Growing the Skillset: Review of the Landscape for AV Educational Opportunities

growthNow that the new-year smell is wearing off of 2022 and everyone is getting into their routines, this seems like a good time to set up plans for personal upgrades. For the AV professional, there are a number of options for sharpening skills and gaining new ones.

I cannot talk about AV training without bringing up the 500-pound gorilla, AVIXA. The organization provides the triple crown of AV certifications: the CTS, CTS-I and CTS-D. For the AV world, these certifications provide a deep and specific program of study for the work of AV installers, integrators and designers. Some customers require certification for AV work. The books, classes and workshops can prepare people to take the certification exams.

AVIXA also acts as a guild and gathers experts to provide classes, both in-person and online, to give its members information and future-facing training in the AV world. InfoComm is packed with presenters to share their knowledge and experience. June is coming soon. AV professionals can choose the right sessions to deepen their knowledge and enhance career satisfaction.

For executives and owners, a library of white papers is also provided by AVIXA. Take a look at the studies and research it offers. Wainhouse Research is also a good source for business information and strategy supporting studies.

When it comes to leveling up on education, many have their eyes on getting a bachelor’s or graduate degree. A degree is recognized as a significant career achievement. As I’ve been learning from HETMA and elsewhere, online classes are easier and more widespread than ever. This is a great time to commit to getting that college degree. Managers and those wanting to get on the management track could look at getting a business administration degree. Many AV professionals are also interested in technical studies. There are universities with programs for audio engineering and computer science for coding, and I’ve met more than one AV pro who is majoring in electrical engineering. There is a lot of options in new media for those wanting to dive deeper into creating AV experiences.

But to kick a hornet’s nest yet again, AV is IT. Getting comfortable or becoming an expert in specific IT areas of knowledge is required in the AV world. I propose these areas of IT as most critical:

  • Computer networks
  • Security 
  • Cloud
  • Collaboration

For basic computer networking, I have been very impressed with Chapter 6 in the third edition of the CTS Exam guide textbook. To go deeper, Cisco has the certs, and there are tons of support materials to learn the Cisco networking world. Setting up a home lab with some second-hand gear is invaluable to master this specialty.

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Security is scary — breaches and rumors of breaches frequently come with very disruptive consequences. Our AV systems need to comply with the best security practices and not become a point of failure for our businesses and customers. LinkedIn Learning has a number of courses on security that are targeted to learners from expert to beginner. Stanford’s School of Engineering online has a highly regarded course on Network Security for those wanting to invest in deeper knowledge.

It has become a standard business practice to use cloud services. The big dogs in the cloud are Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Service (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform. Each of those vendors provides trainings and certifications for their respective offerings. My favorite use of the cloud is for collaboration. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet are popular choices for cloud collaboration. When it comes to bringing it all together, Pexip provides fantastic connectivity between collaboration platforms all over the world. Cloud collaboration is the tip of the spear for conferencing technology. For those interested in getting under the hood, investing some time in the MS, AWS or Google Cloud is a very good place to start.

As many times as I’ve heard people say AV is IT, I’ve also heard, “Everything in life is sales.” Becoming skilled in sales can be useful to advance almost anyone’s career.

My favorite way to learn is by reading books. Last year I read “The Challenger Sale,” which had the salesperson community all excited. The tone was very practical with steps, which was refreshing in a book about sales. Next on my list is a book recommended to me by another AV pro titled “The Art of Closing the Sale” by Brian Tracy. 

This leads into the area of personal growth. Getting educated is for the purpose of self-improvement. Each person can take a 360-degree look at their own life and see what most needs support. It could be stress management or time management that would make the most difference. Creating habits to improve one’s own life can be a great use of energy and attention.

The AV industry is made up of ambitious and driven people. This specialty is growing, and there are more and more opportunities coming up. It only makes sense to get informed about these new areas so that when a good opportunity arises, it will be recognized. This quote sticks with me — its origins are unknown but may attribute it to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”