Tara Fine lays out vision for new role as VMware Americas channel lead

The pending deal with Broadcom is only one of a variety of challenges Fine faces as she takes on the broader Americas role after a long tenure as Canadian channel lead.

Tara Fine, Vice-President, Americas Partner Organization for VMware

On December 1, Tara Fine, long-time Canadian channel lead at Dell and VMware took over as Vice-President, Americas Partner Organization for VMware, with responsibility for the U.S., Canada and LatAm. She talked with ChannelBuzz about the perspective she brings to her new role and where she sees the partner ecosystem going at a time when it faces the possibility of significant changes on multiple fronts.

As Vice-President, Americas Partner Organization for VMware, Fine reports to Dan Zugelder, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Americas Sales. Both Zugelder and global channel chief Ricky Cooper report to Jean-Pierre Brulard, VMware’s Executive Vice-President, Worldwide Sales.

Fine replaces Bill Swales, who departed for Lenovo, in the Americas channel leader role.

“Bill was a huge supporter of mine,” Fine told ChannelBuzz. “For the three-plus years that we worked together, he knew I had set my sights on taking the Americas role, that that was the next role I wanted in my career.  When Bill left, I was asked by Dan to take on the role in the interim for stability. They then opened it up officially in October and I went through the interview process and was selected over a strong field of candidates. I have officially been in the role since December 1.”

Fine’s career is somewhat unusual in that she was hired by Dell after graduation, and remained there, ultimately as Canada channel leader, for years. She then moved over to VMware when it was a part of Dell Technologies to take over the Canadian channel position here. That kind is stability is unusual given that most channel leaders tend to be fairly mobile and change jobs frequently.

“While I have been based in Canada my entire career, I did have North American responsibilities while at Dell in the channel, involving a few hundred team members supporting thousands of partners,” Fine said. I also lived in India while at Dell, and was involved in starting up a sales organization there. Those experiences were absolutely critical, involving dealing with a diverse set of peoples and cultures and leading businesses that had scale. I have not led an Americas business before, but I believe that my experiences made me a great fit for this role. I believe that my 19 years at Dell gave me the experience of not just one company, but also involved a large amount of change. This includes the transition we went through to become a leader in the market, in going from public to private, in going through economic turmoil, and in going through the transition from desktops laptops and servers to a more complex world. I always felt I could make an impact and that I could learn. The culture at Dell was also in strong alignment with who I was, so I saw no reason to leave. VMware was a different company, culturally, even though Dell owned it.”

While Fine has spent well over a decade in the Dell and VMware channel roles, she didn’t start out there.

“My first decade was in direct sales,” she said. “I joined Dell in 1997 when it was a direct seller, and when Dell officially moved into the channel, I was asked to be the first Canadian channel chief. That was a humbling experience. I had to win over partners to get them to do business with Dell, which competed with them and arguably drove prices down significantly. I’ve approached the channel with an emphasis on trust, humility and simplifying things. I’ve also placed a strong emphasis on advocacy, and the last 10-12 years I have advocated for partners.  I am an entrepreneur at heart, and believe VMware is a great organization to help partners go do that with their customers.”

VMware’s pending acquisition by Broadcom, which, pending regulatory approval, could close at basically any time in Broadcom’s next fiscal year, is what Fine acknowledged is the elephant in every room.

“I am hearing very similar feedback across the geos in the Americas, although there are nuances at both the regional and country level,” she said. “We have also turned a bit of a corner as we have had consistent communication from Broadcom about the importance of our channel to them as that acquisition comes closer to fruition. We do think that it will create a lot of opportunity for partners.”

Looking forward, the big channel news, which has been public for months, is that Partner Connect 2.0 will launch in March.

“It’s pulling together a number of programs that exist today under one umbrella across the customer lifecycle,” Fine stated. That will simplify things. In terms of the broader ecosystem, it will also help us help our distributors. Overall, I expect clarity around the role for partners and that partners in FY24 will play a bigger role in our Go-to-Market. Customers truly have relationships with partners. Many partners have 10-20-30 year relationships with their customers. There is so much value in that that we can leverage.”

Fine noted that apart from Partner Connect 2.0, some other fine tuning is in the works.

“We are constantly evolving,” she said. “Something I am focused on is our registration system and making that program easier and in better alignment with what it is we want our partners to be doing. Tying all these things together is something I am thinking about to make partners want to do business with us.”