By Dawn Small

“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” -- Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States

The former First Lady’s sentiments about the success that can be attained by embracing equality, inclusiveness and diversity is wisdom not only for a country but also for the business world. According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, gender diversity can have a direct, positive impact on a company’s bottom line.

CRN, a news and information source for the indirect technology sales channel, has been working since 2003 to provide a platform for women in the IT industry. By recognizing the leadership and contributions of women in the channel, CRN is helping to change the technology industry’s sea of blue, collared shirts and neckties to one that also includes blouses.

For the second consecutive year, the Flexential channel team has been recognized on CRN’s Women of the Channel list, an annual list recognizing women leading vendor, distributor and solution provider organizations who demonstrate outstanding leadership and vision in driving channel growth and innovation. The 2017 Women of the Channel list recognizes Tamara Prazak, Flexential director of channel strategy and marketing, and Jeanine Sicinski, Flexential channel marketing manager. Jeanine also was named among the “Up and Comers” as a rising star.

During Tamara’s tenure at Flexential spanning five years, she has helped to create and build the company’s indirect channel program, which now accounts for over 30% of Flexential overall bookings. She has over 15 years of experience and is a proud member of Cloud Girls, an organization that promotes education and development for women in technology. She enjoys spending time with her family and running.

Jeanine has seven years of experience in the cloud and IT industries. She manages ViaWest’s Northeast channel and works closely with partners to provide the best cloud hosting solutions for their clients while also helping partners capture additional revenue. Jeanine became a mother this year, and if she has any free time to spare she particularly enjoys any of the following: eating out, rescuing Boston Terriers, snowboarding, being outdoors, traveling, playing soccer, practicing yoga and drinking tea.

I sat down with these channel marketing divas for their thoughts on being females in the channel and advice for other women in the business world.

DS: First, congratulations to both of you for the CRN recognition! What is your take on women in the channel? Is it getting better?

TP: While women are still a minority, the support of women, and their openness for sharing, in the channel is impressive. I feel very fortunate to be a member of Cloud Girls. The group is composed of talented and amazingly accomplished women, and it is a collaborative and supportive organization.

DS: You both inspire me, but who inspires you?

JS: I admire Rachel Brathen aka, Yoga Girl. Rachel started from next-to-nothing and built a brand for herself. With more than two million followers, she inspires everyone she touches with her amazing can-do attitude, inner beauty and love for life. She recently built her own brick and mortar yoga studio in Aruba, and it opened weeks before her first baby was born. I admire her entrepreneurial spirit and her passion to share her love with everyone she meets.

TP: ViaWest's CEO and co-founder, Nancy Phillips, is one of my female role models. Nancy has been a creative entrepreneurial force in the technology field since she was 25. Her passion, drive, integrity and commitment to customers inspire Flexential employees every day. Nancy has been gracious with her time in mentoring women – from students to professionals – and setting an example as a leader, a female in a male-dominated industry and as a person. Nancy's passion and enthusiasm are contagious!

DS: Can you summarize the ways that Flexential supports the channel?

TP: Flexential has a lean channel group, so Jeanine and I both wear several hats in support of the growth of our channel program and support for solution providers. I direct marketing strategy and execution, in addition to providing sales enablement to both our dedicated channel sales team and the entire sales organization to assist them with building and maintaining relationships with channel partners.

JS: I educate Flexential sales teams and legacy Flexential partners about the world-class portfolio of cloud solutions that made INetU (which Flexential acquired in 2015) a leader in the IT space. Likewise, I educate legacy INetU partners about the complementary solutions that Flexential excels in, including data center and colocation solutions, as well as security, DevOps and managed services.

DS: What advice would you have for other women in the channel, in tech, or in the business world in general?

JS: It's your world and you have the opportunity to make a difference. Be confident in yourself, even if you're unsure. Do things wholeheartedly, and don't be afraid to fail. Always keep learning to keep yourself sharp. And last but not least, never give up hope!

TP: My advice would be to be yourself, work hard and have fun. Be confident even when you don't feel confident. Remember – you can achieve anything that you set your mind to. Don't forget that growth begins at the end of your comfort zone – as Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Do one thing every day that scares you." Lastly, if you're not having fun and laughing every day, then you haven't found a job that ignites your passion.

DS: That should have been my opening quote! So ending on a laugh, if you could be any movie character for one day in real life, who would you be and why?

TP: I would be Ferris Bueller, because it’s important every now and then to just let everything go and live in the moment. Plus, who doesn’t want to have an epic day with your friends and sing “Twist and Shout” on a float in a parade downtown Chicago? As Ferris said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

JS: I’d be Tris (Beatrice) from the Divergent Trilogy. I love Tris and her desire to find change in her world to make the environment a better place. She is a strong, courageous and powerful woman.

Dawn Small is a writer on ViaWest’s marketing team. She has over a decade of experience in the technology industry, including several years focused on the channel.