AV Insider Spotlight : Dave Hawthorne, Programmer

Every week,  I am highlighting on some of the incredible people who are in the Audio Video Industry. As this blog is mostly about AV insiders, today we are profiling Dave Hawthorne .

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Here is a brief intro about him.
Dave is an Integration specialist who has worked in the industry for over 35 years. He has specialized in the programming aspects of the trade, and is conversant with security systems, lighting systems, network setup and overall system programming. He is currently the lead programmer for Woodbridge Stereo. Woodbridge Stereo does extensive work in all areas of home automation, and as a result I have developed expertise in AMX control systems, Savant System controllers, all varieties of Lutron lighting controls, Universal Remote Controls, Panasonic Telephone systems, and numerous ancillary control systems and devices that work together with the primary controllers.

Please drop your questions in the comments below and i will make sure that he sees them.

1.Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?It was literally an accident that got me started. My brother worked for a small AV company in the town where we grew up, and he broke his femur in a motorcycle accident. His employer was desperate for someone to fill in for the months he was laid up, and I was unhappy with the job I had at the time, so I agreed to step in temporarily. When my brother recovered, he decided to go back to school instead of back to work, and I kept his job as an installer. That was 35 years ago. Since then, I’ve been self-employed in the trade, worked counter sales, installation, project management, and finally settled where I am as a programmer.

2.What do you think is the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry.

It’s difficult to make a living at this when you first start. Frankly, anyone can pull wires and learn how to plug things in; AV enthusiasts often do it themselves rather than hire someone. As a result, entry positions don’t command very big salaries, and you have to be a real go-getter to advance enough to accumulate experience. Once you’ve done that, you have a better selection of good positions to choose from, or you can go out on your own, but you aren’t going to do either fresh out of school. You need to work your way up, and you need to work hard at it or you won’t get anywhere. You aren’t going to get there fast either, it takes years, unless you are exceptionally bright and skilled … which may speed things up for you, but won’t by any means make you an instant success. I have often had to deal with new hires out of tech schools that knew nothing about the job, yet thought they were going to make it big all at once – and that’s another big challenge: schooling is a limited help in the AV industry. Even manufacturers’ training isn’t a great advantage, even if required to get started.

3.What are the positives of working in this industry

For me, it’s the satisfaction of making a complex system run smoothly, and seeing a happy client enjoy what I’ve done for them. There is also the fact that to stay current, you need to be on the cutting edge of technology, which lets me play with new toys all the time.

4.What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent ?

It’s becoming more and more difficult for a skilled AV technician to do well for themselves. There is a push to dumb down setup and installations so AV companies can profit more on a system sale, and those extra profits don’t necessarily trickle down to the guy doing the work. Many new systems can be installed directly by the end-user, which makes them easier to sell, and that’s great for the seller, and not so great for the guy who makes a living putting them in. But it also frequently makes for an inferior end result. If I could change anything at all, it would be the entire slide to making things so easy that they aren’t really any good; there needs to be a greater appreciation for the kind of knock-’em-out AV systems that only a pro can install and set up.

5.Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you.

It boils down to trust. A client with no technical aptitude at all tends to be overly fussy and doesn’t readily accept that you know what you are doing. A client that is very technically oriented often thinks they know as well as you do what is best for their system, not just what their preferences are. But you can have a great relationship with both and any in-between if they trust you to provide what they want, and don’t feel like your primary goal is to make a few bucks and run. So I want them to know I am an expert, and I know how to provide a quality system; and if there is something I do not know, I want them to recognize that I can, and I will, find a solution.

6.If you were going to start over, what would you do differently ?

I would diversify more. I have often felt painted into a corner where I don’t have enough options to move forward in tight situations. This is especially true in times when the economy it on a roller coaster – things that you hardly had to try to sell, you suddenly can’t sell at all, and if that is your primary service, you find you have to re-tool your skills fast. I’ve been in that place more than I like to admit, and it’s easier to do it early in a career rather than later.

 [RELATED] : If you have missed any of the previous interviews, please click here.7.Describe a typical work day for you. What are your daily disciplines?

First I check emails and voice mails to make sure there are no fires to put out, or leads that need to be followed immediately. If there is an installation in progress, I gather what is needed on my end to advance it, whether it be getting to the site for necessary setup and programming, or remote access to support the crew that is on site. If there is not a project on the calendar for the day, I work on whatever advance programming, or engineering, I can do for the next project, which includes setting up whatever equipment I can before it goes out the door. If we are in a slow spell, I’ll work on honing skills or learning new systems that I expect my company to be selling in the future.

8.Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?

As far as equipment goes, I pack a Windows 10 laptop, a MacBook Pro, and an iPhone. I’ve learned to be pretty agnostic about the hardware I use, and can do a lot of my work on any one of them, but there are a few systems that require one or the other. Sometimes I’ll toss an iPad in my bag so I don’t have to work from a small phone, but that is more a convenience than anything else. As far as apps, I would be hard-pressed to do without Evernote. I keep all my client data on it (WiFi passwords, VPN info, equipment IP addresses, logins, etc.) on it, and can share it with my technicians, as well as have any of us update changed information. We also use it to store client program files so any of us can access it from anywhere, at any time. Secondarily, I frequently use Fing to check for network conflicts or find equipment on a network. Aside from those, just the general email and texting apps that you can find on any smartphone or tablet, or any of the device-specific apps to control and test equipment.

For more information about Dave Hawthorne , please find a few links.

Next week we will be featuring another AV Insider so please stay tuned. 

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Ajish Raju

About Ajish Raju

Ajish Raju is co-founder and Chief Evangelist of Favante. He loves traveling, trying new cuisines and gadgets. Reach him at ajish@ajishraju.me