Exclusive Q&A: Rob Rae…his First Days at Datto

Geek Speak
stranger to both the channel and the SMB industry, Rae is best-known for his tenure as Director of Partner Development and Operations at Level Platforms, where had been for the last six years prior to joining Datto last week.

For those of you that have met Rae personally, you will undoubtedly know that his commitment to the channel and the partners that serve our SMB industry is always something that’s top of his mind. This was always his mantra while he was with LPI, and he says it is something he will be taking over to his new position at Datto.

Rae is also always on the move…he never stops, and is always looking for his next challenge and adventure in life. For instance, while most people usually start their first day at a new job trying to find the water cooler, or getting acclimated into their new space, Rae, on the other hand, spent his first day with Datto on the road at an industry event.

Last Wednesday, Rae and I had the chance to sit and chat at ASCII Group’s Road Show stop in Atlantic City, NJ. He and I spoke at the event, which was held at Caesar’s, and we chatted about everything from his new position at Datto, to how he feels about possibly relocating from Canada to be closer to Datto’s U.S. headquarters in Norwalk, CT.

SMB Nation: So I know that everyone is asking if you took the job with Datto because of the recent acquisition of LPI by AVG. Is this true, or was it something you were exploring on your own?
Rob Rae: The short answer is no, I did not move over to Datto because of the recent activities at LPI. In fact, following the acquisition, I was working with Luke (Walling), AVG’s VP of Sales and Operations, and was excited about AVG’s plans with LPI of maintaining the channel focus and products. Of course there were some layoffs, because with every type of deal like this there are always duplicative positions. However, most of the staff is still in place there. Regarding Datto, of course when you work for an organization like LPI, which always has enjoyed a great reputation in the channel, many vendors always reached out to myself (and my former colleagues) with opportunities (regardless of the acquisition).

SMB Nation: So tell me how the conversations with Datto came to be?
Rob Rae: I have known Austin (McChord, Datto’s CEO) for years, and he called me up one day, and asked if I was interested in a possible opportunity with Datto. He invited me to Datto’s U.S. headquarters in Connecticut, and I spent the day there, meeting everyone and learning more about the company, and I was very impressed with everything I saw and heard. I was really floored by the commitment of the company and its employees, and when I thought more about it, I realized I had this overwhelming urge to become part of this culture that Datto has built, as well as the excitement around its products and expansions.

As I got closer to making my decision, and things began to fall into place, I reached out to a handful of Datto partners, to get their take on the vendor. And not one had a negative thing to say about the company.

SMB Nation: What were your initial thoughts on the position you were being offered by Datto?
Rob Rae: I feel that it’s an opportunity to help with providing ongoing channel development and education that they need to grow the company, and I see being able to help Datto grow their channel program to achieve a higher ROI in a quicker and more efficient manner. In addition, it shows that they are very forward-thinking, because this is a completely new position that they created, which they recognized there was a need for (Rae is not replacing any former Datto employees). This shows the maturity of Datto as an organization; it’s a fast-growing SMB community and with my marketing and channel program experiences, I see my role with Datto maturing over time.

SMB Nation: Will you utilize some of the skills you learned at LPI within your new position at Datto?
Rob Rae: My background has always been in technology. I was with Compaq Computers from 2000-2004, and then from there I went to work for a payroll company until 2007 when I joined LPI. I came back to IT because I always loved the innovation, and LPI presented that opportunity to me to get into managed services when I started working with them. I have to credit Dan Wensley (LPI’s former VP of Partner Development) who was phenomenal in training me and was critical to introducing me to the key players in this industry. I owe everything to him, and it was great opportunity to learn from (and work with) him. It was so different coming from a large billion-dollar manufacturer like Compaq to a small grass-roots software company like LPI; you really get to learn so much about your partners and customers and what keeps them up at night and their pain points.

At LPI, I always felt it was so important to listen to the partners and focus on education; if you teach them to fish, they will go to the pond; that is the concept we always took. Sell through education, teach them and provide them with best practices and develop a level of mutual trust. That is what I would also like to bring to Datto; I want to be an advocate for the channel and provide education and growth opportunities and ROI opportunities and to teach our partners on how to make money and how they can best-utilize our products.

SMB Nation: So how is it to start your first day with Datto on the road?
Rob Rae: It’s very exciting, and I am also excited to get into my new office at Datto in Connecticut. I am really enjoying spending time here with the team (at ASCII in Atlantic City), and I have always found that it’s very critical to be on the road, because you learn the most by talking to your partners. I already know this community, so now that I’m with Datto, it’s about leveraging those relationships that I cultivated while I was at LPI, and I did this by always listening and meeting with partners, and just finding out what their day-to-day needs were. Personally, I feel that I have always learned more from partners than sitting inside an office, that’s why I like being on the road; I can take what I learn out on the road and bring it back to the office, so that I can add the most value wherever I can.

SMB Nation: So will you be moving from Toronto, Canada, to Connecticut in the near future?
Rob Rae: Right now, I will be working out of Datto’s Canadian headquarters in Toronto, with trips to Connecticut. My ultimate goal, however, is to move to Connecticut, and I feel I need to do this so that I can spend as much time as I can adding value for both Datto and the partner community.

SMB Nation: What will be your first items of business in your first weeks at Datto?
Rob Rae: Datto is doing some wonderful things very well, and I don’t want to mess with that. I want to enhance what they are currently doing, and contribute even more. I don’t want to “change” anything per se, but rather work to enhance what they already have in place. One of these items will be contributing to their first-ever partner summit, which is scheduled for this coming September in Washington, DC. I want to get in and just digest everything and take all of my experiences to help enhance what they already have.

While Rae said he’s not coming into Datto to “shake things up” and change things, he did say, however, that we can expect to see some change in the coming weeks regarding some individuals that will be moving both into and out of LPI for new positions…stay tuned for more, as this story develops!