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Watching channel chiefs play musical chairs is a full time job. It’s not unusual to watch senior channel executives—especially at the big vendors—trade jobs and move around within their corporate ranks. What is unusual is what Rauline Ochs is doing: taking her channel experience and taking it to an entirely different industry.

Ochs, Oracle’s channel mistress for North America, is departing the business software giant later this month for greener landscapes in the Pacific Northwest, where she’ll take over sales and marketing for Safeco, a $6.3 billion insurance company based in Seattle.

“For me, it’s a huge career step,” said Ochs last week.

Characteristically, Ochs’ sentiment is both an understatement and unpretentious. In her nearly five years at Oracle, she has steadily transformed what was once perceived as a channel-unfriendly organization into a humming, channel-centric company. And she did so as Oracle undertook one of its most ambitious acquisition sprees. Among the 32 companies Oracle gobbled up were PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel, each with its own channel program and culture. Ochs played an instrumental role in assimilating and normalizing the various channel efforts under one roof.

“It wasn’t like I was really looking because the job I took here wasn’t the same job I took five years ago,” Ochs said reflecting upon the dynamic nature of being the Oracle channel chief.

But why jump ship now? Why leave when she’s finally achieved the accolades of the industry and peers, and been recognized for her contributions and hard work? Simply put, she says it’s for the challenge and ability to leverage her channel skills and experience in a different industry.

Channel chiefs—particularly at large vendors—are caught in a strange position: They have huge responsibility for moving product and driving revenue but don’t have the authority of their counterparts in direct sales and corporate operations. Many often find themselves at a competitive disadvantage when they’re competing for the next rung on the corporate ladder because of this paradox. It’s no secret that many sitting channel chiefs are looking at or being approached for new positions, but those opportunities often amount to lateral moves.

Ochs says she’s not moving because she hit some glass ceiling, but rather it was the right opportunity at the right time. Nevertheless, she expresses regret to leave her Oracle team and reseller partners, with whom she has made personal as much as business connections.

Oracle resellers—in fact, the entire IT channel—will miss Ochs. She carries herself with grace and composure, able to clearly articulate value positions to partners, address partner concerns with speed and efficiency, and managed her channel with the utmost integrity. In short, she always worked tirelessly to the mutual benefit of her partners as much as her company.

Going forward, the channel will have to emulate her legacy rather than her lead, for she has crafted a legacy worth following.

Lawrence M. Walsh is editor of Baseline and regular columnist to Channel Insider. You can reach him at