Security, Sales and Leadership Trends Led the Way at CompTIA EMEACon 2023
On the 2nd and 3rd of October, CompTIA EMEACon 2023 was held for members and partners at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel in London.
The event was a chance for IT professionals from all over the region to meet and engage, with over two full days of presentations, panels and breakout sessions. And as ever, there were plenty of opportunities for the delegates to expand their networks too.
There were a lot of diverse subjects covered over the two days, and plenty for all to get their teeth into – regardless of their place in the community.
Many sessions took place at the same time as others, so attendees had to choose which ones they wanted to be part of. Therefore it was impossible to attend them all.
CompTIA EMEACon 2023 – Day One
Monday 2nd October started with registration, breakfast and networking before the rest of the morning split into three optional sessions running from 10am til noon.
- Cybersecurity Trustmark Workshops: Culture and strategy approach to Trustmark, and a risk management course
- Business Genius Cafes: Pre-booked sessions for CompTIA members
- CompTIA Tech Talent Track: Including an introduction and update on tech talent and a presentation from CompTIA’s Customer Success Team
Opening Introduction and CompTIA Community Update
Following lunch in the exhibition hall, the afternoon session began with Leanne Johnson and MJ Shoer giving an update on CompTIA’s various communities, regions, technology interest groups (TIGs) and Industry Advisory Councils (IACs).
There was mention of the Global Task Force and Global Cybersecurity Task Force to share growing market trends and trends in cybersecurity respectively.
And that the highly successful CompTIA Spotlight Awards is coming to the ANZ region soon!
Wayne Selk also provided an update on the CompTIA ISAO organisation. Reminding us that it is available to all MSP/IT solution provider members as a platform for discussion and collaboration.
MJ also mentioned Trustmark Accreditation and the benefits it provides to organisations who have it. It demonstrates a company’s commitment to delivering cybersecurity to the highest standards.
Also mentioned, the new Emergency Response Team, which has been launched in the North America region. The service is aimed at connecting service providers to cybersecurity experts in time of crisis.
A Journey to Inner Greatness – Your Personal Flight to Self-Discovery and Leadership!
Hans Demeyer became our pilot on a voyage of emotional understanding in the next session.
He took us on a journey demonstrating how our fears can cause turbulence in our lives, which can have a profound effect on us. But also, about how experience can help us to reframe our outlook in the face of similar.
He described his feelings when he took part in his first-ever tandem skydive.
About how the fear made him anxious, but how he eventually loved it once it was all over.
It prompted an audience discussion around how each of us have previously dealt with a stressful event.
Some said they turned to their partner or spouse, while others took a moment and planned their next steps.
Hans said that: “Fear knocks the door, but confidence opens and sees nothing.”
Reframing Your Outlook
Next the audience was asked to pick a partner and play ‘thumb war’ with them.
The objective was to create the biggest number of ticks (where the thumb is held down for a second) as a group.
As you can imagine, we didn’t listen to what was asked of us, and instead just tried to play the game normally, scoring against one another. Hans observed our collective mistake and offered that if we’d looked again at what was being asked of us, we would have been better off tackling it differently.
If we’d let one half of each pair let themselves be caught by their opponent, we would have scored more ticks.
If we had reframed the problem and approached it in a different way, we would have produced better results.
He had some other tips for reframing how we look at things too.
When it comes to how we respond to fear, or other negative emotions, we can do better if we ask: “How does this serve me?”
And we could all benefit from taking it S.L.O.W.
- Stop. Take a breath
- Land. Ask yourself what outcome do you want?
- Options. Which versions of yourself are you going to consult?
- Way. Choose one
State of Cybersecurity Update at CompTIA EMEACon 2023
They covered three of the four trend areas to look out for:
- Process (not covered in the session, but still important)
Barriers to Cybersecurity Initiatives
Before diving into to the trends, the main barriers to cybersecurity initiatives were revealed as:
- Low understanding of new cyber threats
- Prioritisation of other technology
- Belief current security is ‘good enough’
- Uncertainty contracting security to a third party
- Employee security skill gaps
- Lack of budget
- Lack of metrics to demonstrate security effectiveness
Policy Trends – Risk Management
When it comes to policy trends, risk management is key, and the UK has a more structured approach to risk management strategies than other regions.
Smaller companies are less likely to recover from a major cyberattack than larger-scale businesses, but they’re also less likely to have a formal security strategy in place.
The most popular risk topics:
- Use of cloud computing
- Data warehouses
- Use of mobile devices
- Classification of data
- Data ownership
- Tech procurement/shadow IT
- Employee exit procedure
- Social media use
- Partner/supplier relationships
- DR/Business continuity
- Point of sale systems
The level of people who are involved in risk discussions:
- Tech staff 44%
- Mid-level tech managers 37%
- CEO 31%
- Board of Directors 29%
- CIO 24%
Product Trends – AI’s Role in Cybersecurity
According to the research, Technology procurement shows that cybersecurity is not the primary or secondary factor when purchasing a technology solution.
Shabad Chawla, in the audience asked: “Would you expect it to be the primary factor?”
Carolyn replied: “Yes, it should be now. Business owners are liable for the client’s data, so it should be a critical conversation.”
Cybersecurity Products in use Today:
- Network Monitoring
- Encryption Software
- Data Loss Prevention
Unlocking AI: Potential Uses:
- Monitoring network traffic/detecting malware
- Automating cybersecurity config
- Analysing behaviour patterns
- Generating tests of cyber defences
- Predicting where future breaches may occur
- Automating response to cybersecurity incidents
51% of organisations surveyed in favour of generative AI for existing AI/ML practices. 42% say that generative AI is driving first-time exploration of AI adoption.
People Trends – Talent Pipelines Get Stronger as Firms Build Skill Resilience
The top challenge for pursuing cybersecurity initiatives are skill gaps in the workforce. However, there has also been a 28% rise in demand for cybersecurity professionals since the pandemic.
This means that recruiting to fill those gaps in-house is a challenge as well. Therefore companies are seeking third party partners to carry out their cybersecurity initiatives.
Practices Included in Cybersecurity Strategy:
- Cloud workspace governance
- Network analytics
- Formal continuous improvement process
- Identity and access management
- Corporate device management
- Software defined-micro segmentation
Groups Involved in Cybersecurity Initiatives:
- 44% internal general IT employees
- 51% internal cybersecurity specialists
- 29% third party cybersecurity firm
- 30% third party technology firm
When selecting third party assistance in cybersecurity, most firms will recruit someone with a broad knowledge across multiple cybersecurity disciplines over someone with specific knowledge in a focused area.
Although the data presented is specific to the UK, the US version of the full report can be found here: State of Cybersecurity 2024.
CompTIA Forums and Charity Updates
Estelle Johannes commenced the last quarter of the first day by mentioning the CompTIA forums, before Leanne mentioned two of the deserving charities that CompTIA have chosen to support this year.
The Cyber Helpline
Charlotte Hooper, Head of Operations at The Cyber Helpline, told us all about the charity and how it helps people. The helpline is a 24/7 intelligent chatbot that can diagnose the form of cyber crime you’re experiencing and work out how to best support you. It’s a free service and the chatbot has helped over 30,000 people get the help they need.
They do this through:
- Live virtual events – suitable for all ages, interests and abilities
- Festivals – which take place all over the UK
- Annual awards – which reward innovation for brilliantly demonstrated ideas
She brought two of her award-winning students to speak to us about their experiences. Ali and Thamina explained how the awards have opened a world of innovation and curiosity in the health and engineering sectors, respectively.
If you want to hear more about Maggie and the Teen Tech charity, make sure you listen to her interview on the TubbTalk podcast!
You Had Me at Hello! What You’re Actually Saying with Your Body Language
Adrianne Carter, the face whisperer – an expert on body language – led a very interesting presentation on body language and facial expressions, and what they tell us.
Whereas the way our bodies express how we feel can be different depending on where we come from geographically, facial expressions are universal.
There are certain triggers to watch out for when you’re talking to someone face-to-face. For example:
- Contempt – shows as a tight lip corner on one side of the mouth. If you see that, they think they’re better than you
- Disgust – displays as a wrinkling of the nose and a raised upper lip
- Fear – raised eyebrows, raised upper eyelids, tensed lower eyelids and lips stretched shows they’re out of control and need reassurance
- Happiness – crow’s feet wrinkles, raised cheeks and movement from muscle that orbits the eye show they like what they’re hearing or seeing
People are more likely to approach if your smile is genuine, but knowing the difference between a real and fake smile is vital when negotiating with someone.
If someone is as annoyed or upset, always validate their opinion. You may not agree with it, but validating it shows their opinion matters.
Whereas showing you’re comfortable in interviews or marketing material is more attractive to your audience – so lean in and relax.
A tweak of your body language can make all the difference in human interactions.
CompTIA EMEACon 2023 Day One Wrap-Up
The conference dinner gave everyone a chance to unwind and continue to network with their peers.
It was an excellent way to wrap up the end of day one, and following the dinner, attendees were treated to more entertainment and music, with James Steel behind the decks in one of the conference rooms.
CompTIA EMEACon 2023 – Day Two
The second and final day of the conference was filled with more excellent opportunities for learning.
State of the Industry Keynote
Reflecting on some of the trends and challenges that we’re seeing right now.
Some really interesting discussion points included:
- The difficulty in hiring and retaining tech talent
- Companies that are failing to enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA)
- Email security being a hot topic at the moment
- Endpoint detection and managed access to make sure you’re always prepared for an attack and mitigating the damage
Scott said, a wise thing to do is to keep a WhatsApp group ready for key stakeholders should you suffer an attack and have to respond quickly.
Managed Detection and Response (MDR), firewall and regular user training are table stakes if you’re offering cybersecurity-as-a-service – and there are plenty of vendors that MSPs can bring in to help if you need it.
The thing to avoid is creating line items for your clients for each layer of protection you’re adding on.
Is AI as Big as the Introduction of the Internet or the Smartphone?
Sana Khareghani from Responsible AI UK took part in a fireside chat with Carolyn April, CompTIA.
She reminded us that AI is not a new term. It’s been around since the 1950s and AI is something we use every day and take for granted. Our smartphones have dozens of apps that use AI in one form or another, for example.
“However, generative AI has become a massive hype cycle,” says Sana, “It’s the librarian who’s read everything and we ask it questions. But there’s a fear about how much power that librarian holds with how it answers.”
Some of the questions Carolyn asked Sana about AI included:
Q. What’s the difference between ethical AI and responsible AI?
A. Ethics is part of the responsibility agenda, so it’s a more broad term, inclusive of other factors. Responsibility here refers to the society as a whole, not just one at the individual or organisational level, which is where ethics lies.
Q. What do you think the skills of the future is going to look like for AI?
A. It’s a big question. People who live, work with and develop AI all need to upskill.
However it’s going to be a long time before AI will completely replace a person. You’re more likely to lose your job to a person who is skilled at using AI than just an AI machine.
Personalisation is already customising our experiences in work and in our leisure time, so we’re already living in an AI-enhanced world.
Q. What about regulation?
A. We can’t wait for policy makers to start the conversation. We as tech leaders need to be leading the way in discussing the opportunities and pitfalls, so that we’re not on the back foot in AI innovations.
Leading Towards Legacy: The M&A Journey from an MSP Founder’s Perspective
Raja had an interest in tech since leaving university in 1987. He took out a two-line advertisement in tTe Evening Standard for £250 ,which produced £12 worth of business. He knew it wasn’t going to work out, so he went back to study a bit more and returned to it in 1997.
In 2023, when a family member passed away earlier in the year, he decided he wanted to sell his business, to be certain his wife would be financially worry-free if the worst was to happen to him.
He completed sale of his business on the 1st September 2023, which he was told was an amazingly quick turnaround (10 weeks). He was conscious that he wanted to make sure that his staff would be happy with the arrangement, and a month in, everyone is still employed within the company.
His three-person management team all started in the business at around the same time and have been with him for 18 years, with one of them stepping up to become the new Managing Director.
Dan asked Raja a number of questions about his experiences:
Q. What advice would you give to someone else who might go through something similar?
Raja replied: You should run your business as though you could be selling it next week. And pay attention to your people. You’re not adding value if you’re doing everything yourself. Surround yourself with people better than you and let them get on with it.
Q. What is your unique proposition to you clients?
Raja commented: What we are selling is trust. You have to demonstrate what you mean by trust. If you make a mistake, own it and do your best to make amends. You’re not in a partnership if you feel you’re unable to do this.
Q. What would you say to people who have seen other M&A situations that have worked out less favourably, about your experiences?
Raja: M&A is not just a situation where everyone loses. In my case M&A worked out as a happy outcome for all involved.
Q. What lessons have you learned about your own experience selling your business?
Raja: Get some good advisors, and keep them up-to-date. Be open and do your due diligence.
Q. How do you know when your team is ready to take the reins of your business?
Raja: Support them and advise them as much as you can, but you have to let them just do it. If they make mistakes, go over what went wrong to help them be better next time. You’ll find they’ll often end up being better than you in the end, and you’ll have nothing more to worry about.
Q. What’s next for you now, Raja?
Raja: I haven’t given it much thought about what to do next, but I’m open to other opportunities.
Unveiling the Future: Unleashing the Power of Young Talent
Mark Freer of Heads Up gave us a few tips on how to engage and get the most out of the upcoming Gen Z and Gen Alpha workforce.
He said by 2030 nearly half your workforce will be made up of them.
- Gen Z – 14 to 28 year olds
- Gen Alpha – under 13 years old (born 2010 onwards)
The working world according to Gen Z is one of job insecurity, financial instability, emotional distress and obstacles to working effectively, and yet their view of economic opportunity is still optimistic.
Many believe they’ll be unable to own their own home and that they’ll be treated for or diagnosed with a mental illness.
In order to attract more young people into the workforce, Mark believes it’s key to meet their needs in ways that push boundaries, give choice and give them a voice.
Some of these things include:
- Support and encouragement for individuals
- Creating a great work environment
- Engagement in social pursuits
- Allowing individuals to be authentic
- Supporting mental health
- Understanding where their support networks are
Gen Z and Alphas look for workplaces that offer hybrid and flexible working policies, digital tools, mentoring and coaching, wellbeing etc.
Triumph Over Adversity: Inspiring Stories of Overcoming Life’s Challenges
Chris Ward moderated a very frank and powerful panel on the tricky subject of mental health.
It was arguably one of the most frank sessions run over the two days at CompTIA EMEACon 2023!
The speakers were:
Each of the speakers gave a bit of background on how a particular mental health illness has affected them over the years, and how they’ve coped with it, or mitigated the effects.
Richard was diagnosed with depression in his 20s.
He describes it as sometimes a feeling that he’s unkind to himself. “Depression is a liar,” he says. But it’s as much a physical illness as a mental one.
Leigh struggled to keep his business afloat, which came to a head in 2018. The stress was too much. He kept thinking: ‘How am I going to pay the bills?’ and ‘Why has success eluded me?’
Amanda, similarly to Leigh, struggled to make her business a success to start with. Menopause and being a woman in business just added to the stress and led to depression.
Chris then asked the questions:
Q. What led to your realisation that it was more than just a bad day, and it was depression?
Amanda said it was her father who first noticed something wasn’t right and said: “What’s up?”
But the advice was, only you can do something about it. However it’s not wrong to seek help when you need it. You need to find the right people to talk to.
The great thing about the menopause is that you don’t really care what people think about you when sharing your problems. Men want to fix things but women just want them to listen.
Leigh said his wife had peri-menopause and thought that it was depression, so they went on their mental health journey together. Educating men about the struggles women encounter that come with menopause is a good thing.
He started seeing a professional business coach and shared his journey with his team, and the coach was able to help him unpack some of the things that were failing.
Richard said he saw lots of common points in what Amanda and Leigh were saying. He said there was a lot of poor advice when he first got his diagnosis like: “Have you tried being happier?” He shared that there have been days where he’s not wanted to get out of bed and had suicidal thoughts.
We need to destigmatise mental health because it’s an invisible illness sometimes. It’s the black dog at the door again. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can condition you to recognise the signs and take preventative action.
Leigh mentioned Andy’s Man Club, a charity for mental health as a safe space to talk about stress, anxiety and depression – or just to listen if you prefer.
Q. What are the wrong things to say to someone suffering with depression?
Amanda: It’s about listening really.
Leigh said he had to hit rock bottom to recognise he had depression. It’s difficult to talk to someone when you’re struggling.
Q. What are your thoughts on ‘Mental Fitness’ – Is that a Thing?
Richard said yes it very much is. Richard journals each day three things to be grateful for.
Social media is toxic and a great procrastinator. Looking at friends’ posts, you only see their highlights and you naturally measure it against the bad stuff in your own life.
Amanda reminded us that we frequently say: “Be kind” but we sometimes forget to be kind to ourselves.
In the audience, Gareth Westwood asked:
Q. Is procrastination a cause or a symptom of depression?
Leigh answered: It’s a symptom of stress. When you’re stressed you put off those things, only to swoop in and get them done at the last minute.
From Geek to Sales Jedi: Simple Sales Techniques for Technical Experts
James Steel moderated a panel around the topic of sales, with three experts ready to offer their advice.
Robert Gibbons started off by saying that it’s far easier to sell more to existing customers because you already have their attention.
Dave Sutton said that are some types of products may can appeal to many customers, but it’s about being that trusted advisor on how to use technology to better manage their businesses. Yes, it will increase their overheads, but it will help them maximise their profits while reducing the risks of losing data.
Danny Boyle remarked that qualifying stages are often missing when MSPs are looking to turn leads into sales prospects. So understanding where the opportunities are and whether they’re in a place to buy is so important. Budget, authority, need and opportunity are important in qualifying a potential sale.Attracting New Customers
Dave – Start with a one-off service so that they’re able to trust you and they’ll be more likely to buy an ongoing product in the future.
Danny – Case studies can demonstrate your value and overcome typical objections. Social proof is key too.
Robert – Learn about your potential customer before attempting to sell to them and build a profile to see where they are on their buying journey.
More Effective Cold Calling
Robert – Get an impression of the person you’re calling and create a profile before you pick up the phone. Good research is key.
Danny – Be human. It’s easier to get past the gatekeeper if you use their first name. The first 15 seconds is so important.
Dave – Prior intelligence is really helpful for cold calling. In a typical day, you’re looking at making 130 calls in order to make it worthwhile.
Robert – Email campaigns: You can tailor campaigns to existing customers on what you know they don’t have yet, provided you’ve created a profile upfront.
Asking For Customer Referrals
Danny – It’s human nature to complain about bad service, but don’t be shy to ask your customers to provide a good review.
Louis Theroux Closing Keynote
Todd Thibodeaux of CompTIA asked the questions of the broadcaster, journalist and award-winning documentarian, Louis Theroux.
Q. Is there an area you haven’t covered with your documentaries that you still want to do?
A. Islamic extremism – Louis said he never had the ‘stones’ (cajones) for it. He said it might have led to a death warrant situation, but joked he still dreams of, one day, watching a stoning in an Islamic caliphate.
Q. Who are your role models?
He interned for Michael Moore who was an inspiration for him to make documentaries. John Noakes, Blue Peter presenter, and his fearless approach to the things he took on was also massive inspiration.
Q. How does it feel when you sit across someone detestable when making your documentaries?
He said he found it easy to detach himself from the situation. With the exception of the Scientologists, who: “Have a knack for getting under your skin” to make you feel uncomfortable. They have some sort of mandate to confront anyone trying to show Scientology in a negative light. They start talking over you and filming you back! They’re just irritating!”
Q. What’s your process when deciding on what project to do next?
He chooses those subjects that seem counterintuitive or self-sabotaging, because it’s interesting to him.
Louis confesses to have lots of ideas in his head, but they’re not always good ones. He wanted to do a documentary on David Icke and his conspiracy theory that the world is run by shape-shifting lizard people!
Q. Who would you love to interview?
“Trump. He’s cleverly unflappable”. He said he would like to have done a documentary when Trump thought he had control, but really it would show his true colours, but he’s ‘too savvy for that sort of thing’.
Q. Are there any tech topics that you find interesting at the moment?
Louis said Crypto and AI are two areas he finds fascinating, and would love to know more about.
CompTIA EMEACon 2023 Day Two Wrap-Up
The second day was even more session-packed, with so many memorable panels and presentations.
Delegates were offered a last chance to network over a drink before the event was brought to a close.
CompTIA EMEACon 2023 Event Conclusion
Once again, the community team did an incredible job of organising the itinerary and pulling it all together. The venue, the speakers, the content; everything had a lot of work put into it, and yet it came off effortlessly.
Did you attend CompTIA EMEACon 2023? How did you find the event, and what session did you draw the most value from?
We’d love to hear your account of it in the comments.