In this inaugural edition of ARN's 'one-on-one' interview series, we speak to Michelle Marlan, senior manager of channel and alliances in Australia and New Zealand for unified communications vendor 8x8, who opens up about her start in the IT industry, what's in store for 8x8 partners, biggest ambitions and some of her best advice.
ARN: What was your first job?
MM: General duties at a hair salon. A friend’s Mum owned a hair salon in Camberwell, Melbourne during the 80’s. I was lucky enough to get a part time job there Thursday/Friday evenings, and most Saturday mornings. What a learning experience! As it was the 80’s, everything was ‘big’ and my duties ranged from sweeping hair off the floor to being a dancer for the salon’s entries in the annual Hair Shows. This might sound strange, but these hair shows were events everyone wanted to attend. This job set me up on a foundation of customer service – as well as being one of the best ‘people’ learning experiences of my life.
ARN: How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?
MM: Met a man at a pub…and the rest is history. Made the jump from tax to IT in 2002 and started with an Avaya reseller. This was a wonderful time of learning and took a ‘sleeves up’ approach to understanding technology. I really enjoyed getting out into the field with the technicians and understand what they did, how they did it and the end impact to the customer, which assisted me greatly in the role I moved into, which was account management.
I moved on from Avaya to work with a start-up telco, which led me to Interactive Intelligence. There I was lucky to be part of something special – growing the business across APAC with a bunch of amazing people and now reflect on those years as some of the best in my life - both professionally and personally. I am extremely passionate about what I do and have built my career on serving customers and partners.
ARN: What are some of your plans for the channel in the next few months?
MM: Growth. 8x8 are undergoing a global transformation of the VAR [value added reseller] program. Our aim is to provide the most comprehensive channel framework in our space. We want our channel partners to be the best they can be, by partnering with us. This takes thought and dedication to construct meaningful programs. We’ve got some work in front of us to mature our offering and are committed to doing this.
ARN: What are some of the hottest trends in the market right now and how is 8x8 helping its partners capitalise on this?
MM: Simplicity – single solution, by a single vendor. This equips our partners and customers with the exact tools they need to communicate, collaborate and access data across employees and customers alike. Whether it is UC only or a mix of UC and contact centre/customer engagement, the ability to leverage data across solutions is often extremely complex and under-rated. Working with a single solution vendor, like 8x8, makes an enormous difference for all ongoing engagement.
With the single solution offering, as we enhance our platform and increase capability, features and functionality, the ease of driving these enhancements out to the end customer is simple. The value offering to our partners is enormous as their investment in their own teams for learning, expertise and impact to their end customer increases as they can have engaging discussions around outcome based solutions, rather than technology led topics.
With the 8x8 acquisition of Wavecell, the value to our partners will become even more broad, extending the ability to transform their offerings to the end customer leveraging CPaaS technology and provide end to end solutions for their customers. We take care of the back end so our Partners can take care of their customers’ needs.
ARN: What are some of your biggest ambitions, personally and professionally?
MM: Professionally, I am extremely driven and motivated to place an 8x8 stamp on the A/NZ map. We have so much to offer and am excited to build a channel community that makes a difference.
On a personal front, it’s extremely varied. From family-related goals, to becoming skilled on my SUP [stand up paddle board] in choppy water! I’m also on a journey to understand our Indigenous heritage and increase my connection with our land.
ARN: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
MM: I have a few. First and foremost, this wasn’t advice – rather a statement - which has had a profound impact on my life. Forgiveness is freedom. Nelson Mandela shared this with the world.
Secondly, every day, do the thing you are most confronted by first. Get all the tough stuff done early up and the rest of the day you keep achieving goals.
Lastly, progress – not perfection. At times I have been stilted by wanting areas to be perfect, which has halted my progress. Now, progress is key. Learn fast, fail fast and learn again. Progress.