Opportunity for channel partners with VMWare

My guest Shawn Toldo, VP Worldwide Solution Partners, VMWare.

Welcome to the 22nd Episode of the Ultimate Guide to Partnering. This episode features Shawn Toldo who leads the Worldwide Solution Partner Program for VMWare, Inc..

VMware, Inc. is a subsidiary of Dell Technologiesthat provides cloud computing and platform virtualization software and services.[2] It was the first commercially successful company to virtualize the x86 architecture.[3]

In this episode Shawn tells the business story and value proposition to partners of this  cloud computing and platform virtualization software and services company, how he thinks about what makes great partnerships and his personal and professional journey.

I’m also excited that Shawn offered to join the podcast in the days leading up to VMWare’s big VMWorld Conference in Las Vegas, NV and what hopes to be an outstanding event for its partners and customers.

A full transcript of the interview is below in the show notes.

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Vince Menzione

Transcript of our interview.

Vince Menzione :            Shawn, welcome to the podcast. You and I have had the opportunity to work closely together for many years and I’m really excited to have you on today to share with our listeners VMware’s unique value proposition, how you go to market, what you look for in successful partnerships, your career journey, and your personal story. Welcome.

Shawn Toldo:                  Thank you, Vince. It’s a pleasure to have a chance to speak with you as well as the audience and looking forward to the discussion today.

Vince Menzione :            First, for our listeners, tell our listeners a little bit about who you are.

Shawn Toldo:                  Yeah, so from a professional standpoint my name is Shawn Toldo. I have been at VMware for almost a year now leading the solution partner route to market. Our collective team is very focused on accelerating VMware’s growth through helping our customers digitally transform through the use of our technology via our partners. Prior to my time at VMware, I spent 12 years at Microsoft in a variety of roles in the US partner business there. Fantastic experience and that’s been awesome coming to VMware and having the opportunity to leverage it here.

Vince Menzione :            Tell our listeners a little bit more about your role and the mission of your organization.

Shawn Toldo:                  The mission of our organization is to deliver customer success through the best solution partner engine in technology. We have a global team that’s focused on building processes for partner engagement and profitability. We collaborate very closely with the geo leadership across AMER, EMEA, and APJ. They’re responsible for channel sales and the local partner relationships across the world.

Vince Menzione :            You overlay those organizations I guess essentially, right? When you say geo organizations for our listeners that don’t understand that, those are the geographical business units within VMware, correct?

Shawn Toldo:                  Within the global organization we’re responsible for setting strategy and overall management of execution within the route, which is our solution partner route to market. Our geo leaders are responsible for the execution locally from a channel sales perspective as well as the partner relationships within the geographies.

Vince Menzione :            Great. VMware basically invented the virtualization market. Others have entered the market and other technologies have emerged like containers. What is the company’s key differentiators today in the marketplace? Why is it different than, let’s say, what a Microsoft or Citrix are offering?

Shawn Toldo:                  I think we’re different due to our platform. Meaning when you think about end to end from the data center to the device, VMware plays across that entire gamut. We provide partners the opportunity to drive solutions and services across that gamut that digitally transform our mutual customers. When we think about that digital transformation we look at four solution areas: modernize the data center, transform security, integrating with public Clouds, and empowering digital workspaces. Across those four solution areas is where we have the opportunity to differentiate against our competition.

Vince Menzione :            Let me get this right. Four key areas: modernizing the data center, transforming security, integrating with public Clouds, empowering digital workspaces. Who are some of your key customers in the market and why did those companies continue to choose VMware?

Shawn Toldo:                  Our customer basis is vast and diverse. If you think about how we grew up through the server virtualization world we have a massive footprint. I’ll leave numbers out of it but you can imagine. As a result, customers choose VMware for our innovation, flexibility, and choice that we offer them to support private and public Cloud scenarios as well as digital workspace in a user computing scenarios. From a customer perspective, we’ve done a nice job of creating a deep base that we have been able to attach additional solutions to.

Vince Menzione :            We live in an age of rapid digital transformation, right? Everything is going so fast today. What do you believe are the greatest opportunities for continued growth? How do you see your business evolving in this time in digital transformation and Cloud computing?

Shawn Toldo:                  It’s evolving so fast. In the 10 months that I’ve been at VMware it’s fascinating to even see the differences within our organization from a solution perspective, from a platform perspective, et cetera. Cloud is everywhere and we’re focused on helping customers get the most value across their technology platforms, both from a private Cloud and public Cloud perspective.

As I mentioned before, I think we offer customers the opportunity to have flexibility and choice in terms of the platforms they choose to leverage in their environments. If you look at our partnerships with an IBM or VMware Cloud on AWS that are just a couple of examples, we’re bringing this to life within the platform to leverage multiple sets of services coupled with VMware.

Vince Menzione :            What are you seeing customers more willing to do today than they were in the past?

Shawn Toldo:                  I think they’re betting on a variety of solutions and they’re betting on a variety of partners to support those solutions. When I think about the partner ecosystem of today versus five to 10 years ago customers are looking at our partners from not only a, “How do I deploy this technology? How do I deploy this hardware and software set?” They’re looking at it from a, “How do I really digitally transform and drive business value?”

As a result, our partners have had to shift in that manner. As a result, our customers I think are willing to take some bets that are a little bit different on the types of partners that they engage and the types of services that they leverage.


Vince Menzione :            I know VMware has been making increasing investments in industry solutions and industry areas of focus. I know healthcare was a recent add or the formation of healthcare was a recent add to the business. Can you tell our listeners a little bit more about your industry focus?

Shawn Toldo:                  The fact is all businesses are healthy and growing within VMware, whether that be across our segments from a global enterprise or commercial standpoint or into the individual verticals that you mentioned as well. I don’t think there’s one vertical that’s doing more than others because of the breadth of our solution offerings and the breadth of our customer base.

I think what’s key in our world is that flexibility and choice message coupled with our focus on solution areas is really resonating with a multitude of customers.

Vince Menzione :            As you might know, we started these podcasts with an early emphasis on Microsoft but we’ve been expanding the platform tremendously. I know that a lot of our partners are also partners of VMware. Some may not be today. If I were a potential partner of yours and we were both on an elevator ride together and I asked you, “Why should I partner with VMware?” What would you say to me?

Shawn Toldo:                  I think it’s all about the customer. At the end of the day, the opportunity with customers will be massive and is massive with VMware today. A lot of that has to do with the transformational requirements that customers have from a business and technology side. Our platform enabled through the solution areas that I mentioned before will allow partners to drive profitable solution and services scenarios based on customer projects that will make that happen.

I think the other component is we’re really evolving the platform to be able to look at everything from not only the transaction but all the way through managed service and everything in between. As a result of that, I feel like we provide an excellent opportunity for our partners to profit with VMware.

Vince Menzione :            Those four areas that we talked about a little earlier then really come into play here?

Shawn Toldo:                  Absolutely. When you think about how we help customers through our partners modernize the data center, transform security, integrate with public Clouds, and then empower digital workspaces the various solutions that can be developed by partners and delivered by partners is significant.

Vince Menzione :            You came from the channel. We both together worked in the channel for quite a number of years. You’ve got quite a bit of experience building channels and teams. What do you believe makes or what characteristics do you believe make a great partner?

Shawn Toldo:                  That’s a great questions. I would say a few things. There’s a willingness to learn, invest, and innovate on both sides. It’s not just about the partner. It’s also about the technology vendor or whatever the vendor may be in that relationship. There’s an understanding of the competitive landscape in an ability to differentiate. What I find is the partners that have a bit different story and a unique way to tell their value prop are going to do much bigger projects with customers.

Transparency, when you think about partnership there’s some good things. There’s some bad things at times. There’s some things in the middle. Transparency in feedback is key. Making sure that we’re able to talk about our respected businesses and the needs that we have in a very direct fashion with respect is critical.

Then the last piece is at the end of the day it’s all about extending the customer relationships that we have in partnership and where we co-sell together. If we can co-sell that means we’re really partnering and that is a critical element when I think about the route that I have accountability for.

Vince Menzione :            How do you think about co-sell? I think about it in the sense of two salespeople going into an account together? The partner seller as well as the end user seller. Is that how you see it?

Shawn Toldo:                  I see that as the second step. I think the first step is really the ability to identify the appropriate value proposition. What’s our value proposition to the customer? What’s the value proposition of the partner to VMware? What’s the value proposition of VMware to the partner?

If we are really crystal clear on that then we can do step two in a really flawless fashion, which is having sellers going to accounts together or leverage knowledge of those customer accounts and build bigger projects together.

Vince Menzione :            You’ve got a really big role here, right? You’ve got a global responsibility for a solution partner ecosystem at VMware. What do you look for? What challenges do you believe partners face today?

Shawn Toldo:                  I think the first thing is the speed of innovation. When you think about the technology marketplace there’s just so many things that are happening, right? Trying to stay up to date on what solutions are out there, what platforms are out there, and how to take advantage of those is probably the biggest challenge I would see.

Then the ability to build a strategy that truly captures the available profit pools based on that speed of innovation and change is fast. I think strategies can change in three to six month time periods and they can change on a dime. I think leaders of partners have to be very cognizant of that.

Then I think the last piece is a commitment to balanced execution for today and the future. Talk about speed of innovation but at the same time there’s a balance that has to be struck between, “Okay, what can I make happen for a customer today?” Also, “How do I invest for the future to make sure that the competition doesn’t go past me?”

Vince Menzione :            Do you see resistance to change? We talked about this earlier, right? All this change is happening so rapidly but partners are making money in the old models today. You talk about this with the balance. Do you see some partners that just totally resist it?

Shawn Toldo:                  Some. I think some are resistant because they’re comfortable in how they’re executing at that point in time. I think some of the best partners are constantly challenging themselves to what their value proposition is to the market and to customers. I do believe that commitment to balanced execution is absolutely critical. You have to think about today. I get it. You have to pay the bills. At the same time, you have to have an eye on the future in terms of how the solution offerings that you bring to customers are going to change and evolve. Succeed today, but don’t forget about tomorrow because it’s going to come up fast.

Vince Menzione :            Have you seen situations in your 10 months at VMware where partners just totally didn’t get it and they failed in the execution? What would you say to them now if you could?

Shawn Toldo:                  I don’t know if I’d say that I’ve seen partners that totally don’t get it. I think that they are challenged with that balance. It’s, “Yeah, that sounds great but if I spend a whole bunch of money over here how do I know that the return is going to be there?” I think that’s where we have an accountability from a VMware perspective with our people as well as with our platform as well as with co-selling with them to make that really relevant from a profit perspective with our partners.

I feel like from a VMware perspective we’re changing and evolving fast. We have to make sure that our partners understand where they can profit with us and help bring them along. We own just as much accountability as they do.

Vince Menzione :            Do you do things there to further incent partners for new solutions areas? Are the models that work better for new solutions as you bring them to market?

Shawn Toldo:                  Absolutely. When we look at some of our incentive programs as it relates to partners if you think about the newer solutions that we have in market the opportunity to profit within those is bigger. I think that from a services perspective, not just the transaction side, the opportunity with customers is bigger as well.

Vince Menzione :            Shawn, is there one thing that isn’t taught but you believe to be true to successfully partnering with VMware?

Shawn Toldo:                  I think this is not just a VMware statement, I think this is everywhere, but there has to be a level of trust. We’re in it together, we’re trying to make the best thing happen for customers, and at the end of the day when we get up against something that’s hard or we have a challenge that there’s going to be a trust level that we’re going to make it right. I think at the end of the day that’s what’s key.

Vince Menzione :            Trust and also from what I think I heard you say, “We’re in it together”, right? There’s a mutual success, a shared vision, a shared purpose in the relationship?

Shawn Toldo:                  Absolutely.

Vince Menzione :            What other advice would you give for partners wishing to work with you in your organization?

Shawn Toldo:                  It goes back to that speed of innovation thing. You have to take the time to understand how we’re evolving the platform and what that can mean for your business and for customers. I’d probably reverse the order. What that can mean from customers and as a result to your business.

I think that’s the part where taking the time to understand what we’re doing is extremely important to all partners within the technology landscape.

Vince Menzione :            Shawn, when you think about the four solution areas we talked about earlier how are you helping partners monetize for that?

Shawn Toldo:                  It’s a good question. It’s an expanding conversation for our people within partner roles. It’s broader than it used to be. What I mean when I say that is we come from a world inside VMware where the transaction was key inside the server virtualization space and we grew very quickly. Now we’re in a place where the solutions need to be sold in a little bit different form and fashion.

As a result of that, plus what we’ve done for the platform, where partners can monetize are across different buckets. If I start with how we grew up it was quite transactional. If I think about where we’re going there’s a set of intellectual property and managed services capabilities that we evolve within the platform that partners can take advantage of. In the middle of that, there’s a set of advisory and project services scenarios that partners can take advantage of as well.

Where I think we are today is we’re in a place where we have to have that conversation across that spectrum and there’s a pivot on managed services and intellectual property with VMware, which is broader and better than it’s been in years.

Vince Menzione :            Do you provide technical resources to help bring those partners along in those areas?

Shawn Toldo:                  Absolutely. We’re actually investing there pretty significantly. It’s an area where we have to do a fantastic job with our partners and help them in that process to make customers more successful with their platform than ever.

Vince Menzione :            It sounds like a lot of exciting things happening at VMware. I’m excited for the event at the end of the month. I’m going to hope to be out there with you at VMworld. Can’t wait to hear more about the announcements and all of the exciting things happening for partners out there for you.

I’d like to shift at this point, if you don’t mind, as you might know from listening to other episodes of the podcast I like to focus in on the personal and professional journey of each of my guests. I know you have a fascinating story. Our listeners like to hear how you got to this particular spot in life. If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you some questions about your path to VP at VMware. How did you get started in technology?

Shawn Toldo:                  I started my career in the consulting world. I was at a career fair in college and ran into a recruiter from Ernst and Young. Didn’t really know what I was going to do and next thing you know I’m in the consulting world. I’m on airplanes. I’m traveling around the US. Some international things as well.

I got to know people. I think at the end of the day those relationships and a connection with people that happen as a result, I got a phone call from an old manager of mine at Ernst and Young and said, “Hey, do you want to come to Microsoft and interview? There’s a role that we have that I think you’d be perfect for. Would you like to come out?”

I hadn’t thought about it. I never said, “Hey, I want to go work for a technology company.” I hadn’t gone down that path. I came out, did the interview, and it was kind of life changing. I think that the lesson in that for myself as well as for other people is it’s all about relationships, it’s all about a connection with people. If you have that and you work hard, you’re in the right place at the right time, good things happen. For me, that’s kind of how it all happened.

Vince Menzione :            Once you were at Microsoft what did you learn then? Was there a best piece of advice that you got from someone when you joined?

Shawn Toldo:                  You know, it was kind of the same thing. It was relationships and a connection with people kind of starts everything. There’s hard work with any opportunity that you earn, that you have to go make happen. Then I think the thing at Microsoft that I learned was the power of collaboration. Working with a lot of different smart people. Similar kind of thing in the VMware world now.

You have an opportunity to learn and you have an opportunity to help. I think one of the best lessons that I was given in my time at Microsoft was from a gentleman named Greg Erkheart. He pulled me to the side and he said, “Always come off as help. Always be there to help people when they need something.” I think that that was really profound for me.

Vince Menzione :            I like that. What is the most fun aspect of work for you?

Shawn Toldo:                  It evolved to a place where it’s impact that I can have through helping other people achieve success. It probably goes back to the help comments that we were making before. That’s the exciting thing, right? As you grow as a leader, it really becomes much less about you and much more about everybody around you and the people that you work with. I think that’s the thing that is the most fun aspect for me.

Vince Menzione :            Shawn, what advice would you give to someone you were mentoring that wished to work in your organization?

Shawn Toldo:                  It’s about we, it’s not about you is number one. You have to have that kind of perspective to have success long-term. Especially if you want to grow from a leadership perspective. The second comment I would make is you have two ears, you have one mouth. I think that’s really hard for some people to break through on because they always want to talk about what they’re doing versus listening and having the opportunity to make somebody else feel connected to a process.

I think the other one for me is listen to a diverse set of perspectives and your team and you will be better for it. Don’t just go talk to people that operate like you do. Go talk to some people that operate not like you do and you’ll be surprised at what kind of nuggets you pick up along the way.

Vince Menzione :            That’s some really great advice for our listeners. I’m going to make sure we put those in our show notes. Why do you think you’re good at what you do?

Shawn Toldo:                  I’ll keep coming back to this one. Relationships and a connection with people. I think that if I’m talking to a CEO of a company or the person that’s serving lunch in the cafeteria. It doesn’t matter. You have to connect with them and you show an interest because you want them to have an interest in you as well. At the end of the day that’s one piece.

The second piece is you have to work hard. With any opportunity that occurs, you have to take advantage of it and that only happens through working hard and grinding at it. The last piece, like I said, be helpful. Be someone that people look to to make their environment and their things better.

Vince Menzione :            You’ve had a great career run but I’m sure you’ve had some hurdles along the way. What are some of the hurdles you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?

Shawn Toldo:                  I think the first hurdle that I had was coming out of the consulting world. It was all about me and how do I show up every day to the partners in the organization, thinking about the senior leadership in the organization as well as to customers. I would try to pull work and show up well.

When I went to a company corporate environment scenario it had to quickly become a we versus a me. I got some great feedback from people that took an interest in me and it was probably the most profound thing in terms of what accelerated my career and where I’ve evolved to today.

I think the second thing is you just have to be a great simplifier. You have to make it easy for people to understand what they’re working on and why. If you can do that then you’re going to accomplish great things.

Vince Menzione :            What pursuits or obsessions do you explore when you’re not working?

Shawn Toldo:                  Well, this is another me to we thing. It’s supporting a lot of my son’s interests in sports. We actually had a football coaches meeting last night. My son is nine years old. He has a golf all-star match on Sunday. It becomes a bit more of an obsession in terms of helping him in terms of the things he wants to do and spending that time.

For me, personally, I’ve been playing golf since I was six years old. I can’t play as much as I would like but I feel it’s the best game in the world. It’s something that as I get into a retirement stage down the road I would like to spend a lot more time at.

Vince Menzione :            Why do you think it’s the best game in the world?

Shawn Toldo:                  I think it’s the camaraderie for me and the connection with people. I think you learn more about somebody in three and a half or four hours on a golf course than you could in eight hours in a conference room kind of a thing. For me, that’s the part that I really enjoy. The other thing is you get really connected into what you’re trying to do out there versus all of the distractions that can go on from a personal and personal life perspective.

Vince Menzione :            Yeah, I tend to agree with you. I think five hours well-spent in an undistracted mode without cellphones and office phones ringing and the like.

Shawn Toldo:                  You’re playing a little too slow, Vince. We’ve got to speed that up.

Vince Menzione :            Okay, four hours maybe.

Shawn Toldo:                  There we go.

Vince Menzione :            Who was one of your role models? Either directly or indirectly. What advice or attributes did you learn from them?

Shawn Toldo:                  Yeah, I’d highlight my dad on that one. My dad was a UAW chairman, so United Auto Workers. He was in that environment for 37, 38 years. The relationship piece I learned there but the second thing was to just always keep driving. You’re eventually going to break through on this. There was some leadership things that he did back in his time that probably weren’t very popular but are implemented today within those environments, which were tough environments. I learned a lot from him in watching those things play out.

Vince Menzione :            Nice. What profession other than this would you attempt if you could?

Shawn Toldo:                  Well, this might sound scary but it kind of goes back to my father. At the end of the day, the union is a political kind of landscape. For me, I think going back to helping a broader set of people and impacting people’s lives, politics while can be a dirty game sometimes I think if you look at really what it’s meant to do from a politics perspective it’s to help make the broader group better overall. That’s one area I’d look at.

Vince Menzione :            Is there a quote you live your life by or you think of often?

Shawn Toldo:                  Yeah. You only live once. Be in the moment. This was one for me that I took a little bit of … There’s a rap lyric from Drake in terms of YOLO, which you only live once. There’s that comment. The be in the moment thing was for me as whatever you’re trying to do just be in the moment. Combine those because I think that if you are in the moment you’re going to have a bigger impact on yourself and others around you. If you’re daydreaming and looking around it’s not going to be as powerful for everybody.

Vince Menzione :            If you had to give advice to your 30 year old self what would that be?

Shawn Toldo:                  It’d be the same quote actually. I think back then it was a little bit, “Squirrel!” and I’d go chase it. There would be a little bit more shiny object syndrome back in that time. I think if I spent a little more time focused and in the moment on some things it would have been better for me.

Vince Menzione :            Is there a book you’ve read often or gifted often that you’d recommend to our listeners?

Shawn Toldo:                  For me, there’s a lot of biographies that I pick up things from, whether that be historical figures or sports figures, being a big sports fan, that I’ve learned from and taken away. I don’t think there’s one. I think there’s many in terms of that.

Vince Menzione :            Is there any one or two that stand out in terms of sports figures or other figures from history that you look up to?

Shawn Toldo:                  You know, Arnold Palmer was somebody that when I think about how he accomplished things with the world and the game of golf and how he treated people around him … The next person that says something bad about Arnold Palmer will be the first person.

Vince Menzione :            Interesting. Interesting. He had a great life, led a great life, and left a really great legacy. I tend to agree with you there. Shawn, I want to thank you for joining today. It’s been great to have you on the podcast. Great to share with our listeners our partner ecosystem about VMware’s unique value proposition and also hopefully get some of our listeners to VMworld coming up at the end of August in Las Vegas. Just great to have you on as my guest. Thank you for joining today.

Shawn Toldo:                  Absolutely, Vince. Great to have an opportunity to connect with you and the broader listener group. I look forward to seeing you at VMworld as well. It’ll be my first one. I’m looking forward to the experience and looking forward to connecting with partners and customers there.

Vince Menzione :            Thanks again for joining.