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After graduating with a business degree from the University of Miami, Nate Teplow got his start as a marketing professional for a ten-person technology startup. Though it had little to do with IT, that role gave him a taste of some of the issues and velocity he would deal with a year and a half later when he transitioned into a new position at Continuum.
Deep down, he wanted to get into marketing with a technology company. "I knew it would offer a lot of opportunities, change, and excitement, and that's what drew me to tech," emphasizes the Senior Marketing Programs Manager at Continuum and Chair of the CompTIA Future Leaders Community. "A lot of people I knew in college chose to go to financial companies and the big four accounting firms, and I didn't really want to go in that direction."
More than three and a half years later, Teplow appears to be savoring his role in the tech industry and continues to be recognized for his contributions. In 2014, he was named an inaugural recipient of the CompTIA ChannelChangers award, acknowledging his role managing the Continuum blog, hosting and producing the company's weekly radio show and other partner-related activities.
Today, Teplow chairs the Future Leader's Community; the peer group focused on building strong collaborative relationships between generations of tech professionals. Involved in the community since it's inception, contributing ideas and helping to forge goals and initiatives, the leadership role was a natural progression.
"After the Future Leaders Community formed, I served on the executive council for two years and in 2016 decided to run for chair. Those positions have given me an opportunity to take on a larger role outside my immediate job responsibilities, to meet new people and to grow my professional network. It's also given me the confidence to assume a leadership position and be a force of change in the industry."
Mentor or Shared Experiences?
While his friends had dreams of climbing the corporate ladder in finance or working with a big four accounting firm, Teplow sought more excitement and change. "I felt like technology was a way to stay active and find a good successful career path, while not being shoehorned into a structure and a formal track. Flexibility and an opportunity for change and advancement were attractive to me, so the corporate world was not the right fit."
Though he never had a formal mentor, Teplow credits many for offering encouragement and setting high standards regarding career aspirations and leadership. His father, an experienced database consultant, exposed him to the many career options in tech over the years. "If there was a way he could help me or guide me, he did (and still does so today), but he also let me find my own path in a very supportive way."
He also followed the leadership examples set by members of his work team after joining Continuum, including the company's CEO, and gained tremendous insight from the people he's met through his volunteer activities with the CompTIA Future Leaders Community.
That goes somewhat against the grain. "I've found sources of inspiration and pulled nuggets of information from many who have helped guide me. While some stress that ‘you need a mentor,' it's too easy to get caught up in trying to find that one person. But you can grow and learn based on the shared experiences of different people you meet along the way."
Using Tech to Bridge Generational Gaps
Not one to pigeonhole people into age groups or mindsets, Teplow prefers to focus on experiences. Like others born in the last 30 years who grew up with computers, his perspective may differ from that of his older co-workers and customers, and he believes those differences can actually bolster collaborative conversations and ideas.
"I don't know what it's like to work without email on my smartphone. My generation has always been connected online. It's something we tend to take for granted. But there are also disadvantages. The pundits say we're losing social skills and no one has face-to-face conversations anymore. I agree, to a degree. Riding public transportation, I've seen parents put an iPad in front of two or three-year-old kids, and they're just glued to the screens. That's where you run into problems because you're not interacting and they're not learning social skills. But I also think there's a lot of good that comes with it."
On the flip side, tech can be used to create or enhance life experiences. "I recently celebrated the Jewish New Year with all the generations of my family. At one point, we started talking about a new Snapchat filter and pulled out a smartphone to show it to everyone at the table. After a few minutes, my little cousins were playing SnapChat games and laughing with my aunts and uncles. We used our smartphones to look up stories and articles that we referenced in our conversations and share new perspectives. Technology connected all the different generations and enhanced our interactions, and by the end of the night, my grandfather had become a dancing cheerleader on SnapChat! I do think it's important for people to unplug and focus on personal relationships in their lives. But technology provides an opportunity to bring people together when used the right way."
Bridging the generational gap in the tech industry may not be as easy. With up to 40% of channel professionals expected to retire over the next decade, their successors need to engage now and step up quickly to fill the gaps. The CompTIA Future Leaders Community that Teplow helped establish, and currently chairs, is the perfect forum for those types of conversations.
The relationship is mutually beneficial. "Continuum has been a member for years, but I was drawn in by the combination of great resources, knowledge, and content that CompTIA provides. The opportunity to connect with other tech professionals hooked me in and got me even more involved, but being able to take part in the community and stay in touch with the industry is important. Our generation is beginning to drive a lot of change across different technologies and to have our voice be well represented across the CompTIA communities will be beneficial for everyone in the industry."
Teplow never intended to take on a leadership role, but serving for two years as an executive council member of the Future Leaders Community gave him the confidence to step up. "It's not just about breaking down barriers between generations, though we've been pretty effective at doing that. We've worked across the generations—from the baby boomers to the Gen Xers to Millennials—to focus on two key questions for our industry. How can we attract the next generation of talent to keep our industry growing? And how do we also better ourselves as leaders?"
Teplow and the other members of the Future Leaders Community are developing programs and having the types of deep conversations that answer those questions. And they encourage everyone, tech professionals of all ages and backgrounds, to join in these discussions. Go to the CompTIA Future Leaders Community page to learn how.