Women in the Channel: New President Gadda Talks Shop with INTERNET TELEPHONY

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  March 31, 2016

Hilary Gadda was recently named president of Women in the Channel, an organization of which she is a founding board member. WiC is focused on advancing careers for women in telecom and IT.

Gadda is director of the telepartner channel at TelePacific Communications, and formerly worked at at i7 Interactive, Teleglobe Business Solutions, Frontier Communications and MFS. She also serves as co-chair of the WiC’s new Outreach Committee, which seeks to connect WiC with other industry and women’s groups as well as encourage young women to choose careers in telecom and IT.

INTERNET TELEPHONY recently interviewed Gadda about her new role at WiC and her personal experience growing up and during her career in the channel.

What is your experience in the channel?

Gadda: I have had the good fortune to work in the telecom and IT channel for 23 years, with the last 14 of those at TelePacific Communications (News - Alert).

Tell us about Women in the Channel.

Gadda: Women in the Channel was founded in 2011 as a grassroots organization made up of women who are in leadership, ownership, and revenue-generating roles in the telecom and IT sales channel. We are focused on helping women advance in their careers through   mentorship, education, collaboration, and career growth pathing.

Last year we added an outreach component. In fact, one of our key initiatives in 2016 is a new Outreach Program called Girls in Telecom & IT. We have developed a comprehensive education program encouraging girls in grade school and high school to consider a career in technology. One of the ways we are planning to do that is to highlight the breadth of tech jobs – beyond coding – in a variety of industries including sports, fashion, media, health care, etc.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Gadda: Hands on. I am a true believer in leading by example. Consistent, ongoing education for the entire team -- sales and support alike – also is very important to me in order to stay ahead of the needs of our customers and sales partners.

Tell us about your upbringing and how it contributed to helping you get to where you are today.

Gadda: I was raised in Stinson Beach, a small town of 600 people north of San Francisco. It was a close community that fostered and encouraged sports, arts, and creativity. I am still very close with many of the people with whom I went to grade school and high school. My mom, who was undoubtedly my biggest fan, taught me that you can do anything, but that if you commit to something, you have to see it through – no quitting! She also taught me that it was OK to ask for help, that it was not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

For me, a career in tech was not an obvious path. I loved acting in school and found that sales was a not-so-distant cousin. I looked at all the things one could sell and realized that technology would keep me busy for a very long time.

Men dominate the tech industry. What challenges does that create for women?

Gadda: Women in tech must advocate for themselves and their peers in order to get the opportunities they deserve. Joining a group like Women in the Channel can teach those skills and also provide support.

That said, this is not just a women’s issue or even just a social issue – it’s a business issue. Companies with more diversity are more innovative and competitive. Studies show that the most successful companies empower women as leaders. According to the Global Leadership Forecast from DDI, companies in the top 20 percent financially have almost twice as many women in leadership roles as those in the bottom 20 percent. In fact, among top-performing companies, 30 to 40 percent of leadership positions were held by women. Educating tech executives about this is job one.  

In a practical sense, gender diversity has to become a stated priority for tech companies. And, it has to go beyond hiring to grooming women for advancement. And, very importantly, there has to be an education component to help men and women learn to work and thrive in a co-ed environment. 

How are women in tech making strides?

Gadda: I think a great example of women making strides is the success of WiC. We have had tremendous growth in membership in 2015, with 185 paid members and counting. We are expecting significant growth again in 2016. In 2015 WiC leaders became sought-after subject matter experts for panels, sessions, and subject-specific events in both technology and women’s organizations – large and small. We also are expanding the conversation beyond women to the entire channel. We are bringing in a gender-diverse panel of senior channel executives. Our March networking event focused on the business case for gender diversity in leadership and features a gender-diverse panel of senior channel executives.

What is the male to female ratio in tech channel sales?

Gadda: We have many recent studies that highlight the lack of women in tech, lack of new women coming into tech, and the trend of increased numbers of women leaving tech. A recent Forbes article stated men outnumber women seven to three in tech. Google, Cisco (News - Alert), and Facebook reported last summer that the ratio of men to women in their companies was skewed similarly. The numbers get worse when you talk about women in the executive roles – less than 50 percent of tech companies have women in the C-suite or serving on the board. So, we still have a lot of work to do to advance women in technology careers.

How successful has the channel been at adapting to sell new cloud-based and higher value services?

Gadda: I think there is still a lot of work to do, and I think that the services providers and vendors need to help the partners understand what cloud means to their customers. I am beginning to see crisper definitions of cloud, less ambiguous fluff, and more product functionality focused on the workflow problems they actually solve for customers.

What’s left to do?

Gadda: The channel needs to continue education on how to make the pivot to selling technologies that underpin transformation in customers’ business processes or even their business models.

How do you expect the channel to change in the next couple of years?

Gadda: Technology is changing at break-neck speed. New technology is emerging that, if embraced, will change and enhance the way traditional service providers and vendors do business. M&A activity also will continue to change the look and focus of the channel. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle