What was your first job, and how did you get into IT?
My first job was working for Mars, on the Pedigree Petfoods side. The company provided excellent sales training, but selling pet food for a living wasn’t really the job for me.
In 1999, there was lots of hype in the media about Y2K, and so I visited a recruitment consultant who was advertising sales roles in IT. He asked me if I had ever heard of Cisco, so I said no, and he duly sent me on my way and asked me to do some research on Cisco and let him know if I was interested. Two months later I was working at Cisco, having turned up to an interview with Cisco’s channel director armed with a set of beautifully prepared acetates - only to find out they didn’t have an overhead projector in the building.
Planes, trains or automobiles?
Automobiles. You can always sit with who you want, you are guaranteed to be sitting next to your children without having to make a fuss, and you can stop pretty much whenever you wish.
What sport should be in the Olympics but isn’t?
Golf. It would be good to see some of the lesser-known nations developing programmes to help young people get into golf.
In my dreams…
...I would be the number one golfer in the world and my family would have financial freedom.
What was the best business trip or junket you have ever attended?
The best business trip I ever went on was to the Cisco Partner Conference in Las Vegas. Needless to say, a good time was had by all.
What is the best holiday you’ve ever had?
Just after university, I spent three months on a Raleigh International expedition in Namibia and then went travelling around southern Africa with some of the people I had met on the expedition. It was the ultimate sense of freedom, in a beautiful part of the world, with some now-lifelong friends. Seeing and working in some of the poorest parts of Africa makes you realise just how lucky we are.
If you had a week to live, how would you spend your time?
Seeing family and friends, and writing letters to my wife and children for when I was gone.
...Eat raw tomatoes. They are the devil’s food.
Do you or have you read Channelweb.co.uk on your mobile phone or other handheld device?
Yes, with an iPhone you are never far away from anything.
Print or online news?
Online. Print is a waste of good paper and trees.
Do you use social media?
Yes, both for business and for personal use, although I guess I am one of those rare people who doesn’t use Facebook.
What does the channel most need to learn to succeed and grow this year?
Having worked for a number of vendors, I think engagement with the vendor by the channel partner and vice versa is critical.
Building trust and communication when working on opportunities together always leads to further joint successes. When engaging with end users, listen, listen, listen and apply any follow-up actions directly to the needs they have outlined.
Your closest near-death experience?
Travelling back to Geneva airport after a skiing trip with five close friends, we were offered a lift in a minibus with the friend of the chalet owner where we had been staying. On the way back to the airport, it was freezing and started to snow. In his wisdom, the minibus driver overtook a snowplough clearing the road ahead.
As we went around a bend in the road, I remember the driver hitting the brakes, skidding, and then screaming, “We’re going over, we’re going over.” Thankfully, we hit a tree on the side of the road, which stopped us falling 100 metres down a steep gorge into a river. We all managed to clamber out and were ferried to hospital.
No doubt many people missed their flights home that day as the incident managed to close the road for a few hours while they rescued us and the minibus.
Mark Howell is UK and Ireland area director at Meru Networks
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