Hydrate Yourself with a Thirst for Knowledge

Seeking out the Proper Certifications and Learning Opportunities

CTS, CTP, DSCE, CTNS, Dante3. That is what you will find next to my name in my email signature and LinkedIn profile. To the non-Pro AV crowd, those letters probably don’t mean much, but to me they each signify a moment in my career where I set out to further my education and better position myself for the future. CTP (Certified Telecom Professional) was the first certification I attempted/passed during my first week of employment with Almo Corporation. DSCE (Digital Signage Certified Expert) was my first foray into Pro AV as I wanted to become more familiar with the lingo used and technologies we spoke about. CTS (Certified Technology Specialist) was the crown jewel in my eyes. It was a goal that I set for myself specifically so I could achieve longevity in my role and better support my company and customers. I needed to learn more to be the “expert” in other words. CTNS (Certified Telecommunications Networking Specialist) was something that I sought out to help differentiate Almo from the competition. Lastly, Dante 3. This certification came in 3 levels and challenged me more than I anticipated. Having worked with AVoIP and Dante-enabled audio products I saw this as a chance to “future proof” myself against newer emerging technologies and gave me a great base for which to learn. The reason I listed these out is to illustrate how each one meant something different to me at a certain time in my career. This does not include the countless others I have received whether it be Harman’s Core Curriculum, Comcast’s Hospitality Certification, or even Microsoft Teams Rooms Sales Certification which all are valuable in their own right. We have certainly all heard the saying “Always be Closing”, well I adopted “Always Be Learning”. Sure, it might sound cliched on its own, but allow me to share how’s, why’s and where’s of this cliche and the benefits it provides.

The How’s: How Do you Continue Your Learning?

There is no magic answer to this question. In my opinion, you either have a thirst for knowledge or you do not. Even if you do not, that is completely fine. Everyone is at a different level or stage of their career and that will dictate a lot. Do you have the time to spend on learning or researching? Do you have the financial stability to pay for some of the new certifications? Do you feel that a new course or learning track would even benefit you at this time? All of these are viable questions so by all means if you answer “no” to any of these, don’t feel bad. One particular reason why I have become a proponent for the “A.B.L.” mantra is because I work for a company who encourages and leads by example. Almo Corporation/Exertis Almo place a value on their employees’ development/training and to me that is infectious. Any time I decide to seek out a certain opportunity, the first thing I do is vocalize that to my management. I find that this helps hold me accountable and is also a tangible goal we can discuss in future interactions. Another way to continue my development is simply asking questions. There have been countless times where I find myself on calls and am not understanding what is being discussed so quite simply, I speak up and ask. Afterwards I will then use my trusty friend- Google and will continue my learning until my comfort level is achieved. It is a small step like this that has helped me more than others.

The Why’s: Why Should You Seek Out Learning Opportunities and Certifications?

I get this question more than you would believe. “Why Do you Have So Many Certifications?” or “Why Bother Taking all those Courses?” Again, it is quite simple. As I laid out in the very beginning, all the certifications that I have achieved thus far each hold a certain value to me in one way or the other. What I will never do is take an exam or spend the time on a learning track just for the sake of completing it. I am very methodical in what I take and when I take it. I have a specific interest in the subject matter and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t even start the course. When I set out a goal to achieve a new learning opportunity, I must set out the reasoning why. Why do I want my CTS? Why do I think this will help me or my employer? Once I’m able to candidly answer those questions with viable answers I proceed to registering etc. and getting started. When you work in an industry such as Pro AV, or any other industry that involves technology, the trends are always changing. Something bigger, faster, and better is always around the corner and if you were to stop and say “well I have my cts, so I’m now done learning” you will eventually find yourself left behind.

The Where’s: Where Should You Look for These Opportunities?

Literally EVERYWHERE! The places to look for educational opportunities will all depend on the topic or goals you set forth. For example, when looking for a certification involved in Telecom, I would head to Google and type “most popular certifications in telecom”. It is here that I uncovered the CTNS, found reviews from past students, and also uncovered similar courses that I could use to expand on the CTNS itself. Outside of search engines, I find that some of the most valuable courses are within our industry. For example, everyone might be most familiar with CTS, CTS-I, and CTS-D offered by AVIXA. However, looking beyond those you will find entire online trainings and “universities” that are offered by the different manufacturers. My absolute favorite is Harman Pro Training and I have previously credited this site for helping me achieve my CTS in the past. I find that these courses are most beneficial because while some do center in on specific Harman products and technologies, they also feature their Core Curriculum which is perfect for anyone trying to learn the basics and build momentum on future learning. Another method is one of my newer “go-to’s” which is Linkedin Learning. Linkedin offers a tremendous opportunity for furthering education, and they allow you to tell them and select what you want to learn. Would you believe I recently achieved a certification for “Writing an Effective Blog?” That exists! I would challenge everyone to check out Linkedin Learning and find your own tract to help!

The Benefits

The benefits of A.B.L. come in different ways. First, the most obvious, is you are developing new skill-sets and broadening your own education. Second, there are financial benefits. For example, by completing a certification such as Dante from Audinate, you are now able to speak more knowledgeably on the technology, the equipment needed, and how to best help the customers. This in term could lead to growth in sales and growth in revenue. Thirdly, to position yourself as the expert. The reason why so many in Pro AV add “CTS” to their email signature is to highlight that you are up to speed on the latest technologies and trends and are the “expert” that can answer their questions and concerns. I take pride in that and while I certainly don’t know everything, I am taking the steps to always get closer! audio experts teamLastly, I think with any line of work, you run the risk of it getting stale. Doing the same thing every day and never trying to change things up. I like to always be learning because quite frankly, it excites me to have an extra tool in the tool belt. Finding new ways to differentiate myself and my employer while also increasing the product knowledge for which I can confidently speak in future calls and meetings. Confidence is king after all!

In closing, I hope that shed some light on what those letters/certifications mean to me and why I hope it will prompt you to achieve your own. Set out some new goals and challenge yourself to achieve 1 new certification this year. They don’t need to be the most time consuming or the most costly to provide value. As long as you can identify something tangible or intangible that you got from it, then I feel as though it served its purpose! I am always eager to lend a hand, so if anyone would ever like further tips or ideas on how to prepare for education, etc., you can always find me on LinkedIn or contact me here.

Enjoy this blog?
Let Rob know over on LinkedIn …and/or connect with #ExertisAlmo on our LinkedIn company page.

Robert Voorhees
About the Author

Rob Voorhees | CTS, CTP, DSCE, CTNS, Dante

Business Development Manager

Supported Manufacturers: Business Communications Services, and Harman: AKG, AMX, BSS, Crown, DBX, JBL, Soundcraft, Martin Lighting

Joe Cornwall’s USB-C “Must See” TV….at E4v

If you’re like many of us in the industry, you have a lot of questions about USB-C and how it fits into AV applications. Fortunately, Legrand AV’s “Technology Evangelist” Joe Cornwall is here to help. Joe presented a very thorough presentation on how USB-C fits into modern AV installations during Almo’s recent E4v.

During Almo’s recent E4v, Joe gave a detailed presentation on how USB-C fits into modern AV installations.

If you missed it, not to worry – you still have a chance! Courtesy of Almo, these trainings are available for another month at the E4v Flex Experience.

Below are three key takeaways from Joe’s session that you’ll definitely want to see:

#1 Cable Lengths and Connectors Matter

The great news about USB-C is that there is finally a single connector, and you don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s upside down anymore. Anyone who has touched a USB cable in the past has certainly dealt with the roller coaster of emotions that come with trying to figure out which way to plug in the cable. USB-C will solve that problem. Unfortunately, because of how much data these new cables are able to handle, they’re limited to very short cable lengths. The longest one you’ll find is six feet! Tune in to Joe’s presentation to learn why you should be excited about these cables, even with such a short length limitation.

#2 New Terms: EMCA Cables and Billboard Devices

Unlike most standard cables, the USB-C connector actually has small chipsets built right into the connector. This means that the cables work in a different manner than previous USB versions. Here are a few terms and features to be aware of: “EMCA Connectors” and “Billboard Devices.” Failing to account for these when needed could create headaches for you and your customers. Joe will teach you what to look for and how to navigate these new waters.

#3 We’re Going to Need a Bigger Docking Station

If you’re planning on deploying USB-C, you should plan on learning the role of docking stations, as these little devices display the true power of USB-C. USB-C allows for the transmission of power, video, audio, data and control bi-directionality. You’ll need a docking station to fully take advantage of all of these features and get the most out of your USB-C products in your system.

Joe’s presentation is worth a 1 AVIXA CTS Renewal Unit. He does a deep dive on these topics (and many more), in a way that only Legrand AV’s Joe Cornwall with can. This is one session you won’t want to miss!

New Year, New Opportunities for Growth in 2021!

An interview with Sam Taylor, Senior Vice President and COO, Almo Professional A/V

With 2020 in the rearview mirror, we are settling in and setting our sites on new goals in 2021. And yes, while 2021 is already starting with its share of challenges, there is a bright glimmer of expectation for the future, especially in Pro AV!

With recent AVIXA reports showing 7-8 percent growth this year, the Pro AV market continues to march ahead. In fact, according to AXIXA’s 2020 Industry Outlook and Trends Analysis, North American Pro AV revenue is expected to grow to $78.5 billion in 2021, up from $74.3 billion in 2020.

There are other glimmers available to small businesses in our industry. The latest COVID-19 Relief Package signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020 provides a second round of assistance to companies in need. See the see the full article from NSCA for complete details.

Sam Taylor
Senior Vice President & COO, Almo Professional A/V

Many lessons were learned in 2020. Like most companies, the Almo Pro A/V crew was also challenged with cancelled events, the work-from-home learning curve, and moving quickly to offer new ways to keep reseller and integrator partners learning, working and relevant.

We sat down with Sam Taylor, Vice President and COO for Almo Pro A/V to get his perspective on the highs and lows of 2020 and what to expect from Almo in 2021. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: What was the single greatest challenge for Almo in 2020?

Sam: The most difficult part was the inability to begin or complete installations due to facility closures. We’ve experienced a “W-shaped” business cycle with projects at a hard stop in the spring, only to come roaring back in the summer, then closing down again in the late fall with re-opening starting to happen again now.  

Q: How has Almo responded to this challenge?

Sam: Two primary ways, by keeping our partners educated on new trends and opportunities in the industry and providing them with relevant products/services/support they need to keep their business moving forward – either with existing opportunities or with new ones. While many markets like hospitality and onsite events were paused, others like distance learning for education and working from home for corporate businesses had urgent new AV needs.

Q: How is Almo keeping partners educated?

Sam: For the first time in 11 years, and after announcing and preparing for our regional E4 Experience education and networking program to travel to Washington, D.C. and CA last spring, we cancelled our live events and introduced a new virtual platform called E4 Evolution (E4v). E4v was met with such success that it has become a permanent part of the E4 program. With fully curated live and interactive AVIXA-certified sessions led by all-star educators on relevant topics to help attendees thrive, E4v has become the next evolution in live education experiences.

We are soon announcing the next E4v, which will take place in March! Stay tuned for details!

Q: What other measures has Almo taken to support integrators since COVID changed our world?

Sam: We are constantly evaluating and changing direction based on the industry and the needs of our partners. We now offer PPE, disinfectant fogging kits, hand sanitizing kiosks and other point-of-entry products. We supply work-from-home bundles and lecture-capture devices for educators and business professionals. We’ve even entered an exclusive relationship with ARHT Media to offer holographic telepresence technology, which is the next best thing to being live!

At the same time, we’ve expanded our managed services offering, particularly for labor and installation to include drafting and engineering options. So many spaces have to be reworked to accommodate COVID restrictions, like restaurant build-outs and restructured office and educational facilities and most of these changes must be made quickly. Almo provides these services so integrators can use them without having to worry about hiring the experts or managing the overhead. We are ready for you now.

Q: How have you handled shipping and manufacturing delays due to COVID?

Sam: The most common delays we have seen are with cameras and USB audio products due to high demand, particularly for education. We offer multiple manufacturing lines so that if one is delayed, there is usually another to access. We help our partners lock down on product allocations early and build flexible options into their P.O.’s to provide the best possible outcome. Offering managed services to help get those products installed quickly and effectively has also helped our partners complete their projects.

Q: Looking on the bright side, what are some of the positives that emerged as a result of all the challenges in 2020? 

Sam: It’s been interesting to see how some of the changes we’ve been forced to make have actually been beneficial. We have the technology to make working from home a professional, productive experience. Our E4v has enabled partners to participate in more educational sessions worth AVIXA CTS renewal units from the comfort and safety of their remote workspace. New projects and new ways of conducting business have created exciting new opportunities for our industry that we have been able to immediately embrace.

What are you looking forward to the most in 2021? 

Sam: I cannot wait until I am seeing our customers and our vendor partners in person, and getting back to the business of being together as an industry face to face for business and pleasure. While some things may permanently change, many will stay in a “hybrid” mode for some. As COVID vaccines and treatments become more widely available, public spaces will continue to open, making way for existing projects to continue and new projects to begin. The future is bright!


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