Name: Chris Wolff
Title: the VP of the Group Cisco Alliance
How long have you been working for Dimension Data?
12 years. The kids who were then off to Kindergarten are now headed to college with tuitions paid in full thanks to the growth I've enjoyed as a Dimension Data employee and shareholder!
Why did you choose this company?
I was consulting to an engineering firm which was acquired by Dimension Data. In 1999, Dimension Data had only 40 people in the United States. I loved the idea of working for a "start-up" in the States supported by the stability of an almost-billion dollar parent company. Our business in the US sailed out in incredibly heavy seas, including the bursting of the dot com bubble and waves of technology innovation and consolidation. Through it all we really pulled together as a team. Friends and I spoke of our "irrational passion" for Dimension Data -- having fun during really tough times. It boiled down to a love for our people, the creativity and quality of the work we were doing and the spirit of making something happen. I still feel the same way.I love that we do really cool stuff. I'm proud of our people, and I still love the vibe of a start-up with the stability of what's now a $100 billion parent company.
What’s been one of the most extraordinary days of your career here?
Easily, one the most extraordinary days of my career was celebrating my friend Rich’s 20th year with the company. Rich and his family came into our Global Operations Centre where we held a party in his honour. The company presented him with a 'big cheque' for a cycle race he and his son were riding in to benefit Multiple Sclerosis research. That day Rich took our CEO and I on a "ride down memory lane", visiting the past 20 years of “office" locations. Luckily I had my camera and a notebook with me.
Rich showed us the (very!) modest house about five miles from our current Global Service Centre, which a friend allowed them to use rent-free to get their "IT services business” started. The "office" was in the raw cellar of the house (dirt floor!) accessed from the outside only via a metal bulkhead. Things were really improving when the business was strong enough to rent the garage next door—above ground and with a proper cement floor. Rent consisted of a few dollars in fees and promises to mow the lawn. (I have the photos or else I’d never believe the folk lore!) Over the course of 20 years the business grew. Rich built a foundation of knowledge hands on. He literally built the wires by hand used to connect our first NOC to a backup power supply (gas powered generator outside the building) and took on the accountability for investing in our Framingham facility during times when most competitors were letting go of staff.
Raising a glass to toast Rich on 20 years of service, alongside his parents, children and 150 employees in a truly global centre was one of the most extraordinary days I've had in my career! Today that centre provides complex managed services to some of the most demanding global businesses in the world.
What has your career path been?
I graduated from college with a history degree and every intent to go to law school, but ended up in sales and never looked back. I started off at Dimension Data began as a marketing manager, and then took on a leadership role in Solutions Marketing,really a "new" discipline in marketing during its day. I developed a passion for working with our clients and our sales people throughout the solution sales process. Later I was invited to join the sales organisation formally, experimenting in a sales development role, and working with our sales people and managers to understand the ways in which we could enhance sales effectiveness. Those were really creative, fun times.
From there, we established a new function in our HR organisation called "Talent Engagement" and I worked on mapping our clients requirements to the skills, knowledge and ability required to meet them and shaping our recruiting, learning and leadership programs accordingly. I've recently taken on a new role at a global level, VP of the Group Cisco Alliance, bringing “fresh eyes” to a part of our business that's been successful for 20 years.
Through all these roles, I've had the latitude to take risks and to try completely new things. For me, it’s all about understanding client requirements and using research plus sweat equity and creativity to serve those needs better. Dimension Data encourages smart experimentation. That's at the core of our values and our culture.
What keeps you here?
I've developed a network of colleagues, now friends, in Boston, across the Americas and around the world. We care about each other. We share that passion for the business, commitment to our clients and drive to do innovative, high quality work. I've had the opportunity to learn and lead in areas of marketing, sales, HR, and now alliances. The company asks me to stretch and makes it possible for me to succeed. Along the way I’ve had the opportunity to raise a family, see the kids grow, the company grow and myself grow. (I still feel excited to go to work every day - that's really cool - and not something I take for granted!)