Career Path

Kelly Ricker: ‘Say Yes’

Kelly Ricker, CMP, senior vice president of events and education for the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), on how to build a satisfying, successful career

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 1.45.37 PMEDUCATION Miami University (Ohio), majoring in speech communication.

MY FIRST INDUSTRY JOB Trade-show coordinator for the American Sportfishing Association.

MY MOST RECENT JOB Vice president of conferences, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

WHAT I DO NOW As senior vice president of events and education for CompTIA, I am responsible for setting the association’s member-education and event strategies and overseeing the department that produces CompTIA’s education products and live events, including the annual ChannelCon.

MOST INFLUENCED IN MY CAREER BY  Karen Chupka, senior vice president, International CES, for CEA.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM HER Almost 20 years ago, I had the good fortune to interview with Karen Chupka for a coordinator position at CEA. I had several years’ experience under my belt and was looking for the next step up in my career. As I learned more about the opening, I determined it was not going to offer as much growth as I wanted, and said as much to Karen. Without missing a beat she said, “Then let’s tweak the job description.”

Together, we mapped out a job that met her needs for the position and my need for new responsibilities and growth. It remains one of the most exciting moments of my professional life, because it was my first exposure to a leader with that level of open-mindedness, flexibility, and willingness to collaborate with a junior staffer. In the 12 years that followed, Karen taught me the trade-show and conference business. Learning the industry from the best in the business was valuable, but I’m just as grateful for the example she set by being a great boss. Karen taught me how important it is to cultivate talent, empower high performers, trust your team, encourage a bit of risk-taking, and have fun!


CompTIA truly is a best-in-class employer (as validated by the Chicago Tribune and others) with an amazing culture. My favorite part is my ability to do new things, whether it’s stretching beyond our normal product mix to create and launch our CyberSecure training course or raising the bar on member value and excitement at our annual ChannelCon. I love that no day is the same as the one before.

MY NEXT BIG CAREER GOALRight now, my focus is on expanding influence and exposure to areas of the business that have not traditionally been in my wheelhouse.

MY ADVICE FOR YOUNG MEETING PROFESSIONALSSay yes. Specifically, say yes to projects outside the scope of your specific job responsibilities. In the short term, you’ll be seen as a go-to rising star within your organization, and in the long term, you’ll gain broader work experience to support your goals for forward career advancement. 

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.