Enjoying the Journey to Better Serve the Customer and Grow Professionally: An Interview with Mitch Needles


Meet Mitch Needles of STEP CG, Extreme’s Champion of the quarter

Congratulations on your well-deserved Extreme Sales Specialist certification. Did you enjoy the course?

Gamifying the training experience was a great idea. Also, having it broken down into smaller, manageable chunks really helped with my busy schedule. The presenters did a great job of keeping the material relevant and delivered it in a really interesting and informative way.

Our sales and channel teams consider themselves lucky to have such a great advocate for Extreme solutions in North and South Carolina. How would you describe your experience as an Extreme partner? What motivates you to go out there and wave the purple flag with such drive and energy?

I am lucky one! I have a very strong and passionate Extreme team to work with – special kudos to Donlei Mullinax and Matthew Whitfield. STEP CG has invested heavily in being the best Extreme partner there can be and its clear that Extreme really appreciates that effort.

The Extreme Networks solution stack has never been stronger than it is today. Our competitors have solid individual products, but they have yet to match the complete value proposition of Extreme. ExtremeCloud IQ, Universal Switching, and a strong wireless portfolio have given me the opportunity to talk to SLED and commercial clients, both large and small, providing them with a world-class solution.

A state motto of South Carolina is Animis opibusque parati (Latin for 'Prepared in mind and resources'). Does that describe how STEP CG does business?

STEP CG enables all of our employees with the ability to chase a variety of interests, whether it’s work related or just fun. I think Rob Huff, our founder, set out to build an organization that is bigger than the products we sell. In doing so he has created an environment where everyone can excel, and they do. As far as resources are concerned, our engineering talent, without a doubt, is the best. Our team also does an amazing job of building a bench of future engineers.

You’ve held different positions in sales for more than 20 years now, one of them as director of the Avaya business at a big distributor. How do these experiences help you today in developing your Extreme customer base at STEP CG?

I have had the opportunity of working in several different types of roles and I took away something from each one. The role you mentioned specifically gave me the opportunity to talk to C-level executives to understand their needs and motivations. My time in distribution also taught me a lot about managing P&L, inventory, warehousing, contracts, and employees. I think that being able to draw on my experiences with all the bread-and-butter issues my clients deal with every day goes a long way towards establishing trust.

Which project with Extreme solutions are you most proud to have worked on?

I’m not allowed to name the exact client, but I can tell you what we did. The project was well into the seven-figure range, as we had the opportunity to completely replace a competitor’s network which included four cores, edge switching, and wireless. Everything was deployed and up and running without an issue. The client couldn’t be happier. As I said before, Extreme has an amazing solution set and 2023 looks even more promising for our sales of Extreme products.

Tell us about your family and where you live.

I’ve been married for 22 years and have a 16-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. They’re busy with violin, clubs, Boy Scouts, and other things.  I was an Assistant Scout Master for more than 10 years and it’s been a great opportunity for me to help positively impact the lives of young men my son’s age in the Blue Ridge Area.

For Clint Vaughn, your colleague from STEP CG, his outside work passion is golf. What are your passions and hobbies outside of work?

Anything with a motor, really. I have been organizing motorcycle rides in the Southeast Region for 17 years. Currently I own several motorcycles and a Jeep Wrangler for off-roading and camping.

Currently, I’m training for the Mid-Atlantic Backroad Discovery Route ― MABDR. It’s a dual sport motorcycle route that runs 1070 Miles from Damascus, Virginia, to the New York state line. I have also completed the Saddle Sore 1000 as part of the motorcycle Iron Butt Association. Let me tell you, the mental shift it takes to adapt from on-road to off-road riding is a real challenge – almost like learning to ride all over again.

Do you have any words of wisdom to pass on to your peers in the industry?

I am a big believer in life being about the journey, not the destination. Sure, all journeys have a goal at the end, which is why we travel. But the process or journey is where we grow as human beings. So make sure you enjoy and learn from the process.

When I meet a traveler who is circumnavigating the globe on a motorcycle, backpacking through Europe or sailing the Caribbean Islands, there is something indescribable that draws me to that person. I find that similar to when a client and I are on a solution journey together. We have a goal and as we work towards achieving it, we learn a lot about the company’s challenges, needs, and wants. Often, my business relationships have led to long-term relationships and friendships.

If you are an Extreme partner and would like to become an Extreme Champion, visit our Extreme Portal.

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About the Author
Natalia Vianden Headshot
Natalia Vianden
Director, Global Channel Programs

Natalia Vianden has over 17 years’ experience in Channel Account management, developing strategic channel partners, business development, experience in channel marketing and in designing and launching Channel Partner Programs for Extreme Networks.

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