Justin Simonds, Master Technologist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, talked to Karen Ramirez, the new Director of NonStop Sales for North America, at the recent NonStop TBC 2022.
Justin Simonds: Karen, can we ask for a bit of background, where you were born, and how you found your way into technology as a career?
Karen Ramirez: Well, I’m a born and bred proud Texan. I live in Houston and couldn’t really imagine living anywhere else at this point. My sons are grown, Dylan, 29, and Anthony, 26, and I am very close with them. It’s great having family close.
My first job in technology was in 2002…Yikes, 20 years ago. It was with a company called Global Knowledge. They were a software training company specializing in ERP software training, including SAP. It was my first technology job, and I really enjoyed it, especially the software side. From there, I went to a security company that is now known as CyberShark, a security information event management (SIEM), and I was the HP Alliance manager. HP resold that product before acquiring Arcsight. I was so impressed by HP, even from the start. I was so captivated by the HP culture and its people. HP made quite an impression on me, which is good since I was the liaison. After that, I did a brief stint at a consulting company that hired me essentially for my HP contacts. The best part of that job was my continuing work with HP.
Celebrating Art Pena’s retirement.
Richard Conine, Cindi Hailes, Art Pena (seated), Dan Adams, Karen Ramirez, Craig Phillips.
Justin Simonds: When did you first hear about NonStop?
Karen Ramirez: After the consulting company, I was offered a job and joined Stratus.
Justin Simonds: Stratus, Tandem’s archenemy?
Karen Ramirez: (Laughing) Yes, that Stratus! I learned a lot about NonStop at Stratus. The NonStop technology was very highly regarded at Stratus, and I suppose you could say I was very impressed by NonStop before I ever came to work here. At Stratus, I was selling a high availability, virtualization solution for the healthcare industry. It was really a small appliance for healthcare providers to begin complying with the electronic medical records mandate. At that time, NonStop was partnered with GE Healthcare with more of an enterprise solution, so I never went head-to-head against NonStop while at Stratus.
Justin Simonds: What was your next stop?
After Stratus, I went to work for Oracle, which was interested in my healthcare background. I was responsible for storage. I sold a portfolio of SAN Block, NAS file-level, tape, and virtual tape solutions. I had direct sales responsibility for Enterprise, National, Healthcare, and Higher Education accounts in South Texas and Louisiana. Oracle is a great company if you want to make money, and they are excellent marketers. I did very well at Oracle and went to Oracle Club Excellence which is for their top 3%. That was in 2012. Although I was very successful, when you work for Oracle, you work for Oracle, and I wanted a more balanced life. A recruiter contacted me and mentioned an opportunity at HP selling NonStop. It sounded like a dream job, based on my admiration for both HP as a company and NonStop as a product. I interviewed and really fell in love with both HP and NonStop. I have never regretted my decision to come here.
Justin Simonds: When you first joined NonStop, what were your biggest surprises?
Karen Ramirez: I have to say; all my surprises were positive surprises. The legendary HP culture was still functioning, even after so many acquisitions. The HP Way, the customer-first attitude, and concern for the employees were clearly present. The attitudes and values were present within HP but really even higher amongst the NonStop family. As everyone knows, Jimmy (Jimmy Treybig founder and CEO of Tandem Computers) worked at HP, and I believe the Tandem culture was everything that was at HP and more. So it was a happy surprise to be in an environment of customer-first, product-passionate values with respected colleagues.
Justin Simonds: Who has influenced you the most over your career, and any favorite books that have affected you and your career?
Karen Ramirez: There was a woman I met at my first job, Susan Deeney, and she has been an influencer and confidant throughout my career. She’s retired now, but she was a very important person who I would never fail to mention. Now, I may get in trouble with some people over this since she has mixed reviews, but I am a big Carly fan (Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP). I read her autobiography, and I feel she was more important than people believe in shaping HP. The acquisition of Compaq was particularly difficult, and she navigated her way through it all, even with dissension from both the Hewlett and Packard foundations. You have to really believe in yourself and in your vision to overcome all those obstacles. She was an influential example in terms of believing in yourself and in focus/vision.
Justin Simonds: In your career in sales, you’ve managed some large accounts, Discover, Hertz, and Dell, to name a few. What is the difference between these large accounts and the smaller ones from an account management standpoint?
Karen Ramirez: The large accounts do get respect within upper management, but truth be told, all my accounts have been important to me. I certainly drank the Kool-Aid in terms of the NonStop love of customers. Anyone who’s put their faith in the NonStop architecture is important to us. If a small customer or a large one has an issue, major support is rolled out until the problem is resolved. Customer-first, not just big customer-first. We don’t want a NonStop any NonStop to, well, stop. It’s amazingly personal when any customer has an issue within the NonStop team, and that includes sales, solution architects, and PointNext support. It’s impressive and not just for big customers.
Justin Simonds: What went into your decision, that is, what factors did you consider before accepting the position of NA Director for NonStop sales?
Karen Ramirez: I was very happy in sales. It was never a matter of being bored or wanting to do something else. I was very happy. I suppose it came down to the possibility of influence and of making the greater HPE aware of what they really have with NonStop. It becomes a switch to internal selling. HPE has a lot of great products, but I really feel this is a jewel of which they have not taken full advantage. I believe as Director of North America; I will be able to influence the company to find a larger sales profile and market for NonStop. It can do so much more.
Justin Simonds: That leads into the future of NonStop – what are you seeing?
Karen Ramirez: I think the HPE Greenlake strategy is very sound and very impressive. The HPE Greenlake positioning within the markets, the timing, and the message are spot on. The message of the ‘Cloud that comes to you’ has been very well received by many customers who just aren’t ready to turn the keys of the kingdom over completely to a public cloud. I believe NonStop can be a great part of HPE’s cloud strategy, especially in the area of ‘as a Service’. I was delighted at the ‘Payments as a Service’ announcement by HPE at Discover this past year. We will soon offer a ‘Manufacturing as a Service’ with our good partner abat+. This is a discrete manufacturing solution adhering to the Manufacturing 4.0 standards. Go to YouTube and look for Factory 56 videos to see this in action. We will also be promoting a new wire transfer solution which should be interesting to financial service companies based on the new federal mandates. We are on the hunt for even more solutions for NonStop. We have needed new solutions for a while now.
Availability is still a hot topic and a hot market, in my opinion. Look at the recent FAA failure as one example. NonStop has a rich and distinguished customer base which we will continue to please and delight. I am a firm believer that more customers need to be running on a system that doesn’t fail. I’m very excited about where NonStop is and even more about where it’s headed.