In her role as director of global channels, Ayesha Prakash leverages her extensive experience driving business development and marketing efforts in the IT sector to build Flashpoint’s Global Channel Program. Her work on strategic partnerships and business development has earned her recognition as one of CRN’s 2018 Women of the Channel. Prakash holds a BBA from Indiana University and a mini MBA in digital marketing from Rutgers University, where she is a member of the Big Data Advisory and Cyber Security Advisory boards.
Ayesha Prakash, director of global channels at Flashpoint.
Q: You were recognized as one of CRN’s 2018 Women of the Channel for your role in planning, creating, and launching Flashpoint’s Global Channel Program. Can you tell me more about the process of building the program from the ground up?
One of the initial steps in developing a program from the ground up is to see how the current partner base aligns with the company strategy. When I first joined Flashpoint, there wasn’t a formal channel program in place, but we already had more than 20 percent of our business coming from partnerships. Eager to learn more about these partnerships and their role in the business, I then assessed which partners were producing the most revenue, the geographic distribution of partners, the marketing support Flashpoint provided, and other aspects of the company’s partner enablement efforts at the time. These insights were instrumental in defining partner criteria, critical success factors, and motivational drivers.
My observations eventually helped fuel a proposal for Flashpoint’s Global Channel Program. Back when I first started developing the proposal, I realized there was so much opportunity and so much interest, as indicated by the amount of inbound partners, but I also knew our partners would need to have the technical capacity and expertise to tie in with the intelligence lifecycle. Being able to integrate with our narrative is a challenge if you don’t understand our industry, which is why enablement and marketing support are foundational elements of our program.
Q: How has Flashpoint’s partner program evolved since it was first created?
Just last year, we were focused on basic program design, working with our legal team to create appropriate contracts based on partner type, making sure our contracts benefit everyone involved, and creating a partner portal with enablement content. Now, we’re focused on investing personnel and tools to jumpstart our go-to-market strategy on a global level and creating a robust engine for identifying, recruiting, activating, enabling, and managing partners’ strategies globally. We also have robust channel marketing and enablement support, as well as various training certifications.
Moving forward, we’re looking to create a more robust certification program to better support partners and drive a go-to-market strategy that will help their customers achieve their objectives and grow alongside us. This element is especially important for Flashpoint because some of our most valuable partners are boutique firms that have specialized capabilities, but don’t necessarily have a fully developed marketing engine. So we’re looking to enable and coach our customers from a sales and marketing perspective.
Q: Collaboration is a core tenet of Flashpoint’s Global Channel Program. How has collaboration among partners played a role in the success of the program?
Collaboration with partners is the No. 1 way for any partner program to succeed and maximize revenue. The execution of this program has really shown me the value of having partners willing to put in the time and resources to create a revenue-driven plan, utilize our marketing development fund (MDF), and engage with us through our partner portal. Looking at where and how partners are most engaged with us helps us to more effectively allocate resources across regions. In fact, we recently hired a channel sales manager for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), and we currently have open positions for a public-sector channel manager, an Asia-Pacific channel manager, and a North America channel manager.
Q: You have a rich background in marketing, public relations, and channel sales. What led you to join Flashpoint?
Early last year, I had dinner with Brian Costello, our SVP of global sales and solution architecture. I had worked with Brian previously at another company, and when he told me about the rapid growth of Flashpoint’s partnerships in the absence of a structured program, he piqued my interest. Because the company had seen a significant uptick in inbound partners revenue between 2015 and 2016 without a channel sales team in place, Brian explained it needed someone to harness this potential and develop a partner program from the ground up. I was immediately excited about this opportunity.
To top things off, I was already familiar with and impressed by Flashpoint; chief scientist Lance James had introduced me to CEO Josh Lefkowitz and COO Josh Devon a few years earlier. I had long been attracted to Flashpoint’s mission, so when the opportunity arose for me to join the company, I jumped on it.
Q: What do you find most interesting about your job?
I really enjoy the strategic aspect of building a program from the ground up. And as I mentioned, Flashpoint’s mission really resonates with me. I’m proud to work for a company that helps organizations combat cyber and physical threats, mitigate risk across the enterprise, and ultimately better protect themselves and their stakeholders.
Another thing I love about my job is the day-to-day learning. Our finished intelligence reports are invaluable resources, especially when combined with the ability to pivot from our Deep & Dark Web and other datasets on our intelligence platform. Having unlimited access to this knowledge center has enabled me to better the cyber and physical threat landscape, the geopolitical climate, and how these elements can impact business.
Q: What are your interests outside of work?
I love to travel, especially when it’s spontaneous. On my most recent personal trip, we went to Northern Ireland, rented a car, and just drove around exploring, visiting castles, and taking in the scenery. I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, so we tried to visit all of the castles that are featured in the show! Two trees that fell during a storm at one of the show’s filming locations were carved into 10 doors depicting scenes from different episodes, and placed in pubs across Northern Ireland. We went to each of the pubs, which was a really cool experience.
I enjoy both reading and writing. I’m about to be a regular contributor to Channel Futures, where I’ll have my own monthly column focused on go-to-market strategies for channel sales and strategic alliances. I’m really looking forward to it.
Giving back has always been important to me, which why I also volunteer at a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C. I’m also a board member of the Cyber Security Advisory and Big Data Advisory boards at Rutgers, which is dedicated to helping students develop into industry leaders by creating learning, professional development, and networking opportunities. Rutgers was instrumental in my entry into the cybersecurity space, so it feels good to give back as a way of paying it forward.
Q: What’s something a lot of people don’t know about you?
I named my dog after Coco Chanel. Coco wasn’t Chanel’s given name, but when she was young, she used to go around singing at bars in France performing a song about a lost dog named Coco, and the nickname stuck. So I thought it would be fun to name my dog after her.