IT Industry Leaders: Mary Ellen Grom on IT Marketing, Women in Technology and Career Success

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Ever since attending her first IT channel event in 1995, Mary Ellen Grom has been a self-proclaimed high tech channel marketing junkie.

In her role as vice president, US marketing at SYNNEX Corporation, Grom is responsible for leading all B2B activities, including implementing channel marketing strategies. SYNNEX Corporation is a Fortune 500 business process services company, servicing resellers and original equipment manufacturers in multiple regions around the world.

Grom’s journey on the IT marketing path began at The Ohio State University where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing. Grom’s previous work experience in IT marketing includes holding the positions of senior experience manager and experience director at Experience Engineering Consulting, where she worked for almost nine years. Following that, Grom became the director of marketing from 2004 to 2012 at ScanSource, Inc. in Greenville, South Carolina.

Throughout her career, Grom has received a number of industry awards, the most recent include being named CRN "100 People You Don’t Know But Should" in 2012 and being listed on CRN "Power 100: The Most Powerful Women in the Channel" in 2012.

Q. What do you do day-to-day in your job?

Let’s be clear—there is no day-to-day in my job. That’s what I love about it—the extremely fast paced technology environment keeps me completely engaged and I learn something new every day. But if there is a trend to my days, it’s about managing and servicing people—myself, my team, our reseller customers, our vendor partners and our own SYNNEX teammates. I believe profitability and business success are the applause our company gets from providing top-notch customer service in every instance. And if you treat everyone like a customer, then that’s the true definition of success.

Q. How did you get started in IT?

By complete accident. I’m one of the few early on (actually in high school in media class!) that knew what I wanted to do when I grew up: Marketing or advertising. When I relocated to South Carolina, my first career choice was the group promotions manager for Gates/Arrow Distributing (later acquired by SYNNEX). It wasn’t until I attended my first live, regional channel event in 1995 after working at Gates/Arrow for nine months that I realized I was hooked on an IT marketing career. At that event in Cleveland, Ohio, I saw the channel in action: Manufacturer partners pitching new products and programs to tech-savvy resellers at an event made possible by their trusted distribution partner. I’ve been a high tech channel marketing junkie ever since.

Q. How do you keep current with the latest trends in your segment of the IT industry?

How can you not keep current with the influx of information in today’s connected society? While it can be overwhelming, 100% of the time I rely on channel and media news in various formats—print (magazines, journals, newsletters), websites, online communications, social media, email digests, mobile apps and face-to-face channel events. CompTIA, CRN, CIO online, TechTarget, and TechRepublic are my top five go to sources of information in different formats.

Q. What advice do you have for people who want to get an IT industry job?

Building/protecting your professional reputation and networking with industry pros is the name of the game. This is a very tight industry and you just never know when you will cross paths with someone again. It pays to stay connected and keep your eyes and ears open for every opportunity.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not working?

In my downtime, my family comes first. I’ve been married 18 years to my high school sweetheart and we have two children, ages 7 and 8. They’ve taught me the importance of balance and have been so supportive of the times when “work happens.” Together we enjoy the great outdoors, boating and tubing at the lake and taking one tank trips to undiscovered places. I personally enjoy PBR (professional bull riding), NASCAR and quality alone time reading, reading and reading.

Q. Describe your involvement in the Advancing Women in Technology (AWIT) Community. What advice do you have for women pursuing a career in the IT industry?

I’m an active member of the LinkedIn community group and I recently spoke on the AWIT panel at CompTIA Breakaway 2012. I participate in the monthly webinar events and I’ve just accepted an opportunity to be a mentor for another AWIT member.

In terms of advice, I believe good things come in threes:

  1. Build your personal brand and become “The CEO of Me.” Start where you stand, make a commitment to yourself and just do it.

  2. Focus on financial planning as early as possible in life. “Smart Women Finish Rich” is a phenomenal book on this topic.

  3. Remember that “why” is the ultimate question. Always ask why—to understand, to reinforce, and to further explore. Asking “why” gets you places.