SonicWall has hired Cisco Systems veteran Michelle Ragusa-McBain to oversee its large North America channel, as the cybersecurity vendor looks to “reimagine” its business with the help of partners, she said in an interview with CRN.
Ragusa-McBain, who has been a well-known leader in Cisco’s global partner organization, has joined SonicWall as North America channel chief, effective Monday. She told CRN that the chance to focus entirely on partner opportunities around cybersecurity helped to inspire the move, as did the possibility of working with a “trusted brand” in the space that is aiming to expand its market presence beyond its traditional core areas.
“What I find most exciting is that they’re reimagining their business,” Ragusa-McBain said. “So this is not SonicWall of yesteryear — [just focused on] firewalls, as we traditionally would know them. But this is a reimagination around investing in people, process and technology.”
She told CRN she is looking forward to “hitting the ground running to empower success for partners and customers.”
Ragusa-McBain, whose title with SonicWall is vice president of North America channels, comes to the company with 18 years of experience working with channel partners, with 15 of those years spent at Cisco. She worked for the tech giant from 2005 to 2017, before leaving to hold channel-related roles at Office Depot and JS Group. She then returned to Cisco in mid-2021.
Ragusa-McBain has been a pivotal player in Cisco’s channel organization, particularly when it’s come to boosting engagement and support for managed service providers, said Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based LAN Infotech, a partner of both Cisco and SonicWall.
“She was really driving that MSP-type business, which traditionally wasn’t in the Cisco stack,” Goldstein said.
Likewise, Ragusa-McBain excelled at doing the work of “translating” Cisco for small business customers, which are often served by MSPs, he said.
“It was great that she was pushing that,” said Goldstein, who has served on a small business advisory council at Cisco that’s been overseen by Ragusa-McBain. “She was leading that charge.”
Ultimately, bringing aboard Ragusa-McBain is “a great win for SonicWall,” Goldstein said.
Milpitas, Calif.-based SonicWall, which says that 100 percent of its sales come through the channel, has disclosed that it works with 9,000 North American channel partners.
Ragusa-McBain is replacing Matthew Brennan, who’d been SonicWall’s North America channel chief since June 2022, and prior to that had worked in Cisco’s sales organization since 2018. Brennan will be pursuing other opportunities outside of Cisco, according to SonicWall.
Ragusa-McBain said she was prompted in part to take the role with SonicWall as cybersecurity has become increasingly critical to MSPs.
“All customers around the world, especially SMBs, are really being impacted,” she said. “Managed service providers are the people there to protect them, and they need to rely on vendors that can help enable, support and empower them for success.”
SonicWall’s new direction aims to provide customers with a comprehensive cybersecurity platform rather than just providing standalone point products, Ragusa-McBain noted.
“I’m excited to be a part of this new growth and opportunity that they have as they reimagine their business,” she said.
A key theme for SonicWall and its channel efforts going forward will be on taking an “outside-in” approach to crafting its strategy and executing with partners, according to Ragusa-McBain.
“What that means is, we’re listening to our partners and customers more than ever before, rather than operating in a vacuum and telling you what you need,” she said. “We’re understanding what the landscape looks like, incorporating the right programs, product solutions, incentives, education, training, enablement — all of it — collectively to make sure that you have what you need to be successful and protect your customers around the world.”
This approach, which she credits to SonicWall leaders such as SonicWall CEO Bob VanKirk, is a powerful but uncommon way of doing things, Ragusa-McBain said.
“I’ve worked with the technology channel for 18 years, and it’s rare for the CEO down to embody a culture of ‘outside-in,’” she said. “I’m really looking forward to working with Bob, [CRO] Jason Carter and the entire team to drive success for our partner community.”
Ultimately, SonicWall is focused on taking a “community approach” and gaining a better understanding of how to move forward with the channel, “to make sure our partners know who we are, where we are and how we drive collaboration with them,” Ragusa-McBain said. “The first step is understanding our offers, how we’re competing and how we’re going to help enable partners to get the right products and solutions. We have some really exciting offers that will be announced shortly and some strong partnerships we’re working on.”