The Nontraditional Path to AV Control System Programming and Software Developing
(As appeared in Commercial Integrator)
The AV industry is thriving with an abundance of exciting career opportunities for those interested in technology, and not everyone who enters the field undergoes specific training or education. As I’ve learned, it isn’t uncommon for AV professionals to have wide-ranging educational backgrounds and credentials. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts, my path proves that a traditional programming pedigree is not the only route to becoming an AV control system professional.
In fact, individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences often bring fresh, and unique, perspectives to their roles. In my case, having an art and design background provides a different outlook on software development projects and helps evaluate usability from the user’s perspective rather than that of a programmer.
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On a recent project, the end user wanted simplified and uncluttered touch panels for a large and complex system. They wanted me to maintain the ability for those touch panels to do anything the system was capable of — from a single interface. While these requests were diametrically opposed, I needed to find a suitable solution. Using fundamental design principles such as color theory, composition, and typography, I created a user interface with a clean and easy-to-understand design that the end user found very functional.
Hands-on Learning for the Junior AV Programmer
As part of my commitment to learning and growing on this non-traditional path, I focused on three key strategies which involved setting goals, obtaining mentors, and seeking education.
Realistic AV Goal-Setting
After graduating from the School of Visual Arts, I entered the AV industry with what was supposed to be a temporary administrative job at an AV integration firm and stayed there for seven years. During this time, I developed an interest, and then love, for programming while having the fortunate experience of hands-on learning and mentorship. Goal setting and commitment to learning eventually paid off, and I landed a junior programmer position at Control Concepts, where the education and development only continued.
Starting Out in the AV Control System Programming World
As many AV programming upstarts soon realize, early assignments involve helping the senior programmers on their projects. This role is critical for developing as a programmer and provides tremendous learning opportunities for how vital the control system programmer’s role is and how essential a properly programmed system is for a successful project outcome. Junior programmers should seek mentors to point them in the right direction, share their knowledge, help navigate complex solutions, and answer the many questions that arise.
Continuing Education In AV Programming
The Move to Software Development
With the AV industry evolving and AV control systems becoming more multi-faceted, I find numerous channels and pathways to learn and grow from. For me, programming led the way to software development opportunities. As a software developer, I now support the various custom software offerings our team creates to satisfy the growing demand for simpler, more cost-effective project solutions as well as highly customized solutions that address challenges or unique needs. I am pleased to have a direct role in determining requirements, features, and steering the ultimate direction of a deliverable.
The uniqueness of these custom software projects differs in many ways from that of the traditional systems-based project. A recent development project involved using our Crestron Configurator, a Windows-based .NET application that assists the user with setting up, configuring, and loading individual rooms within a multi-room Crestron installation. It replaces commonly used configuration text files with a unified interface that is based on templates defined at the start of the project. This is popular for large-scale rollouts at universities with multiple campuses and global organizations with numerous locations.
So far, my AV career journey is filled with fascinating knowledge, remarkable mentors, and rewarding challenges. I know there is so much more to learn and look forward to, and I encourage other emerging AV professionals, or those simply considering the field, to spend time learning about the plethora of opportunities this industry presents and how they, too, might be able to make their mark.