Dell vet Tara Fine sees more impact in new role as VMware Canada channel chief

Fine also acknowledged some VMware partner concern over the company’s new relationship with Dell, which does much more of its business direct than VMware has historically, and indicated her commitment to standing behind the partner community.


Tara Fine, VMware Canada channel chief

A month ago, Dell Canada veteran Tara Fine, who had most recently held the channel chief role there for the last three years, changed roles within the Dell empire, becoming the channel chief at VMware Canada. On the face of it, it seemed a curious career choice, particularly as VMware changed its business structure in Canada last year, dispensing with its Canadian country manager and moving to a centralized North American model. Fine said that the move makes sense on several levels however.

“These decisions have a personal element to them, in terms of being able to make an impact,” Fine told ChannelBuzz. “I felt that my ability to make an impact at VMware was much greater than at Dell, and that it could be a much more strategic role as far as increasing value to partners’ businesses.”

Fine said that after almost two decades at Dell Canada, it was time for a change.

“I had been at Dell for 19 years,” she said. “From a personal growth standpoint, taking the leap was the right move. It’s moving forward, not moving backward. I looked at where VMware came from, where it was going and the culture there, and they were all positive. At the same time, I was given incredible opportunities at Dell. It took so long to leave because I had no reason to leave.”

Even though the management structures of Dell and VMware in Canada are very different, Fine said that the channel chief role is very similar in both companies in terms of chain of command.

“It’s really no different at VMware,” she said. “When I was at Dell, I directly reported to the U.S. structure, and that’s consistent with the way it works at VMware.”

Fine said that her role at VMware is a permanent one. While her predecessor there, Donna Wittmann, is still with the company, she is on an extended leave. Fine has been told that she will remain in the channels role, even if and when Wittman returns.

VMware has a large channel in Canada, with hundreds of active partners, and Fine said that many of them had not been working with Dell before.

“I’m surprised at the number of partners here that I have never met before, and who have reached out to me,” she stated. “There are also a lot of partners I know that VMware hasn’t been doing business with, and that is a huge opportunity. I’m also able here to work with many partners with whom I had a relationship at Dell, and can help these partners grow their business and add a different type of value. There is a great opportunity here, and an opportunity for partners who are well entrenched with the Dell portfolio. It’s a great opportunity to maximize the VMware as part of their solution to the customer.”

Fine acknowledged that a major challenge in her new role is partner concern that Dell historically has done a much higher percentage of its business direct than VMware. While VMware is a separate entity within Dell, exactly how the Dell relationship will work and its relationship with the VMware channel still has not been completely determined.

“They have built an entire integration team to figure that out,” she said. “We want to ensure that we stay committed to a go-to-market strategy focused on our partners, and there will be some interesting synergies that come out of that.

“When I decided to come on board with VMware, one of the critical deciding factors was the culture, which I believe is one of integrity and standing behind the partner community, and its need to be fully empowered in order to execute. We are aware of the concern that Dell could compete with them. At Dell, we did make huge progress in dealing with channel conflict issues, but there will always be some form of channel conflict.”

Another challenge VMware faces is, ironically, its own history as a virtualization pioneer. As the cloud becomes increasingly more critical, VMware is emphasizing that it is not simply a virtualization-focused company, and that it not only has a hybrid cloud strategy, but one that offers differentiated value.

“We establish our value here by executing and giving customers unique solutions that they can’t find anywhere else,” said Peter Near, Director of Systems Engineering at VMware Canada. “We are building out hybrid cloud solutions that they can’t get any other way. If customers want to burst to the cloud, we have one of the few stacks that will let you get there without any compromise.”

Near referred to a demo done onstage Wednesday at the annual vForum event in Toronto, where a workload was migrated from a private to a public cloud in about five seconds.

“The stack of technology needed to move that from a private cloud to a public cloud is unique to VMware and our partnerships,” he said, “There’s no need for any networking, firewall or security remapping to get there.”