And just like that, it's over. Year after year, it seems like CompTIA's annual member conference ChannelCon goes by in the blink of an eye. And just like years before, the conference continues to improve and impress.
ChannelCon is one of the premier events in the IT industry. It is a highly unique event in that there is no sponsor, aside from CompTIA, the non-profit trade association for the global IT industry. As a result, the level of content, education and networking is on a field of its own. It's fantastic to be at a single event where you are able to interact with the newest entrants to the industry alongside some of the original innovators who created the IT industry we know today. From sole proprietors to the largest employers in the world, everyone attends to make the entire industry and the global economy better.
It's difficult to capture this entire event in a single post. Some of the highlights for me follow...
Number one every year is the ability to network with over 1,000 people who are passionate about what they do in the IT industry. I arrived late morning on Sunday and spent the afternoon in the pool (literally as it was 107 degrees) talking with friends and colleagues about our businesses and trends we see in the industry. I joined CompTIA in 2000 under my membership in The ASCII Group, an organization that I am now proud to call a client. Over 20 years, many people have become personal and not just professional friends. We talk about our families, share happy and sad stories and talk business. It's one of the many things that make this industry special. People connect at very human levels.
The event kicked off on Sunday evening with a welcome dinner. Monday morning, things got underway in earnest with a packed schedule of educational sessions. There is something for everyone, including continuing education opportunities for CompTIA certification holders, educational workshops, research presentations, expert panels and more. There is also a vendor fair that features hundreds of companies showcasing their latest partner programs and technology offerings.
The first full day of the event was highlighted by the announcement of the member of the year, Angel Piniero, someone I consider a friend and one of the kindest and smartest people in the industry. You can read more about Angel and his impressive work in business and his community by reading this press release.
As I still serve on the CompTIA Board of Directors, much of my time is spent in Board related meetings and activities. This comprised my afternoon and evening Monday and most of the day Tuesday.
Tuesday was also highlighted by CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux's keynote address. Todd outlined a framework for the future of technology. Todd and EVP Nancy Hammervick also revealed several new tools and training that CompTIA is currently deploying to its members to help them keep up with the pace of change in our industry. One such tool is an interactive website, www.futureoftech.org, which is a free resource available to the entire world, to help educate everyone about technology and how it enhances our lives. I encourage everyone to regularly visit Future of Tech as it will help keep you informed about technology in bite size, easily consumed educational snippets. You'll be able to impress everyone at the next party you attend, when you're able to converse easily about the latest developments in big data, AI, cybersecurity and IoT, the Internet of Things.
Eric O'Neill gave a highly engaging keynote about his role in the capture of Robert Hansen, the most damaging spy in US history. Eric was an undercover counterespionage agent with the FBI and was right in the thick of the hunt to capture Hansen. The relevance to this conference is that Hansen has come to be known as the first case involving cyber espionage. O'Neill says there are no hackers, only spies. He contends that the Cold War never ended, it evolved. He said the cyber security threats we see today are all based on principals of espionage and what we saw during the 2016 presidential campaign is an outcome of this reality. O'Neill is the author of the book Gray Day, the premise for the movie Breach. I'll be reading and watching both for sure!
I spent the remainder of the day Tuesday in our Board meeting. It's a true honor to be able to continue to serve this great Association as the Ex-Officio Immediate Past-Chair of the Board. While I obviously am not able to divulge what is discussed and decided during our Board meetings, I can confidently assure you that the members of the Board approach their responsibility to the membership and staff with impeccable integrity. The future has never been brighter for CompTIA, our members and our industry.
Wednesday, the final day of ChannelCon, brought an unexpected, very personal moment. Following an engaging discussion about the workforce issues facing our industry, we were treated to a conversation between Todd Thibodeaux and Hall of Fame NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal. You never quite know what to expect from a famous headliner the likes of Shaq, but he didn't disappoint. Rather, he impressed and connected with me on a very personal level. Shaq, if you don't know, is a very successful entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist and self-described geek! That's right, Shaq considers himself a geek and proudly proclaimed that geeks rule the world. He has been fascinated with computers and technology from an early age. He has invested in the rise of several tech companies, Google and Ring to name a few. He also has his PhD in Education!
Shaq connected with the entire audience on a very human level. He was engaging, absolutely hilarious and humble. He shared some thoughts on business that resonated with everyone. For me, two things stood head and shoulders above the rest, just like he does. He talked about law enforcement and the fact that he is level one law enforcement certified after completing an accredited police academy. He hopes to be a sheriff in the not too distant future. He wants to bring law enforcement closer to their communities. The other thing that really stood out was his comments on people. "We’re all people. Some have done a lot, some have not done a lot. We’re all men and women we are all equal people. I’ve been very fortunate, but I’m no better than anyone else." What a fantastic message, especially in these times. Despite his success on and off the court, all he wants is for people to remember him as being a nice guy.
After Shaq's keynote, I had the pleasure to get to meet him and get a quick photo. When I shook Shaq's hand, which made mine look about the size of a pinky finger, I told him that I appreciated his comments about law enforcement because I have a daughter who is a police officer. Shaq said "give me your phone" so I did. I wasn't about to say no to all 7'1" of him towering over me :). Shaq proceeded to record a heartfelt, purely authentic video message to my daughter. I was completely blown away and still am. What an authentic human being Shaquille O'Neal is. It is a moment I will never forget and always appreciate. We need more people like Shaq to heal what ails our world. It gives me great hope for the future that such a highly successful man can be such a down to earth role model for so many. Thank you for your kindness Shaq and thank you CompTIA for providing opportunities to interact with people like Shaq that I might not otherwise have.
It's pretty tough to top Shaq and what he did for me on a personal level, but the remaining time at the conference did not disappoint. I attended as many sessions as I could and gained as much knowledge as possible on everything from research into current tech trends about SMB organizations and the new customer experience that sets you apart from your competition to learning more about the dark web and strategies to maintain an appropriate and effective cybersecurity posture for your business. I listened to presentations on company culture, the bits and bytes of technology and learned about vendors I have not previously interacted with.
I was also able to spend quality time with two clients who were in attendance. It was an added plus to be able to further develop these relationships face to face at such an early stage of my new consulting practice.
It's been a long and exhausting week, but one filled with excellent education, networking, and more. Most importantly, it's been very productive and valuable. I will be able to help my clients even more as a result of being at ChannelCon. This conference continues to build on prior years success and I can't wait to see what next year will bring to the table.
Congratulations to the entire CompTIA team, especially the events and education staff. You amaze and inspire me with your work. Thank you for making my membership the best investment I have ever made in myself and my business.
The gallery of images below captures some of the highlights from the week: