Women In GIS: Heather Da Fonte

By Directions Staff

What is your position at MapCentric?

I am the managing Director of MapCentric in the UK.I have been with MapCentric since it was started in 1997, although I started as a consultant and then became a shareholder.I started my career in GIS as Channel Sales Director for MapInfo for the Europe Middle East and Africa (EAME) region from 1993-1997.I left MapInfo when I realized that the partner channel that I built needed a dedicated resource to source and supply GIS add-ons, data and related software.MapInfo was focused on MapInfo technology (which is understandable) and yet there was so much more that the partners needed to help build their businesses.

Heather Da Fonte
I started with the exclusive contract to distribute Vertical Mapper, a popular add-on to MapInfo Professional from Northwood Geoscience in Canada.They backed me because of my intimate knowledge of the channel and my focus on ensuring that the partners were kept up to date with marketing and technical information as well as receiving prompt supply following order.

Since then I have obtained exclusive distribution rights for a variety of software and data products, including RouteView and RouteX for routing analysis, web.Publisher for both MapInfo and ArcView, ADC WorldMap data, and many others.Building a sales channel in the EAME region is a very daunting task for smaller companies.By providing a wide variety of products, underpinned by some core products, I can help organizations get known and build sales in the region for a lot less than doing it directly.

The dynamics of a channel business are still not widely understood by a lot of people also why it makes sense for many organizations.In Europe it is particularly important due to the language, currency and custom issues.You need a local presence to sell and support your products and setting up a local office is out of reach for most organizations.We have a ready-made sales channel to promote any new products to.We continue to get contacted by USA organizations that want us to help them build their market here.By being totally independent we can sell and support technology on any platform.We are also starting to build a channel into the USA for European products like RouteView, RouteX and web.Publisher.

What is your background?

I have always been in sales and channel management.Following extensive sales training with Cadbury Schweppes, I moved to the IT world and worked for a number of US companies, including Borland, to help build and manage their channel.I joined MapInfo at a time when they wanted to build a European channel and had a strong desire to support a channel strategy.I spent several years traveling extensively to locate, train, support and build the EAME partner base.I am a firm believer in the strength of a channel if it is properly built and managed and supported in both good times and bad.

Would you recommend GIS to other women?

Yes and No.I am not a technical GIS specialist so I cannot advise if it is a good career from that point of view.I am a sales and channel professional.I like the GIS industry because the technology is very graphical and the benefits are easy to communicate.For that reason, I would recommend it to others.On the other hand, even though it continues its move to mainstream technology, GIS is still a relatively niche market.That means it can be frustrating when trying to recruit new partners and showing them the opportunities.

How should they start?

For sales experience, join any of the big vendors with multinational presence.It's always interesting to see how the large companies work and to realize that it's not rocket science.This generally gives you a good level of confidence when looking to start your own business.

What is the accomplishment of which you are most proud?

Building a business from scratch and seeing my channel partners support me in that process.I am also very proud of the fact that my suppliers like Northwood, ADC WorldMap and Dataview Solutions have trusted me as the best way for them to build their market in a very difficult business environment in EAME (multiple languages, time zones, etc).

What does your typical day or week look like?

Most of my time is spent corresponding by e-mail with partners around the EAME region to sort out any issues they have.E-mail is highly efficient for me due to time differences and the cost of telephone calls to various countries.The rest of my time is spent discussing issues with my suppliers and staff.What else? Spending time with my family.

Why is GIS an exciting industry in which to participate?

It is very diverse, so you deal with a variety of needs from business users to high-end GIS technicians.The industry is changing rapidly in Europe as more and more data becomes available and as the effect of the big database vendors starts to be felt.

What is the most important "next thing" that will happen in GIS?

Further integration of GIS with enterprise databases (Oracle, etc) and delivery of results in a mobile environment (WAP, etc).

Before you came to GIS, what were your career plans?

I knew it would be in IT sales, but never knew it would lead me to setting up and running my own business distributing software.

Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
URL: www.mapcentric.co.uk


Published Wednesday, February 23rd, 2000

Written by Directions Staff



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