Wednesday, April 08, 2015 | by Michelle Peterson

Brittani Von Roden, who stood in front of the crowd at ChannelCon 2014 to accept her honor as a CompTIA ChannelChanger, called the past year “career changing.” Not only did she spend the year discussing ways to embrace and mentor new talent, she moved from the close-knit company where she first grew in the industry to a new world of challenges as the chief marketing officer for VAR Dynamics. Amid all the changes in her career, her inclusion in the first class of CompTIA ChannelChangers put her on the front lines of challenging stereotypes in the industry.

“It’s helped position our generation to reverse the stereotypes we’re faced with, and it’s provided a supported foundation for our voices to be heard within the industry,” said Von Roden. “The industry has also been very receptive to discussing how new technologies can impact or change how we currently do business.”

Fellow honoree Rory Jackson, senior network engineer for Business Continuity Technologies, agreed that his year as a ChannelChanger put him directly in touch with the industry. “I’ve had so many people approach me and want to speak about all the aspects of being a millennial,” he said. “The veterans of the industry are very curious, and are trying to find the best ways to adapt with the influx of millennials into the workforce.”

ChannelChanger Nominations Open

CompTIA’s looking for the next group of honorees to advance the industry as 2015 ChannelChangers. Nominations are now open to honor the most prominent and promising future IT channel leaders who are already having a positive impact on the industry.

“The ideal ChannelChanger is someone whom gets up every morning and is excited about what they are doing every day,” said Jackson. “This person needs to be passionate about the industry. They need to be hungry to learn, open-minded and have the willingness to bring fresh ideas to the table that will effectively change the channel as we know it. Most importantly, they need to be able to adapt to the ever constantly changing industry.”

CompTIA’s ChannelChangers program is open to young professionals, aged 23-29 years old as of August 2015 who have two years of experience in the IT industry. Nominees must be currently employed by a CompTIA Premier Member company. Nominate a ChannelChanger, or nominate yourself. Submissions must be made by June 22, 2015.

For Von Roden, the ideal candidate wants to make an impact on the major transition IT businesses are currently experiencing. “They need to be passionate, forward-thinking and not afraid to ask the difficult questions or shy away from providing their own thoughts,” she said. “It needs to be someone who isn’t doing it for the recognition but is willing to use the recognition to help make us all better.”

The 2015 ChannelChangers will be recognized at CompTIA’s ChannelCon 2015, the premier networking and training event for today’s leading and emerging IT vendors, distributors and channel partners. This year, ChannelCon will be held Aug. 3-5 at the historic Hilton Chicago. Each ChannelChanger will receive complimentary conference registration, airfare and hotel accommodations to ChannelCon 2015. Honorees will be notified by July 6.

Future Leaders Community

During ChannelCon, the ChannelChangers will also engage in CompTIA’s Future Leaders Community, which members of the inaugural class helped actualize. The community held its first face-to-face meeting at AMM and will hold another at ChannelCon.

“Our first meeting at AMM was fantastic, we unearthed a lot of good ideas through our table discussions and have some important initiatives planned for 2015,” said ChannelChanger Nate Teplow, the marketing programs manager at Continuum Managed Services L.L.C. “I think the community is a key step in recruiting the next generation of leaders to the channel and will allow our generation to continue making their mark on the channel.”

ChannelChangers and members of the Future Leaders Community both share passion and motivation for the industry, so pass the word to anyone in your organization who fits the bill.

“If you’re passionate about the channel and motivated to put that passion to work, you’ll be able to make an impact,” Teplow said. “There are so many ways to make your mark; just look at the broad range of talents and experiences that our community members have. The one common thread that I think we all have is that we care about the channel and take action on our ideas and initiatives.”

Generations Working Together

The Future Leader’s community is open to anyone, and their current focus is how different generations must work together to advance the industry.

“The millennials entering the industry have a lot to learn from the current generations as they have plenty of valuable skills to pass on. If both sides possess an open mind to learn from each other the possibilities are endless,” Jackson said. “Millennials will continue to look for mentors that can help them learn and advance in the industry.”

Each generation needs to recognize the value each group brings to the table, said Teplow.

“There are certain skills that can really only be taught with experience and it’s important that young professionals recognize this and work to learn from older generations. Millennials tend to think they know everything, but you really don’t know what you don’t know until you learn it. Older generations have a lot of knowledge we can tap into,” Teplow said. “On the flip side, technology moves at such a quick pace these days and we’ve grown up in that environment.”

If we don’t learn to all work together, the path to success for any of us will either be non-existent or extremely difficult, Von Roden said.

“What an organization can cultivate out of a multigenerational workforce is really a cool thing, and it’s our industry that is guiding this because technology is at the heart of it all.  It’s kind of up to us to lead by example, and hopefully by doing so we can capitalize on some major opportunities as we move forward,” she said.

Michelle Peterson is a communications specialist for CompTIA.