Tech Data has introduced an online mentoring community designed to help partners hone their business and technology skills.
Called Tech Data Coaches and available now in the U.S. and Canada, with global rollout to follow, the new program provides free access to insights and advice on a wide range of topics from dozens of Tech Data subject matter experts.
“We think that there’s real value in Tech Data playing a role in growing networks, helping people develop competencies and best practices, [and] making connections so that ultimately the entire channel can deliver the best possible solutions,” says Stacy Nethercoat, Tech Data’s senior vice president of cloud solutions for the Americas.
There are over 70 coaches participating in the program at present, with dozens and potentially hundreds more to come in the future. Partners can speak one to one with those experts about cybersecurity, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, endpoint solutions, and other next-generation technologies; about healthcare, government, and other vertical industries; or about operational disciplines like sales, marketing, and finance.
According to Nethercoat, the new offering was inspired by input from attendees of Tech Data’s live conferences. “When I read surveys or ask for feedback, consistently partners say that they love the peer to peer interaction and being able to talk with Tech Data experts,” she says. The Coaches program is designed to make that kind of dialogue available to a wider number of partners all year long.
The program also builds upon the “cloud coaches” feature of Tech Data’s Cloud Practice Builder, a free online enablement resource for aspiring cloud service providers that launched late in 2018.
Any partner can join Tech Data Coaches via the company’s e-commerce site, cloud solutions marketplace, and other online properties, or by contacting a sales rep. Once enrolled, members set up a detailed profile of themselves including job responsibilities and areas of interest. Based on that information, the program portal recommends appropriate people to book time with.
Tech Data employees who wish to serve as coaches must be approved by an internal selection committee first, and then complete an instructional course. “We’ve done a series of trainings on coaching to make sure that our coaches know what to expect and what’s expected of them,” Nethercoat says.
Future plans for the program include having Tech Data resellers and employees of the company’s vendor partners offer mentoring as well.
That the Coaches program is debuting amid a public health crisis that has forced Tech Data and many other companies to delay or cancel in-person events is coincidental, according to Nethercoat, who says the new resource has been in development for roughly the last six months. The coronavirus pandemic has made online mentoring even more valuable for partners though, she adds.
“We’re not currently and for the foreseeable future going to be engaging with each other at events or in-person meetings,” Nethercoat observes.
Online coaching is one of several efforts by Tech Data to help partners serve customers effectively despite the disruptive effects of stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures. Others include a series of posts about work-from-home challenges on the company’s Tech Data Authority blog and a new podcast series about similar topics called “On the Clock.”
According to Nethercoat, demand for cloud solutions has risen sharply in the weeks since coronavirus-related travel restrictions went into place. To help partners meet that demand, Tech Data has recently introduced a new post-sales support offering designed to supplement a partner’s in-house capabilities temporarily during times of peak activity.
“They can turn it off on or turn us off as they choose,” Nethercoat says.