In my biweekly blog series, I am highlighting some of the incredible people who work for the Audio Video Industry. In this post, we are profiling Shehzad Hussain. Here is his brief introduction.
Shehzad Hussain, CTS is Senior Technology Specialist at TWYLA Technology, Qatar.
1. Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?
I never aspired to pursue AV as profession neither did I even knew AV industry existed when I graduated in Electronics Engineering from Karachi based Pakistan Air Force-KIET University back in Fall of 2008. I was going through self-exploration phase at that time and spent my time and efforts in different career directions from Industrial Manufacturing, IT Networking to Airline Industry. I might have given a hand-full of interviews, and out of first few calls I got, one of which was from SME company doing Hi-End Home Theater and Multi-Room Audio installations in mostly residential applications. For me it was unique opportunity and to things I was never exposed to before, so I decided to give it a try.
Every day I learnt something new about different types and versions of Audio-Visual interfaces, signal types, inter-connectivity of various devices like AV Receivers, Pre-Amps, Power Amps, Power Conditioners, wide variety of Speakers, so on and so forth. Gradually I started correlating engineering concept I learnt during my studies into AV, specifically into room acoustic studies. Then ultimately having my first programming encounter with Crestron control system and Lutron lighting control systems. My interest kept on growing every day. I still remember when my friends use to ask me what my profession was, and I would scratch my head trying to come up with an “accurate terminology” that was at least close enough in justifying what I was pursuing, then ultimately finding myself giving a good 5-minute-brief on what exactly AV profession is.
Since, I was among few people who were working in AV sector in Pakistan at that time, I thought I should share what I was doing with others, so I started publishing project case studies and articles with HiddenWires Magazine. I quickly realized sharpening my skills as a trained and experienced AV professional was important, therefore, I started attending manufacturer trainings and seminars and traveled to Middle East for the first time to addend training on Lighting Control System. At that time, I was mostly doing residential projects having no access to commercial market. To tap into Pro AV direction, I decided to join Broadcast and Pro AV System Integrator by the name Channel Tek. It was almost sudden and exciting at the same time now designing university campuses, like for National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, various corporate board rooms, meeting rooms, PA, conferencing, one of which was for Karachi School of Business and Leadership (KSBL) and many more. Also at the same time I was getting exposed to TV Broadcast technologies. It was simply fun and I had a great time.
Then I decided to relocate to Abu Dhabi with a company called ABSONS IT, to kick-start from scratch and manage their ProAV System Integration department. Very quickly we started working with Abu Dhabi government for Department of Transport (DOT) new HQ project and Abu Dhabi Housing Authority (ADHA) projects, among others. Over the time I progressed professionally and ended up working with Crestron Middle east in Dubai as Account Manager/Technical Sales Engineer then moved back to System Integration with Almoe AV Systems in Dubai. I am very fortunate to have been exposed to both SI and Manufacturer work environments.
Cutting the long story short, now 10 years down-the-line, I am still associated with Pro AV industry and currently based in Qatar working for Twyla Technology as Senior Technology Specialist, managing engineering teams, undertaking medium to complex level ProAV projects designs and implementation and using best of my efforts to do it right.
Even though it was unplanned direction to start with in AV, but now I am willingly enjoying every bit of it. The way how Pro AV industry flourished, specially in the last 5 years, is simply remarkable.
2. What do you think are the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry?
The biggest challenge is the accessibility of knowledge on how to enter in AV, there is no central portal of guidance specific to demographics. Lack of mentor ship and lack of internship programs. Unwelcoming training programs from manufacturers for independent (not employed) persons who aspire to get formal product-specific certifications. Also, lack of collaboration between universities/diploma institutes and manufacturers.
At the same time, one way to kick-start a career in AV is to get AVIXA certifications which should be more economical for new aspirants.
3. What are the positives of working in this industry?
We are at the forefront of vast technology advancement. Rapid technology shifts with newer and better products than before. You can simply not lose interest; this industry always keeps you on your toes. Back in the days, there used to be Analog transition to Digital, then came 4K fever, now gradually manufacturers are boarding 8K bandwagon, it simply does not cease to stop and impress you. More and more IT merging into AV and this separation line is getting thinner at much faster pace.
This pushes you to learn and acquire new knowledge, get more certifications and engage with not just bigger players but also smaller manufacturers who specialize in their own niche.
Another advantage is that you get to learn from each other’s experiences that motivates you to get better and dream bigger.
4. What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent?
I would change the way how contractors spoil projects by supplying compromising products to save their cost. I would change the way how projects are treated by inexperienced technical team, have seen some of the worst installs. I would enforce application of standards and industry best practices on every project. I would change the mindset of preferring quantity over quality of workmanship. I would change the way some SI companies don’t invest on staff technical training and retain inexperienced staff who don’t believe in perfecting their skills, which eventually results in mediocre installs and customer dissatisfaction.
Finally, and ideally, I would change the way competing companies during project bidding tarnish healthy margins by going with ridiculously low offers to enter accounts, this not just affect quality of installations but make it extremely difficult to justify overhead costs of capable companies who maintain quality workforce. At the end of the day as a whole we all lose including end-user.
[RELATED] : If you have missed any of my previous interviews, please click here.
5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you?
Most importantly, my ideal client realize that AV is very important aspect of his/her project and engage AV partner company at early project programming stage along with other key project stakeholders like architecture. My ideal client realize that technology is one of the crucial aspect of project and he/she engage in productive discussions leading to his ultimate expectations. My ideal client want to invest in technology which will safeguard his/her investment for at least 5 years v/s opting for low cost less-reliable solution with higher fail over rate and higher maintenance cost. My ideal client would always asks for certified staff while finalizing AV contractor.
6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently ?
I wouldn’t change anything because every good or bad experience taught me a useful lesson. In fact, I wish I would have made more mistakes in past so I would learn more what not to do. I remember my project programming days, I learnt more by rectifying an issue than achieving a perfect result in one-go. Problems pulls you out of your comfort zone and certainly you learn something new.
7. Describe a typical workday for you. What are your daily disciplines?
My very first call usually is from my colleague who takes care of project BID submission, she informs me on open actionable items needing my immediate attention. Typical workday at office starts with checking To-Do-List. This list is comprised of high-level/birds-eye-view kind of information for instance to close a certain project by so-and-so date, achieve APEX certification by this time, etc. This I maintain on my app digitally. While low-level tasks specific to each project I like to maintain manually on my notebook, and I love to strikethrough these tasks with red pen when completed. It’s more of a psychological thing, small successes keep your morale up.
Since I lead pre-sales and engineering department as a whole which includes preparing Bid, managing projects and multidisciplinary teams, most of my time is invested in reviewing bids, client meetings, on-site project meetings, addressing problems, quality checks and “handling” suppliers on developing practical BOQs and closing sales project leads, therefore, everyday activity is dynamic and depends on how close the BID submission deadline is and what is a current project status. So a typical day don’t have a fixed agenda.
Also a reasonable traveling schedule to manufacturer premises either for trainings/factory visits mostly to European countries, I like greenery and history there.
8. Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?
Macbook for office related works, for eg. Mail, MS Excel for Bids, MS Project for managing projects, MS Visio+AutoCad+draw.io for schematics and design layouts, phone apps like Reminders, very recently I started testing XTEN-AV which I think will be great tool with some upgrades in future. A very useful app that we all use is MS Teams; this makes online manufacturer training sessions easier, to which we maintain recordings on cloud. Also, if my immediate attention is needed on project, my teams takes me on-board quickly using MS Teams.
9. How do you stay relevant in this industry?
I stay relevant by attending new product release and technical webinars, these are best way of addressing training needs quicker and saves a lot of time. Besides that, having AVIXA CTS certification always push for RU points which keeps you connected with various leading manufacturer online technical and in-person trainings and seminars.
Also, I frequently attend trade shows specially Integrated Systems Europe – ISE every year. It’s a great way to stay connected with AV fraternity, it’s a small world everyone knows everyone, it’s good to catch up with friends as well as with clear set exhibition agenda you get to bring back something new every year from ISE.
To know more about him, please connect with him on LinkedIn.
Also please drop your questions in the comments below and I will make sure that he sees them.