E77 - Chris Cell at CDW

Harry Green
Chris Cell

By Harry Green & Chris Cell

On this episode of The Route to Networking, our Head of Enterprise USA Harry Green was joined by Chris Cell, the Solutions Domain Manager at CDW. During this episode, Chris highlights the importance of being an active listener and being able to listen to understand, not to respond. A lot of the time people will be listening to respond with an opposing thought rather than listening to what they have to say.

Chris started his Networking journey in the Air Force as a Tech Controller, which to put it more simply he was an in-house service provider. He knew that transitioning from this role to one outside of that would be difficult. That being said, he didn’t let that discourage him from making the transition. He went to work for a partner, which is similar to CDW, where his management journey began. He gained a lot of experience throughout that time. On the Networking side, he expanded out into voice, video, and security and when he was at the major vendors, he got into the data centre so was working around servers and storage then eventually got into automation.

Going from his Pre-Sales position to leadership, he was at a point where he either took the opportunity or it would’ve passed him. So, he stepped into leadership and ended up enjoying it. Stepping into that leadership role changed his mindset. Instead of worrying about yourself and the next thing you want, you have to worry about your team and what they want and make sure they are okay. Chris sees them as his children and everything he does is for them and ensures they are set up for success. To anyone who wants to get into leadership, he says you have to be willing to step back from the spotlight. “You have to make things better for others, not you”.

A common trend he is seeing in the industry currently is cloud usage. 10 years ago, it was a very ambiguous term. When you said cloud, it meant 10 different things to 10 different people whereas now people have a good understanding of what it is and aren’t as afraid of it from a security perspective.

When it comes to customer-facing skills vs. tech skills, he 100% looks for customer-facing skills in most roles that he hires for. If it’s Pre-Sales especially, and they didn’t have them, it would be a complete deal breaker. Some ways to get those skills under your belt would be taking speech classes in college. Get comfortable with talking in front of people and putting yourself out there because ultimately it will pay off!

Some advice Chris gives to anybody considering starting a career in Networking, if you’re afraid of change and aren’t the person who embraces change then you will end up being pigeonholed and in a position you won’t enjoy. In an industry like Networking, it changes every day, so you have got to be prepared to adapt to the constant changes. When it comes to your interview the main things you need to remember are to prepare, bring questions and express that you know you aren’t bigger than the wheel.

Something he wishes he knew when he started was that there’s more than one way to get to an end solution. You can engineer more than 15 ways to get to the result you’re all looking for and it’s something he didn’t necessarily know when he first started. Just because there are other ways of thinking, doesn’t mean they aren’t better than your way.

“5 blind guys and an elephant. You have 5 blind guys and you put them around different places of the elephant. You tell them to feel what is in front of them and explain what it looks like. They are all explaining the same thing but in different ways”.

Tune in now to learn more about the importance of listening to understand and not respond.