Ten things you may have missed at CompTIA EMEA Member & Partner Conference 2023

Johannesburg, 11 Oct 2023
A conference catch-up.
A conference catch-up.

From networking to business growth and educational sessions to getting an up-close look at the latest tech products and solutions, the EMEA Member and Partner Conference 2023 had something for everyone. More than 600 attendees connected with peers and visited more than 60 exhibitor booths over two full days in London.

“The IT industry is changing faster than ever and we have to help our customers solve new business challenges every day. CompTIA’s EMEA Member and Partner Conference brings fresh perspectives from a lot of smart people in the room – peers, vendors and subject matter experts. It’s more valuable now than ever before,” said Chris Ward, technical director of Vermont Systems, a Hampshire, UK-based MSP.

If you could not attend this year, or even if you did but missed a session, we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 things you should know from the EMEA Member and Partner Conference 2023.

1. Cyber security insights to keep your business, customers safe

Cyber security is a complex subject, but help and resources are available and now’s the time to start treating cyber security with the importance it deserves to best protect your company and customers, said Todd Thibodeaux, CompTIA CEO, and Scott Barlow, vice-president, global MSP, for Sophos, during a State of the Industry address. Exploited vulnerabilities and compromised credentials are the top reasons for hacks or breaches to occur, necessitating more end-user training and other investments. “They’re not breaking in. They’re logging in. When you think of that, it’s scary,” said Barlow. Read more.

2. How to leverage AI responsibly, skilfully

“AI is not new, it’s not one thing, and it’s incredibly pervasive,” said Sana Khareghani with Responsible AI UK during a fireside chat with Carolyn April, CompTIA senior director of industry analysis. Khareghani noted that acceptance and growth of AI will ultimately be judged by its use cases, how it uses data to successfully solve problems and how it is used responsibly. MSPs should be taking steps to cover all three aspects as they start to integrate AI into their own businesses. “We have to be very careful talking about using AI, use cases, augmenting AI, regulating AI. By itself, all of this is too high level. We need to be more pointed to gain a better understanding,” she said. Read more.

3. Before and after secrets to successfully selling your business

MSP boss Raja Pagadala, founder of The Final Step, shared valuable advice with fellow MSPs in his session: Leading towards legacy: The M&A journey from an MSP founder’s perspective. His mantra of always running his business like it was going to be sold the next week stood him in good stead when he eventually decided to sell to private equity firm Evergreen. Now in a consultancy role at the firm, he stressed the importance of standing aside to let the rest of your team shine and teaching them that making mistakes is not something to be ashamed of. “If you make a mistake, phone the client, tell them you screwed up and explain to them what you are going to do to help make it right at no cost to them,” he said.

4. Documentarian Louis Theroux talks tech ideas, storied career with CompTIA CEO

Writer and filmmaker Louis Theroux closed the event in a Q&A session with Thibodeaux. The conversation ranged from what subject the noted filmmaker has not covered in a documentary that he’d like to (ISIS), who he’d like to interview most (Donald Trump), the most bizarre interaction with a subject (a chimpanzee smashing a window between it and his crew) and what technologies he would consider creating documentaries about (AI, crypto-currency and cyber fraud).

5. How to use machine learning and AI in your business

MSPs have a big opportunity to incorporate AI into their businesses – but the “how” is a big mystery to many, said Hollie Whittles, information security and HR director at Purple Frog Systems and vice-chair of CompTIA’s UK & Ireland Community during a session at the event. “Identifying data is easy. The hard part is understanding what you can do with it,” she said. “You still need an AI strategy. Ask what is the problem that the business needs to solve, then learn to understand the possibilities of machine learning and create an architecture. Identify partners and vendors to work with and set a budget. There are quite a few steps, but if you go through them, you will see results.” Read more.

6. How to harness – and unleash – the power of young talent

By 2030, about 45% of the workforce could be Gen Z or Gen Alpha employees. Learning to recruit and retain that talent needs to become a part of any business going forward, said Mark Freer, CEO and executive coach at Heads Up and Freer, during a session. “How do you engage with mentoring and listening? How do you embrace individuality and allow them to express themselves and have a culture that supports that? How do you encourage physical activity and support? Create a dialogue with this generation as early as possible in your communities,” he said.

7. Body language and facial expressions can help your business

Learning body language and reading human facial expressions are effective ways of fostering better working relationships with both your own team and your customers. By reacting quickly to how customers and employees respond during conversations, you can create better engagement and ensure that you are also offering customers the right products and services to suit their needs, according to body language expert and ‘face whisperer’ Adrianne Carter in a session entitled: You had me at hello: What you’re actually saying with your body language.

8. Genius Café offered free sales, leadership, growth consulting

More than 25 MSPs participated in free sales, finance, leadership and strategy, growth strategies and cyber security 1:1 consulting sessions with experts in those respective fields at the CompTIA Genius Café.

“It honestly was an honour to serve and give back to the community which has supported and taught me so much,” said Scott Riley, founder and owner of Cloud Nexus, who served as one of the genius experts offering help to MSPs. “It showcases two of the best things about our CompTIA community. First, that we can have MSPs in the room so willingly able to share their knowledge and experience with their ‘competitors’. Second, there are MSPs who are happy to ask for help because they get inspired by other MSP owners. It’s brilliant that we have such an open community who can be vulnerable and look for help and advice on how to get through to their next phase. I spoke to people at the very beginning of their MSP journey and some who've reached the end (for them) and it’s time to exit and move on.”

9. Tech certification, learning roadmap

As many organisations – including MSPs – increasingly recognise the value of tech certifications, the EMEA conference offered an opportunity to hear insights into the certification roadmap for the next year. The CompTIA Security+ certification has been updated following extensive industry consultation, including 20% of the exam updated to include different trends such as IOT and ICS. “We have to give everything we can to help learners move forward in their careers. We are moving away from one size fits all for learning,” said Zeshan Sattar, senior director, learning and skills certification, CompTIA.

10. Latest tech products, services showcased by 60+ exhibitors

More than 60 vendors and distributors shared their offerings during the technology vendor fair at the EMEA Member and Partner Conference, demonstrating how new products, services and solutions can help grow your business. Vendors once again participated in a recruitment challenge to see who could register and bring the greatest number of attendees. Congratulations to the top three companies (listed below) that helped introduce new executives and businesses to the CompTIA community. 

1st: CoreTech

2nd: Supportwave

3rd: usecure