ChannelCon 2014: Getting ready for the next generation channel

At ChannelCon, CompTIA warns members to embrace the next generation in the face of an upcoming wave of retirements expected amongst solution providers.

CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux (left) chats with Samantha Ciaccia (center) and Brittani von Roden (right) at ChannelCon.

CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux (left) chats with Samantha Ciaccia (center) and Brittani von Roden (right) at ChannelCon.

PHOENIX – The current generation of channel leadership needs to embrace the next generation, and do so in a hurry, CompTIA said at its annual ChannelCon conference here this week.

At the conference, CEO Todd Thibodeaux’s keynote presentation focused heavily on the role “millenials” are already playing in the channel, and more importantly, the role they will play in the near future. The industry organization honoured a handful of rising stars in the channel, and said it hopes it’s set the stage for a new group within the association for the 20-something crowd.

Millennials, said Thibodeaux, “are going to be participating in and leading this industry over a short period of time,” referring to research that shows that in ten years’ time, 75 per cent of the workforce will belong to the generation. Over the same time frame, CompTIA research says 40 per cent of the current channel executive community are planning to retire or otherwise leave the business. That equates to a significant change in the community, and solution providers need to start planning – and more importantly, mentoring – now to ensure their organizations’ long-term success.

Thibodeaux sought to fight off the “self-centered slacker” image all too often attached by older generations to the millennial crowd, noting that nearly 50 per cent of the generation identify owning their own business as a top life priority. Burned by the great recession’s arrival just as they should have been entering the workforce, they’re seeking new ways to make their mark.

“They’re idealistic, they’re opportunistic, and they have a sense of realism,” Thibodeaux said. “The great recession was a punch in the face to them, and they realize they have to find their own way.”

The executive was joined on stage by a pair of the organization’s first class of “ChannelChangers,” Samantha Ciaccia, channel engagement manager at backup vendor Datto, and Brittani von Roden, vice president of sales and marketing at Erb’s Technology Solutions, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based solution provider, both of whom already had strong ideas about how the industry needed to transform itself.

Ciaccia noted that although technical and business certifications abound in the industry, the IT industry does a poor job of developing the soft skills of many of its employees, adding that the industry should “refocus on the people in addition to the technology.”

With the six honoured members of the first class of next-generation “ChannelChangers” in attendance in the event, as well as six runners up, CompTIA is looking to provide a voice within its association for the younger generation. Nancy Hammervik, senior vice president of industry relations for CompTIA, said discussions were underway at the event with the group to form an advisory committee for the next generation, the exact branding and identity of which would be left up to the members of the community.