#CompTIADCFlyIn 2019 is done…was it worth it?

February 7th, 2019

CompTia DC Fly-In 19CompTIA’s DC Fly-In for 2019 is now history.  I think this was the 8th year for the event, and the 4th year for me personally.  I met with the staff of both Ohio Senators and two Congressfolks (from Ohio).  And the question, of course, is this.  Did I actually accomplish anything?

I’m sitting here at Reagan International Airport, waiting for my flight back to Cleveland.  I’ll get home Friday morning around 1am.  And then back to the office to pretend to get a days’ worth of work in.  And I’ll spend a good chunk of the weekend trying to catch up.

Was it worth it?

Before I answer that question, let me explain the event.  Let’s start with CompTIA itself.  CompTIA is probably best known for vendor neutral IT certifications, including A+, Network+ and Security+.  They also do a ton of studies about the IT market (again, primarily vendor neutral).  They promote themselves (with a good amount of legitimacy, methinks) as “the world’s leading tech association.”

Who goes to these things?

Well, honestly a good percentage (I suspect a majority) are representatives of state or regional technical organizations.  States like Tennessee, Arizona and Pennsylvania are well represented.  Half a dozen or so folks from each of these states (I think Pennsylvania had two groups).

Twenty-seven states were represented.  Including Ohio.

Ohio had two representatives.  Me and Carlton Ramsey.  This is Carlton’s 2nd Fly-In.  He’s very active in Akron’s AITP (Association of Information Technology Professionals) organization (that was purchased last year by CompTIA).

And this means that there will be some effort on their part to influence policy, both on a state and federal level.

Hence, the DC Fly-In.  Yup, during this process I’m a lobbyist.  I guess.

For 2 days, CompTIA hosts the event.  And here’s what happens:

First Day and a Half:       We hear individual and panel discussion, primarily about hot-button topics.  A couple of topics this year was the impact of autonomous technology, and the need for privacy legislation.  You may be used to these topics from a technology standpoint, but the discussion from a policy standpoint is actually very different.  Privacy legislation on a Federal level, for example.  How will that work in states that already have online privacy laws in place (Massachusetts, for example)?  These presentations are actually very interesting, and offer some great insight into why government bureaucracy moves at a glacier pace. 

There’s also recognition of elected officials who have championed technology “causes”.  Usually that’s awarded to a Senator and to a Congressperson.  And they usually show up to claim their award and give a bit of a speech.

Usually the recognition part happens during a dinner/awards event in the evening.  But this year that evening happened to coincide with the State of the Union address, which our two award recipients both wanted to attend.

By the way, I should have mentioned something up front.  I have yet to hear any strongly partisan statements by anyone during these Fly-Ins.  It’s actually quite refreshing.

We also learn about the topics that CompTIA would like for us to discuss during our meetings in the afternoon.  The main “call to action?”  The consideration of IT infrastructure to be included for consideration in any infrastructure legislation.

Think about that for a moment.  Take your IT hat off.  Now think of the word “infrastructure.”  I bet, if you’re like most folks, two words come to mind.  Roads.  Bridges.  Our goal was to simply ask that IT infrastructure be included in the discussion.  That could be discussing “smart roads” and “smart bridges”.  It could also be helping high-speed internet get to places (both rural and urban) where current ISP’s can’t financially justify it.

Pretty non-partisan, actually.  And we also get to discuss whatever topics we feel like bringing up.  Each meeting lasts about 20 minutes.  And usually happens with a staff member, not the elected official him/herself.

Which actually makes sense, since odds are they’re the person with the actual knowledge on the topic.

Wednesday afternoon is when the fun happens.  We’re assigned a “guide” who accompanies us for the afternoon, and off we go!

We had 4 meetings, with the offices of:

·       Rep David Joyce

·       Rep Tim Ryan

·       Senator Sherrod Brown

·       Senator Rob Portman

An additional topic I brought up with each person was the importance of improving Apprenticeship programs, especially for high-skilled manufacturing jobs.  Many of Simplex-IT’s customers are manufacturing organizations, and I often hear of the challenge of finding skilled employees.  The traditional 4-year college solution is both overkill and not focused on these particular job skills, and technical schools fall short on the other side of the spectrum.

I’m happy to report that all offices embraced the idea with some enthusiasm.  Of course, how that translates into actual activity?  This is DC we’re talking about folks.  Your guess is as good as mine.

4 meetings and 12,000 steps later, the question remains.  Was it worth it?

Yup, it was worth it to me.  Because I like to bitch about “nothing gets done”, “why don’t they just…” and the like.

And yeah…I do write my Congressman and Senators now and again.

Because I want to engage, not just complain on the side.  I want to try to be part of the solution.

Oh, I’ll still complain.  That’s not going away<g>.