New Intel Security channel chief Steranka aims to stay the course

Richard Steranka, senior vice president of partner operations for Intel Security

Richard Steranka, vice president of global channel operations for Intel Security

Things are a little different for Richard Steranka at his new job than the last time he took a role as global channel chief.

When Steranka took the helm at Avaya, significant change was the call of the day, and he led the charge on a transition of the networking vendor’s channel program from a focus on volume to a focus on value. But as he moves into his new role, Steranka, now vice president of global channel operations for Intel Security, says the structure in place, and the focus of the company’s partner program, begun by his predecessors Alex Thurber and Gavin Struthers, is already headed in the right direction.

“When someone comes into a role like this, the question is always, ‘is this person going to change the strategy?’” Steranka said of his new role. “No. It’s going to be a continuation. There’s been a lot of change in the last few years, and Gavin and [global partner program head] Lisa [Matherly] have done a great job of evolving the program.”

That said, in the technology industry, nothing stands still. So while he’s still learning — Wednesday is just his third day on the job after wrapping up at Avaya last Friday — Steranka said he already has some ideas for where the program needs to head next.

While he said he’s happy with the partner base already in place at Intel Security, Steranka described an opportunity to reach out to more traditional networking VARs.

“The partner community continues to change. At one point, it was all about the endpoint. But now, there’s a lot of concentration on the network. I’ll be looking for strategic partners who can deliver the complete solution,” he said. “This is a very healthy ecosystem, but there’s always room to add additional partner capacity as the market continues to grow.”

With a background at Avaya, and before that, a long stint at Cisco, including a stint here in his homeland as Cisco Canada channel chief in the mid-90s, networking is a familiar field for Steranka. And he’s not alone at looking to bridge the gap between security and networking solution providers. With its own increasing push on security — new CEO Chuck Robbins has described security as the company’s number one priority and opportunity — Cisco is coming at the same gap from the opposite side.

“Right now, security is top of mind in the boardroom and there’s no company that’s not looking at solutions in that space,” he said. “But there are literally thousands of solutions, and that’s a challenge for end customers and partners alike. We’re looking at it as an architectural play, and Intel Security is the only company with security from the chip all the way through traditional security mechanisms and into the cloud.”

Speaking of architectural plays is right out of the Cisco playbook, but also harkens to Intel Security’s own unique position inside the dominant chipmaker, where executives have crafted a “better together” approach, merging security functionality between hardware and software.

Steranka also said he sees major opportunity for the channel in the mid-market, where endpoint ideas like BYOD are causing things to look a lot more like the consumer market than they have in the past, and are driving a move towards cloud-based security solutions. Here, Steranka said he sees the solutions set moving to the cloud, and the company’s partner program moving to align with those developments.

Along with the rest of the current Intel Security channel team, including Matherly and Americas channel chief Fernando Quintero, Steranka said he has “a huge asset” accessible to him in his new role. Usually, a new channel chief steps in after the former channel chief has moved on. But in this case, Steranka’s predecessor, Struthers, is still with the organization.

“Gavin and I have already spent a lot of time together in the last few days. He’s still very passionate about what he started in this community,” Steranka said.

Like many new channel chiefs, a big part of Steranka’s job in the coming days and months is getting to know both his new employer and the partner base he serves. The timing of the move is such that Steranka will have the opportunity to host many of his top partners in less than 90 days, at the company’s annual partner conference, part of its Focus event in Las Vegas in October. Steranka also said he’ll be “hitting the streets soon” to spend time with partners in various regions, and his home and native land “will be one of the first stops.”