Lumen’s Exec Team Taking The Provider From ‘Channel-Friendly’ To ‘Channel-Focused’
‘The support we have, all the way from our CEO and CFO that have great tradition from other channel-reliant organizations they came from, that has resonated very well with our solution brokers and partners,’ one Lumen channel executive tells CRN.
Telecom giant Lumen Technologies, a service provider that’s historically seen the value that solution providers bring to the table, is now backed by a C-suite of executives that have the channel in their DNA, said Sara Seegers, regional vice president of indirect channel sales and opportunity management at Lumen.
Lumen, in just a few short months, has gone from “channel-friendly” to “channel-focused,” Seegers told CRN. “The support we have, all the way from our CEO and CFO that have great tradition from other channel-reliant organizations they came from, that has resonated very well with our solution brokers and partners.”
The company formerly known as CenturyLink dubbed 2023 its “reset year.” The Monroe, La.-based service provider in the last year has made ambitious moves to grow by divestiture while making internal investments, especially in strategic services such as customer experience, digitization, networking as a service (NaaS) and security. Lumen has struggled to gain financial footing in recent years but said that the sweeping changes it’s made in terms of investment and leadership shakeups will better position it for growth and to place more of an emphasis on customer experience, a shift the company is making with the help of partners, Seegers said.
[Related: Partners: Lumen Technologies’ New CEO Kate Johnson ‘Sees The Value In The Channel’ ]
The changes are not lost on partners. “Starting with Chris Stansbury coming on as CFO, I really started to see a greater understanding and appreciation for what the channel does for Lumen overall. Prior to that, the involvement of certainly the C-level and even the AVP level — they were never there at channel events,” said Richard Murray, chief commercial officer and co-owner of telecom service broker Telarus, a longtime Lumen partner.
Tech veteran Kate Johnson took over in November as Lumen’s CEO. She has held leadership roles across a variety of Fortune 100 companies including Oracle and General Electric, as well as other tech firms, such as Red Hat. Most recently, Johnson served as president of Microsoft U.S., overseeing the company’s sales, services marketing and operations.
Johnson brought with her Ashley Haynes-Gaspar, former COO of US Business Applications and Industry at Microsoft, who joined Lumen’s marketing organization as executive vice president and customer experience officer, Wholesale and International, in February. Arrow Electronics and Hewlett Packard veteran Chris Stansbury came on last year as Lumen’s CFO.
Both Stansbury and CEO Johnson have joined Partner Advisory Councils since starting at Lumen to talk to partners about how they need to do more with the channel, Telarus’ Murray said. “That’s been a refreshing change,” he said. “It’s really encouraging that [the execs] want to join.”
The service provider in February also brought on tech veterans Sham Chotai as executive vice president of product and technology and Jay Barrows as executive vice president of enterprise sales and public sector. Lumen’s channel chief, Dave Young, reports to Barrows.
Lumen’s partner community has been more involved with the company’s product roadmaps as the service provider and its partners focus more on customer lifecycle. While Lumen’s network assets are a big piece of the puzzle, the company and its partners also want to put other pieces together for customers, such as private and public cloud and security strategies, Seegers said.
Lumen is opening up 24 new marketplaces or areas in which there is high demand for partners and making sure the people — and back office — resources are available for the partners in those geographies. The provider also has a recruiting team to help “next-gen partners” have a great day one experience with Lumen that they want to build upon, Seegers said.
“I feel we’ve made strong statements and we’ve taken action to prove out those statements,” she said.