Schuster Gets Formal Nod as Microsoft Channel Chief

Microsoft on Thursday named Gavriella Schuster the corporate vice president of the Worldwide Partner Group (WPG), which is the company's top channel position.

Schuster, a longtime Microsoft executive who has played a prominent part in the WPG for the last two years, had been holding the position on an interim basis since a corporate shuffle in May that moved the job's previous occupant, Phil Sorgen, to a role leading the U.S. Enterprise and Partner Group.

"There has never been a more exciting time to help our partners capitalize on the explosive demand for cloud services," Schuster said in a statement announcing her appointment. "Our partners are vital in helping us deliver on our promise to customers, and I'm deeply committed to helping them build successful businesses in support of our mutual customers."

It's the first time Microsoft has promoted an executive from within the WPG to its top spot in more than a decade. The move suggests Microsoft's senior leadership was looking to provide some continuity at a time when many partners are raising concerns about the pace of change within the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), as Microsoft presses partners to pivot to cloud services.

Schuster had substantial grooming for the role, becoming a clear No. 2 in the WPG when Sorgen hired her to a new position that combined the responsibilities of two previous MPN executives. As general manager of Worldwide Partner Programs, Schuster took on Julie Bennani's responsibilities managing the MPN and Karl Noakes' partner marketing duties. Schuster also had an unusually high profile for a second-tier channel executive during Microsoft's annual Worldwide Partner Conferences (WPCs), delivering main-stage keynotes at each of the last two WPCs.

The appointment comes just in time for the 2016 WPC, which starts in a little over a week in Toronto. Schuster is scheduled to give a keynote and, as the channel chief at Microsoft, will serve as emcee for all three days of the main keynote sessions, introducing top Microsoft executives such as Satya Nadella, Kevin Turner, Brad Smith and Scott Guthrie.

Prior to joining the WPG in 2014, Schuster held various general manager-level roles at Microsoft since 2006 in both the U.S. Server and Tools Business and in the Windows Product Management Group. She joined Microsoft in 1995, with stints in licensing, enterprise services and training. Before Microsoft, she worked for Adobe Systems and Aldus Corp.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.