CompTIA Unveils New Educational Initiative To Prepare Youngsters for in Careers in IT

ChannelCon 2016, the annual conference hosted by industry research firm CompTIA, kicked off today with a talk about challenges to the IT workforce and a very special guest appearance by two-time Super Bowl winner Peyton Manning.


August 2, 2016

5 Min Read
CompTIA Unveils New Educational Initiative To Prepare Youngsters for in Careers in IT

CompTIA introduced a new educational initiative called “Next Up” Tuesday at the 2016 ChannelCon conference under way this week in Hollywood, Fla. The initiative pairs middle school kids with various leading educational institutions that have a footprint in computer science and working professionals including current and past CompTIA members. Participating institutions include Northwestern and techgirlz, which is behind the popular “techSHOP-in-a-Box" project.

The effort will also showcase the work of CompTIA’s philanthropic arm, the Creating IT Futures Foundation, which is working with key mentoring organizations such as Spark and The New York Academy of Sciences. At ChannelCon, CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux introduced foundation CEO Charles Eaton, who described some of the key aspects of the Next Up program. Originally, conceived to be a game targeted at middle school kids, the project took on a new life after additional research into what actually motivates youngsters to choose a career in IT revealed new insights. CompTIA and the foundation discovered that kids respond better to mentoring and more formal programs that help get them on a career track than scattershot efforts.

Thibodeaux said CompTIA responded in kind to get behind the effort to avoid a “bad situation down the road” that would result if the industry fails to satisfy the nation’s demand for skilled high tech workers. One of the problems that is exacerbating the issue: education. Thibodeaux said studies have shown that there is a disconnect between the things schools are providing and the needs industry has. Among other things he noted:

  • High school has prioritized college prep at the expense of vocational prep. Most curricula does little to prepare kids for a job in IT.

  • There is no effective or coordinated media or campaign to designed to prepare kids for careers in IT.

  • To attract younger kids to IT, the industry needs more role models, who must demonstrate their passion for IT and not simply try to make kids “a clone of themselves.”

After Thibodeaux unveiled the Next Up initiative, NFL legend Peyton Manning took the stage and discussed “breaking boundaries” in life and at work. He began his presentation by familiarizing the tech audience with his own forays in business, which include part ownership in Papa Johns pizza franchises. Manning made a joke about the “legal changes” in Colorado law that have helped propel the pizza business, particularly at late night.

His theme for the presentation: a career is akin to a trip through time during which one has to adjust and adapt.

“When you reach for something you never had before, you have to do something you have never done before,” said Manning. This includes leadership, which he said didn’t come easily to him at first.

He told an anecdote about the first time he stepped into a leadership role while a freshman at University of Tenn. Playing against UCLA in 1994, Manning started the game as the third-string quarterback. But he was quickly the starts after the first-string quarterback injured his knee, and the second string quarterback failed to move the offense. Thrown into game late and losing 21-0, Manning remembers the advice his NFL father Archie gave him: when you step into the huddle, seize the moment and take charge of the team. But when Manning tried to inspire his teammates, an upperclassman tackle told him to “shut-up” and call a play.

Manning then spoke about leadership by influence. “I’ve never pivoted easily,” he said. “No one has ever called me nimble.” But Manning said he learned to grow continuously and learn through hardships. In his first year as the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, his team lost 13 games—more than all of the losses he totaled in four years of high school and college. He also set the NFL record for interceptions by a rookie—a record he still holds today.

Manning said he learned to ask three key questions:

  • What did I notice that was different?

  • What was valuable?

  • What could I master to achieve my goals?

Manning then spoke about his tenure and said he had to deal with a younger generation that entered the NFL and brought with it a new lexicon, attitude and skillset.

He spoke about his final year in the League, which was punctuated by new players and a new coach. When the environment drastically changes all round you, he advised, you cannot take things for granted and have to communicate more often—including with yourself.

Attitude is what is key in moments of adversity, he added. And even when struggling, make small steps to achieve a greater goal. He, for example, was not allowed to be on the sidelines during home games because he was in a plaster cast while recovering from an injury. But he enlisted a part-time receiver to train with.

He says he knows part of his job was leading through example. And pushing through his pain inspired his teammates, he said.

Finally, he spoke of celebrating and the importance of sharing success with all members of his team. Winning is about people. Never underestimate the power of the team. Leaders must have the audacity to reach. And leaders must be humble.

Some additional things he shared with Thibodeaux:

  • NFL defenseman Ray Lewis hit him most and hardest. And he would always let Manning know that he “would be right back in a few minutes” to hit him again.

  • He disliked playing against his brother, Eli, whom he played three times.

  • When he started, game film was on beta tape. Then games were digitized and made available on a computer. Afterwards he grew to love his iPad.

  • It's always good to have a mentor. “Don’t stop being coached,” he said.

  • He majored in communications at the University of Tennessee.

  • People come up to him and sing the “Nationwide” jingle all the time, including a waitress who sang the tune when she asked him, “What would you like to have today?”

  • He struggled with the famous SNL football skit until of the mother of one of the child actors implored him to hit her child “in the face.”

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