As members of the IT Channel, it's up to all of us to ensure its success in the future. Some people may predict the demise of the Channel, however, there are more opportunities now than ever before. In order to keep the Channel strong, it's important to think about how we can start attracting the next generation of future leaders.

In this episode of MSPradio, we're joined by Brittani Von Roden, VP of Sales & Marketing at Erb's Technology Solutions to discuss the importance of Millennials to the Channel's success and how companies can start attracting the next generation of thought leaders.

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Episode Transcription:

Nate:                       All right folks, welcome back to another episode of MSP Radio. I’m your host Nate Teplow. Today we’re going to step away from your business a little bit and focus on the IT channel as a whole, mainly the importance of millenials to the future of the IT channel. I’ll give a little back story on this topic in a minute. But first, I wanted to remind you to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. You can search for MSPradio there and subscribe to us in the iTune store.

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So for today’s episode, as I mentioned we’re going to talk about the IT Channel and about millenials and how they will contribute to the success of the channel.

So I recently attended CompTIA Channel Con Conference. It was in Phoenix, Arizona, a beautiful hotel, a beautiful location and one of the main topics for the event was recruiting the next generation of IT professionals and continuing the success of the channel, and how millenials will help fuel that.

I think we are all members of the channel here and we need to take care of the channel together and, I guess you could say that the future of the channel is in our hands, so this is why millenials are so important. They are a new workforce, kind of coming in and they are going to play a big role in a few years from now in how the channel actually continues to thrive and grow.

So, I’d like to welcome our guest. Her name is Brittani Von Roden. I met her at the Channel Con Conference and she is the VP of Sales & Marketing at Erb's Technology Solutions. She is also a fellow millenial of mine.

So, Brittani, welcome to MSP Radio!

Brittani:                 Thank you for having me, happy to be here.

Nate:                       Yeah, we’re happy to have you and I think this is a really important topic. It is not something we think about everyday but it is really important to keep in mind that this next wave of professionals is hitting the workforce and the IT Channels isn’t ready for them, and isn’t actively recruiting them. They are going to suffer in 10, 20 years from now.

Brittani:                 Yah, I would agree with you a 100 per cent there. This small play generational workforce that we’re kind of seeing come into play is absolutely going to affect the way that we drive success in our organizations’ moving forward.

Nate:                       Yah, absolutely. I would agree with you on that. So, just to kick things off, tell us a little bit about Erb’s Technology Solutions and what you are responsible there for.

Brittani:                 Sure, you bet. So, Erb’s is a value added reseller out of [inaudible 03:14] Iowa. We’ve been in business for going on 53 years, so we’ve been around for a while. We actually started out selling razor blades, if you can believe that and now we’re selling the Cloud, so it’s been quite a transition.

In terms of myself, I actually run the Sales & Marketing team here. I’m directly responsible for the revenue and profitability of the company. We are not going to tie it back to the brand awareness, the equity there, building a sales team so that we are selling the correct solutions into the correct market. I work very closely in collaboration with them, very involved in cleaning, organizing, staffing, et cetera and so forth.

And I also get the benefits of being the internal cheerleader as we kind of framed it up so I do a lot of team building events, I do a lot of fund raising activities as well. But I will say at the end of the day, I am responsible for taking care of the customer, right, so that’s really what I’m all about here.

Nate:                       Yah, that’s a pretty important job.

Brittani:                 Absolutely.

Nate:                       And you’re the youngest member on the Executive team there, correct?

Brittani:                 I am. That is correct, youngest and only female.

Nate:                       Wow. Even better.

Brittani:                 Yeah.

Nate:                       So how did you end up at Erb’s? I mean, you obviously have this very important role now. How did you start there?

Brittani:                 Sure. I was actually out on maternity leave and I decided to update my résumé. So I always think it is kind of important to keep that fresh and it is a good exercise to go through, so I took care of that one day. And when I went live, I was recruited and so then I came out to Erb’s and had my interview process. It was a gruelling one, mind you.

                                    And after going through that, I kind of realized that there was a clear path here that would allow me to strengthen skills and then also have an immediate impact, I think within the organization itself, and then also the industry. So, after I kind of went through that, accept the position as the Director of Marketing and had immediate voice here at the organization and kind of moved my way up.

Nate:                       Yeah, that’s great. That’s great to hear and great path you’ve had there. So, what’s your experience been like, just as a young professional in the IT channel?

Brittani:                 In a nutshell, it’s then very exciting, it’s been very challenging, and actually it’s an extremely rewarding. I think very quickly actually. Some of the benefits, there is opportunity everywhere. I think we are working from a strong tenured foundation; that has provided stability for myself and I think for young professionals like you and I. We are working to kind of find our place in this billion dollar industry, so I think that having a foundation already there for us has been insanely beneficial. I mean it has contributed to my success in that, you know, the excitement of the industry and the rewards that I have seen thus far.

Nate:                       Yah, absolutely. I would say the same thing, I mean, I think it’s a huge industry, there is a ton of opportunity and it is exciting and I think that there is a bit of a connotation with the IT channel, IT industry that there is not that much excitement, especially as a young professional the way that I’ve always viewed the channel just in school and growing up.

Brittani:                 Mhm.

Nate:                       But I think that it is very exciting and I think there are a lot of opportunities here that people don’t necessarily see that are outside of the IT channel.

Brittani:                 Oh, absolutely. You’re not coding in the dark room anymore. There is so much more to IT and the channel that people don’t realize.

Nate:                       Yeah absolutely. So, you talked about some of the benefits of being a young professional in the channel. What are some of the struggles, or some of the difficulties you found?

Brittani:                 Yeah, I think thus far, combating the…kind of age old adage that “we’ve always done it this way.” And that’s kind of, hits home for me just because I come into an organization that has been around for so long and trying to kind of reverse that mind-set.

I also think that those of us, like you and I, that we are very driven or passionate and we’re dedicated and we find ourselves constantly combating the idea that the stereotypes basically that are out there about the millenial generation. So I think those 2 things have been probably my 2 biggest struggle in the channel.

Nate:                       Yeah. I’d agree. How would you characterize some of those stereotypes that you’ve just mentioned?

Brittani:                 Yeah. It’s like beating a dead horse advice.

Nate:                       Yeah, I know, I know…

Brittani:                 I hear that we’re lazy and entitled and, you know we accept kind of more than we’re willing to give and perhaps we’re disrespectful at times. But, that being said, I think that there’s bad eggs in every bunch, right?

Nate:                       Yeah.

Brittani:                 And that’s unfortunate because when we get teamed with those stereotypes when really all we want to do is be successful in making a difference. So, one of the biggest characteristics I think from a millenial perspective is that we speak in a hundred and forty characters, we grew up with Twitter, and sometimes we tend to overlook our “please” and our “thank you’s” and really, there is no ill intent there but it can come off the wrong way and really, we’re just ready for the next thing, we’re driven and we just work differently. So, I think between all that being said, with the stereotype and kind of us being the successful generation, we just kind of have to put that aside and just keep chugging forward.

Nate:                       Yeah, I agree. I think one thing that characterizes millenials is just the desire to make an impact. And you hear about these start up success stories or people you know making millions of dollars at the age of 24 or whatever, but…and that’s not common. I mean, those are the exceptions in a rule but I think millenials are driven by this desire to make an impact and the way that social media works and the way that we’re all connected and the way the news can spread so quickly over certain things, I think there is that drive to get yourself out there, make a change and make that impact that we’ve seen among our peers.

Brittani:                 Oh, absolutely, 100 per cent. We’re not lazy, I don’t think, I think that we work at different times to achieve the work like balance, right. You know, I don’t think we’re entitled not too fairly, I just think we want a little rope to do something great – we want to actually learn something.

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. So in terms of… like we’ve just been talking about the how millenials are characterized, what some of our characteristics are, how do you transition that into the channel? What do you think the millenials will do to the channel as they start to enter the industry?

Brittani:                 Well, I think that there are millenials are closest to the demographic that’s driving change in our industry, so that relationship allows us to bring insights into the things that we need to do within our business in order for us to keep up, in order for us to transform. That’s why I think multi-generational workforce is so great and if we could all understand each other’s strengths and embrace those, understand each other’s weaknesses, we could do some pretty incredible things.

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely. I mean…yeah, there are things that the older generations know that millenials don’t know and that there are things that can only be taught via experience but at the same time millenials have grown up, like you said, you know speaking in a hundred and forty characters and with technologies, it’s just ingrained in them. And I think, if you ask a 50 to 60 year old to run a social media campaign, they would have no idea how to do that.

                                   So there are things that I think the older generation can learn from millenials and I think there are plenty of things that millenials can learn from the older generation. And I think fostering that collaboration, and that shared work environment is very important to the success of the channel and the success of any industry.

Brittani:                 Absolutely. I couldn’t have said it better myself. You are spot on there. I think that Todd, at Channel Con, he kind of pulled out the statistics that the next 10 years, 40 per cent of the current leaders in IT will be retired and that’s in conjunction with 70 per cent of the workforce being millenials. So we’ve got some big shoes to fill very, very quickly.

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely. Those numbers are pretty staggering and that also goes to show that if the channel kind of neglects this younger generation and doesn’t recruit them, they’re going to suffer, if the majority of the workforce and the thought leaders of the millenial generation are in other industries, that is just going to contribute to the decline of the channel.

Brittani:                 You’re exactly right, absolutely.

Nate:                       Yeah.

                                    We’ve got to take a quick commercial break here. Coming up next, we are going to continue talking with Brittani and talk about how we can actually recruit millenials, what are some things our generation the millenials are looking for in work opportunities and jobs and how we can drive growth to the channel through the recruitment of millenials. So, we will see you all in a few minutes after this quick commercial break.


Nate:                       Alright, welcome back folks from our commercial break. You’re here on MSP Radio. I am your host, Nate Teplow and we are talking with Brittani Von Roden, VP of Sales & Marketing at Erb's Technology Solutions. And we are talking about millenials in the IT Channel, how millenials are perceived and how they are going to shape the future of the channel and grow the channel in the future.

                                   So, we just kind of talked about some of the characteristics of millenials, what the experience has been like for you working in the channel. So, I wanted to kind of switch to how we, you know, us in the channel can actually recruit this next generation of professionals.

And I thought we’d start by just what are some changes you would like to see in the IT channel, just either in terms of how it is characterized or perceived from outside of the…

Brittani:                 So I think the bigger thing is mentorship and here there is a lot. But we need more mentors and people should be asking for more mentorship. But I think one of the biggest things we struggle with is that times from the top down. It is very difficult for a young professional to proactively ask for a mentorship regardless of how outgoing we are.

                                   Take me for example, I consider myself extremely outgoing and I’ve yet to ask for mentorship. I have luckily fallen into that kind of a relationship, those kind of settings but never have I actually proactively asked anyone and I think that it should be a priority for those of us with influence to be more proactive and seek out mentorships with young professionals to see if they could grow from it. I think by doing that portrays a more collaborative channel, I think millenials will see that, will embrace that and would appreciate that.

Nate:                       Yeah, I would agree. Do you think the issue is more that millenials or younger professionals aren’t asking for the mentorship or do you think that the kind of older mentors of the channel aren’t actively allowing people to be mentored, if that makes sense?

Brittani:                 Yeah, it makes sense and I think it’s more so the latter and not so much that they are not welcoming it or they don’t want it. But I think that we don’t look at it in terms of the young professionals. I think it is intimidating going out to a CEO of a multimillion dollar company and asking for his or her mentorship. It is much easier for them to recognize the potential in a young professional and say, “I’m going to embrace them and show them the light, and the path and some things that will be very beneficial for them.” And at the same time when you start to see that, I think young professionals will understand that it is really not that hard, and then they can go relay that to their peers – the benefits in seeking out a mentorship.

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely. I think mentorship is a key in any industry and that is a very important avenue to recruit new people is that if they see someone they can learn from and aspire to be and grow with based on their knowledge, I think that helps bring new people into the channel or whatever industry that may be.

Brittani:                 Oh, 100%. If you can relate or see the successes of the older and the wiser generation, that is something to strive for, that is something millenials are looking for. They want to know that there is a career path they are going to be successful in and see that in front and center from the eyes of somebody that is living it.

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely. But I also think that millenials are…they are very inclined to change in new opportunities. And I think what you mentioned before just with all the change happening and the transformation happening within the channel, I think that is another avenue that will attract millenials and that there are big opportunities. And sure, there are these potential mentors and people you can learn from, but there is also the opportunity for you to come in and make an impact and help create the change that is happening within the channel.

Brittani:                 Absolutely. We need to be proactively promoting that because if we are not, how are they to know about it, right? So we have to do a better job at the channel, I think, making sure that we are front and center with all that stuff that there is opportunity out there.

Nate:                       Yeah, I’d agree. This might be a bit of a broad characterization, but do you think there is a branding issue in terms of IT and the channel?

Brittani:                 I think we’re getting better at it. If you asked somebody walking down the street what the channel is, they are going to look at you like you are crazy. But I think that we should do a better job of defining what the channel is and how that is an extension of the IT industry, how it’s a piece of that big puzzle.

                                   I’m not sure if that’s going to directly correlates in terms of recruitments but I do think it is an offset of…it can be quite intimidating to say, you can only work for the HPs or the Dells of the world when really you can be quite successful working for VARs and the channel, or Continuum for example. You know that could be a little more intimidating than understanding that there are so many other avenues that you can get work at and be successful at.

Nate:                       Yeah, I’d agree. I think one thing that people don’t necessarily realize in the channel, and this is something I’ve learned just since joining… I’m with a vendor and this is something I’ve just learned about the channel is that it’s not just about fixing technical issues or fixing computers but it’s really about helping businesses make the most out of technologies. And I think that is something that millenials are very… they’re looking to do is that they have grown up with these technologies.

                                    It is engrained in, kind of our fibre as a generation and we now have the opportunity to help businesses leverage these technologies, make them work in an integrated system, and how business has become more efficient with the technologies we have today, just because it is such an opportunity that I don’t think is broadcast to this younger generation.

Brittani:                 Absolutely. And then that work-life blend. So not only assisting an organization in becoming more efficient, but also recruiting like you’ve already mentioned in retaining top talent and the way we do that is by exposing these organizations to the idea of this work-life blend. And I think that is the transitioning that this industry is seeing right now, but the channel is seeing right now, “How can we enable these businesses?” “How do we enable their users?”

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely. It is a big issue on the channel and it is something that I think VARs and MSPs and IT Solution providers are helping drive that change.

Brittani:                 Absolutely.

Nate:                       So in terms of new graduates, let’s say I am someone just coming out of school, what are some things that you think millenials are looking for in terms of job opportunities?

Brittani:                 I think that they are looking for just that – opportunities. They are looking for flexibility and we don’t understand 9 to 5 as we know. What we get is anytime, anywhere, all the time. Much, by the way can be insanely beneficial if we manage that correctly, but I think coming out of college, that’s what they want, they want opportunities, they want opportunities to prove themselves, make a difference and I think it is essential that they have the environment to collaborate and then also collect collaborative feedback. I think feedback is very important to those of us that are coming out of college.

Nate:                       Yeah, I’d agree. I don’t think many people are racing to join the channel out of school or make a point to look for those jobs but as we mentioned, talking about those opportunities, those changes at hand, it is a key way attract millenials to the channel.

Brittani:                 Absolutely. I would agree with you.

Nate:                       Yeah, cool. So I guess on the flipside say, there are those people who are looking to join the channel or who are interested in becoming an IT professional out of school, what would you say to them in terms of how to get their name in front of people, or how to actually land a job in AVAR or MSP, even the VENDER?

Brittani:                 So, I think this has kind of a two-play. I think one of the biggest things that from the channel’s perspective, I’m kind of reversing our question a little bit, and then I’ll get back into how can millenials promote themselves. I think that the channel needs to better understand that they are being…or, we the channel being scrutinized just as much as the candidate we are trying to hire. So we are not just interviewing the candidate, the candidate is interviewing us.

                                   And so, as the candidates out there and they are perfecting their résumé, they are making it, you know, it’s almost more visual any more than just content. So what’s going to put your résumé on the top of the, but you also have to build your online presence. And I think that if you have a very strong presence, brands, a brand of yourself online that any employer on the channel can research you out, I think that will speak very highly of you especially since that is such a core piece of our business anymore. And I think vice versa, I think that the channel needs do to a better job of protecting our online presence with websites and social media.

Nate:                       Yeah, I know.

Brittani:                 If I’m a millenial and I am job searching, right, and I go to Erb’s Technology Solutions and they don’t have a social media presence and their website, it looks like it was designed back in the 1980s, chances are I’m going to go to the next value added reseller and the same thing with an employer and a potential candidate. If I have a résumé that comes across my desk and it looks the same as the last 15 that I’ve seen, guess what? You know you’re in the same pool as those other 15 people. So how do we make ourselves stand out?

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think, you know, recruiting talent and retaining talent is a big problem for MSPs, for AVARs. We’ve talked about it here on MSP Radio – the importance of your website and how it can help fuel growth and drive more leads, but you also need it on the flipside to help you recruit a technical talent and young professionals.

Brittani:                 Oh, absolutely, absolutely, 100%. Any more, it is all about branding yourself and we are going through that right now at Erb’s, ingraining on my sales team that you need to bring yourself as an extension of the Erb’s brand. And that is going to get you more play in the field than it is if you’re just an AE that works for a technology solution. Who are you? And how are you going to help my business grow? And I think that defining culture is a huge thing. Do you fit into that culture? What kind of culture would you be most successful and where will you thrive? I think those are all very important things when we are looking at in recruiting and retention.

Nate:                       Absolutely, I’d agree. So we are coming up towards the end of our show here, but I wanted to ask you one last question, and I guess I just wanted to get your thoughts on how you think millenials are going to actually change the channel, let’s say, in the next 5 to 10 years. What are some ways we are going to see our generation impact the channel in the coming future?

Brittani:                 With the talk around the Cloud and mobility and how those are changing our organization, I think that the millenials will be able to add a perspective that isn’t necessarily there due to the fact that - you’ve already said it, we’ve grown up with this stuff, this is what we are used to.

                                   And so we are going to be able to be come in and bring some ideas and then show what will actually be a living, breathing sample of how our industry is changing. And so our perspective, I think is a very important one and that, we can help drive the change that we are seeing. What does mobility mean? What does being a working parent mean? It means that you can come in into the organization, get your job done and then go home and be with your kids, and then go back to work if you want to. Right? How do we support that? And I think that the millennial mind set is the one that is going to help drive that.

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely. I mean we’ve touched on it here today that millenials are working to fuel change that they’re looking to make an impact and they are absolutely is that opportunity within the channel. I mean, just the way things are changing, the way business is changing, the way technologies are changing, I feel like the channel is kind of a convergence of a lot of that…

Brittani:                 Yeah.

Nate:                       And you know, I think it’s something that can be very attractive to millenials but isn’t necessarily broadcast that way to them so that is something I would definitely like to see in terms of just the channel in a sense, we brand in itself; just demonstrating this immense amount of opportunities in collision and change and I think that is something that will help recruit this next generation of young professionals.

Brittani:                 Yep. I agree with you, Nate and you put it down to admin when it comes down to it, in terms of the business professional and how working together from millenial perspective, when we talked earlier with the foundation, and then also the new mind set. If we can embrace those two together, like I said earlier, I think we can make some incredible things.

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely. Well, Brittani, thank you very much for joining me here at MSP Radio today.

Brittani:                 You bet. Thanks for having me. It was fun.

Nate:                       Yeah, I think this was fun. I think it is a very important topic – something we don’t always think about, obviously something as we mentioned was a very important at the [Comptia Channel ConComm 28:04] conference and something I’ve become passionate about. I think millenials are a very important generation that we can’t even ignore anymore. We are starting to make an impact in the channel, and if the channel neglects these young professionals, it’s just ultimately going to lead to the decline of the channel, instead of the success. So, thank you to Brittani for joining us here at MSP Radio today and thank you for our audience who tuned in.

Reminder, you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and get this episode straight to your iTunes account. Also available via the Stitcher App and the Pocket Casts App. Lastly, follow us on Twitter using the handle @FollowContinuum and you can let us know what you thought of today’s show and other shows using the hash tag MSPradio.

So thanks again everyone for tuning in and we will see you next week.