Onica makes senior management hire to broaden AWS business in Canada

David MacKay, Onica's new VP of Customer Strategy for Canada, is looking to develop regionally-focused strategies in Canada to build up Onica's brand and business, and serve as a model for similar initiatives in the U.S.

Goran (Kima) Kimovski, SVP of Global Customer Solutions at Onica

AWS Premier Consulting Partner Onica has announced a strategic hire, bringing in David MacKay from Slalom Consulting as VP of Customer Strategy for Canada. He is tasked with developing regionally-focused strategies in Canada which will accelerate Canada’s comparatively slow rate of cloud adoption. The initiatives will also provide a model for regionally-focused Onica growth in the U.S.

Onica’s presence in Canada originated with TriNimbus, a Vancouver-based AWS Premier partner, which was sold to L.A.-based Onica, also an AWS Premier partner, in 2018. Since then, while the Vancouver Office is still going strong, their Toronto office has grown disproportionately, and is now the larger of the two.

“Our main presence is now in Toronto,” said Goran (Kima) Kimovski, SVP of Global Customer Solutions at Onica, and one of the founding partners of TriNimbus. “The shift is mainly the result of the market expansion of AWS in Ontario.” Onica also has offices in Markham, Calgary and Montreal.

McKay came to Onica from the Toronto operations of Slalom Consulting, a large Seattle-headquartered systems integrator, where he spent over three years as Head of AWS Cloud Strategy.

“My initial role at Slalom was to establish sales in the Canadian marketplace,” McKay said. “However, in my previous role at SAS, which is focused on advanced analytics, one of the things I could see in that space was that public cloud would be a tremendous mechanism for moving advanced analytics to another level. So I knew coming into Slalom, that a large part of my mandate would be figuring out the public cloud strategy for Canada. AWS then was by far the front runner. I assessed the Canadian market from a public cloud maturity perspective, then aligned with the AWS Canada team to figure out the best approach – from Slalom’s traditional systems integrator perspective. I wound up moving out of leading the sales organization for Canada and focused on building the AWS Canada business.”

McKay said that while Onica, as an AWS-focused consultancy, is a different type of business from Slalom, the core issues of doing business with AWS in Canada are similar.

David MacKay, VP of Customer Strategy for Canada, Onica

“In the AWS world, innovation is extremely rapid, so the technology is always changing,” he stated. “You need to constantly rethink your strategy, and that was a lot of my role at Slalom. A big part of the job in Canada with Slalom in the early days was thought leadership – and that is still the case today. The Canadian marketplace is still four to five years behind some parts of the world when it comes to cloud. It’s still an education policy for many about what cloud-native means, and that requires spending a lot of time with clients understanding where they are on that maturity path.”

Given that TriNimbus was the first AWS Premier partner in Canada, one might wonder why Onica thought it necessary to bring in a new hire to expand the business here. Kimovski said it made sense on several levels. One is that himself and his co-founder are now focused on strategic roles that are North America-wide and beyond.

“In addition, TriNimbus was a top quality partner in the startup and SMB world, and while we moved to the enterprise and had success, especially in telcos, Onica is focused on enterprises,”Kimovski said. “David’s experience from Slalom focused on helping larger enterprises. So bringing in a leader like David to be in the forefront there is a really good match.”

The plan is that MacKay will develop a regional customer-centric growth model in Canada that Onica will replicate in the U.S. after proving its success.

“We are trying to establish a model for growth broadly,” Kimovski said. “We feel that we have reached a point where we need to rethink how we scale and use a regional model. It’s not just about selling more licenses. We are looking at implementing a model where we make an investment regionally and look at replicating that within other regions.”

“Canada is an ideal test market for the U.S., where we can get fairly quick feedback,” McKay said. “There are startup hubs, manufacturing in the Golden Horseshoe, and traditional businesses like insurance. There are regional nuanced differences, such as a strong start up cloud native community in Waterloo and Vancouver, and a public sector presence. There’s an ability to do some quick tests and learn from them.”

In addition to growing public understanding of the AWS cloud in Canada, McKay is also looking to grow Onica’s profile here.

“It’s important to let people know that Onica has a strong national presence within the AWS ecosystem,” he said. “Onica’s core strength has three main pillars. One is the AWS consulting services. What’s really exciting is that Onica has a lab infrastructure that lets us test and learn and use forward thinking customers to get ideas out to the mass market. That’s especially important in Canada, where we are catching up.

“Secondly, Onica has a managed service practice,” McKay added. “It’s more than just keeping the lights on. We optimize the client’s environment. AWS continues to pass on cost savings to their clients, and we can really help guide clients down that path.

The third asset, McKay said, is Onica’s ability to bring vertical solutions to the marketplace.

“Our IOTanium solution, for example, ingests IoT data into a big data environment,” he said.

McKay also noted that Onica is expanding in Canada.

“We are definitely looking for people in Canada who are passionate and excited about cloud innovation and helping companies be more globally competitive,” he stated.