Todd Thibodeaux, President and CEO, CompTIA
is the president and chief executive officer of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the leading global trade association representing IT companies and IT professionals. Before joining CompTIA in July 2008, Thibodeaux spent more than 17 years with Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) in a wide range of roles, including the role of senior vice president of industry relations. The son of an electrical and mechanical engineer, Thibodeaux has a passion for technology and is a life-long tech enthusiast. These days, he shares that passion with others via CompTIA’s various workforce and business development programs, including its Troops to Tech Careers program, which helps veterans jumpstart a career in IT as they transition to civilian life. We recently spoke to Thibodeaux about his career and about one of his favorite topics: technology.
Monster: How should today's workforce — not just in IT, but also in every field — be preparing for the technological changes of the future, and what are the opportunities?
TT: Today’s workforce needs to be in a continual cycle of education. At CompTIA, we champion the theme — "Learn, Certify, Work" — meaning that we advise workers to learn about new trends and technologies, get certified in those new skills, apply them to their work and then repeat the cycle again and again. The best way to learn about developing and upcoming trends is to stay educated — through official training centers, industry networking, industry trade publications and industry associations. Cloud computing, mobility and big data are going to have a big impact many companies — so they’ll also change how you access your work and how you work with others. Big data will change how companies market themselves and find new opportunities. They’re becoming game-changers not just in IT, but also in hundreds of other industries.
Monster: You've recently written about a technology "skills gap" affecting both businesses and workers — why do you think this gap exists, and how might we address it?
TT: Unemployment is still high, but the IT industry has more than 300,000 available jobs. We can't find the right people with the right skills to fill those jobs. And without the right people, our companies can't stay on the cutting edge. Our industry is growing so fast, but a problem is that many people still don't think there's a place for them in IT. The truth is, you don’t have to be a math or science wizard to be in IT. There are still thousands of employers that need project management, business development, and customer service skills within IT. We need to show people, particularly young people, how technology works and how it makes things run, so that they’re not scared of it, but instead say, "Hey, I could do that". Then they'll truly understand how they could have a career in IT.
Monster: Has your career played out as you expected?
TT: No, not at all. Coming out of high school, I was going to be a certified welder. And I even did the job for a short time before realizing what poor health many of the welders had at a young age. I didn't want that to be me, so I scrambled, got my start in community colleges and began a journalism path only to find a strong aptitude for economics by chance. The rest of my academic career was focused on business, economics and math — all of which provided me a very solid foundation I use to this day. I have been a tech geek from a very early age, having built a Heathkit color TV starting at age 10. It took me two years to finish it, but I did and it worked. I had the bug, and when a job opened up with the Electronic Industries Association in 1990, I jumped at the chance.
Monster: What has been your biggest surprise and your proudest moment?
TT: That's a tough one. I'm rarely surprised by much, but if I had to choose one thing, it would be the degree to which I've been able to reinvent myself throughout my career. My proudest moment has been my tenure at CompTIA, the last three years in particular. Having come into an organization with a stagnant culture and seeing that turnaround in the completely opposite direction to better serve the IT industry has been very gratifying.
Monster: As an expert in technology, how do you think that technology supports one's individuality?
TT: Technology can be anything to anyone — that's the best part! If you like gaming, you can immerse yourself in that world. If you like smartphones, you can equip your gear a million different ways. The list goes on and on. And now that we've added the whole world of apps for mobile devices, it's opened up so many worlds you didn't even know existed. Just go on Pinterest if you really want to see diversity. Plus technology is a great equalizer. The tools are there to help you communicate, entertain yourself and live in the way you want.
Monster: Are there secrets to following your dreams and to not giving up?
TT: I'm not sure there are secrets, but it's important to have an open mind, surround yourself with lots of different kinds of people, get out of your comfort zone and learn to look at things below the surface without prejudging.
Monster: What would you tell someone who does not think they have the courage to follow their own passion in life?
TT: You never know what you can do until you have to. Necessity is the mother of invention — not just in creating new things, but in finding out what you're all about. I've seen people time and again find strengths they didn't know they had, and when they found them, they acquired the courage and confidence to use them.