Technology was not the career that Microsoft New Zealand’s new director of small, midmarket solutions and partners, Misti Landtroop, had in mind 15 years ago.
In 1995, the Texan was training as a television reporter and thought it was the career path for her. During university she did internships at television stations and taught video editing at Texas A&M University.
She discovered she liked being behind the camera. “I wasn’t very keen to see myself on TV, but I did enjoy the action involved to pull a story together.”
A stint as a news director for a college news channel followed, but Landtroop was dissatisfied with where the job was taking her.
“I figured out quickly I didn’t want to be a news reporter. But I did get intrigued with the sales side and overall running of the business.”
As a result, she landed a job in sales at the station, and learnt skills she put to further effect when employed at Westcott Communications in Dallas in 1997. “I ended up selling online educational materials to hospitals and long-term extended care facilities.”
Later, Landtroop was asked by the director of Westcott Communications, Karl Westcott, to work for a new company he was setting up.
“It was the first company to offer financing for plastic surgery and he asked me to come and run an advertising agency called Cougar that would support that company.”
She didn’t have much experience in advertising, but within six to 12 months the agency was present in all US states.
Landtroop’s experience in broadcasting helped as she took responsibility for producing two commercials.
“It was a strange path that I went on, but it was quite fun to see a business model develop before my eyes. Building businesses and bringing the right people together to achieve greater goals is what excites me.”
After Cougar Advertising she joined her family’s business, Texas-based telecommunications company RJ Carroll, in 2000.
“The dream of my dad was that we would all go off to university and come back to work in the family business. I was the only one who [initially] didn’t. My family asked if I would be interested to come over and help with an acquisition. We ended up having a successful acquisition of a Microsoft partner called Mobile Data Technologies Group.”
Because no one at the company knew about Microsoft technology, she decided to become certified as a Microsoft systems engineer.
“Because I loved it so much I ended up teaching Windows Server 2000. I was fascinated by the amount of people doing [IT] career changes so I wanted to be a part of that.”
Landtroop taught Windows Server in the evenings while working on the Mobile Data Technologies Group acquisition. “The company was a Microsoft gold partner and one of the first to offer online services and cloud computing.”
Attending a Microsoft partner conference led to Landtroop joining the company in April 2001.
“I was having dinner with the general manager from [Microsoft’s] Dallas office and he started talking about a focus of selling to business decision makers. He felt I might be a good fit to come and help Microsoft, considering my background.”
So Landtroop took the plunge and was appointed Office business development manager. At the time, Microsoft was piloting business productivity applications.
After a year in the role, Landtroop joined Microsoft’s retail team as an account executive.
“We have a lot of retail customers so I looked after Blockbuster and 7/11. Microsoft as a company has brought some interesting retail solutions to bear, such as Windows XP embedded for point of sale.”
Towards the end of 2004, Landtroop was asked to interview for a Dynamics CRM sales role in Redmond, Seattle.
“Microsoft felt I might be a good fit because I did have a lot of experience with enterprise sales and joining teams together. We started off with four people, but by the time I left we had 25 people focused solely on delivering solutions to the Top Fortune 1000 accounts in the western part of the US.”
Landtroop stayed in the role at Redmond for three years before going on leave in May 2007 to have her daughter Abigail.
She intended to return to the Dynamics role, but received a tempting offer from worldwide partner group corporate vice president Alison Watson to become chief of staff. It involved running the business management team and looking after events such as the Worldwide Partner Conference.
“It was quite a hard decision to make, because I really loved what I did and wasn’t ready to go to corporate. The number-one reason was I needed a step in my career to broaden myself outside the US. That was a path to do that because she has responsibility for all 650,000 of our partners worldwide.”
She stayed on the condition that after 18 months, she would get an overseas posting. “I wasn’t finished with what I wanted to do in the field, because I think if you’re out too long you lose touch with what is happening with partners.”
When the New Zealand director of small, midmarket solutions and partners became available, following John Bessey’s move to Microsoft in the Philippines, she weighed the pros and cons of taking it up.
“Things kept pointing back to the fact that this was the right place for us, both professionally and personally. When I think about New Zealand it is a small market, but the big plus side to that is being able to do things very quickly and test things in the market on behalf of our partners.”
So Landtroop and her family moved to Auckland in November last year. Although only a few months into the role, she is keen to hear what partners want from the vendor.
“When I think about partners, are we really viewing them as part of the extended Microsoft team? They are our competitive advantage so I’m listening to see how we’re doing with that, because we’re here to help our partners grow a profitable business.
“I also want to help recruit new partners to Microsoft because we have an attractive portfolio of solutions.”