because of that. It's a great new bastion. To a degree though, it's still the Web, and it means we're well placed in that market.

What do you do when you're not at work?
I have a very young family, so it's sleep or change nappies. Besides that, I like to surf, so in my spare few minutes, I duck down to the beach.

Do you have a favourite travel destination?
I love Beijing. I also love Japan - my wife and I went there a few years ago and had a good look around. It's the safest I've felt in the world because the Japanese are so accommodating.

Do you like gadgets?
Absolutely. If you don't like them, you're in the wrong industry. There's a clear difference between the gadgets I use at home and the gadgets I use for work - I like really small gadgets for work with everything packed into them like a small PDA, laptop and phone; and for home I like a big TV and hard drive to keep things on.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
A professional tennis player. I grew up in Bundeena, a pretty small town on the outskirts of Sydney, and tennis is one of the big things in that town. I was pretty good there, but once I left, things changed.

What's your biggest ambition?
To have financial independence for my family and to give them the choice to do what they want to do. I think your goals change when you become a family person and it probably wasn't that two years ago, but everything I do now is aimed at that goal.

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