Tips for Technicians: Broaden Your Skillset
Technicians play an unsung role in the success of AV projects and the retention of client relationships. Whether it is to install equipment, fabricate a rack, service a system, troubleshoot an issue, or respond to a need, technicians are involved in many post-sale aspects of a project and are called upon to execute what was promised to a client. In doing so, a technician may become a lifeline for client, building a trusted relationship that can be the catalyst for future opportunities. Simply put, it makes sense for technicians to be an integral part of any organization.
Like programmers, project managers, and salespeople, not all technicians demonstrate their value in the same manner. Some technicians may be specialists in one specific area of expertise, whereas others are generalists with a working understanding of many technologies and applications. There are also some that may possess skills beyond the basic job requirements, such as understanding control programming, audio DSP configuration, or programmable device setup like video processors.
As the AV industry continues to change and technology advances at a rapid pace, technicians (just like other industry roles) are challenged with the need to evolve their skills in order to retain and increase their value. This evolution can come in the form of expanding their skillset, mastering a specialty, or increasing their productivity and efficiency.
Here are some opportunities where technicians can grow professionally, add more value to their client or employer, and continue to impact the industry.
LEARN IP NETWORKS AND HOW TO INTERACT WITH IT DEPARTMENTS
Many areas of the AV industry are becoming simpler to install and set up, such as videoconferencing solutions. What used to involve proprietary hardware codecs requiring extensive setup, wiring, terminations, and testing has evolved to become a software codec solution like Zoom, Skype, or BlueJeans that requires nothing more than a computer, network connection, USB connection, and potentially HDMI connection.
On the other hand, other areas of the industry have become more specialized like video and audio signal transport and control. Point-to-point switching of digital signals over HDMI or HDBaseT over an isolated network is being challenged by a demand for video-over-IP solutions (like JPEG 2000, H.264, and SDVoE) involving network streaming, video processing, configuration of Ethernet network switches, network server-based control, and networked audio routing (like AES67 and Dante). Opportunities exist for technicians to become specialists in any or all of these areas of expertise. The common thread is that they all involve knowledge of IP networks.
Even though there is a trend of solutions becoming less installation-centric, like wireless source switching, these advancements have opened new doors to learn and master cutting-edge technologies. Technicians who focus on developing skills to master implementation of video, audio, conferencing, and control solutions on the network will find themselves in high demand.
BECOME AN EXPERT IN TESTING, TROUBLESHOOTING, AND CLOSING OUT PROJECTS
A technician who can thoroughly test a system and provide an accurate, detailed punchlist is an invaluable asset. There is a difference between simply providing a list of what works and doesn’t, based on cursory testing and subjective opinion, and thoroughly testing a system with intent to identify all open items and verify accurate operation. The former leads to inefficiency, uncertainty, and an inconclusive result, while the later provides a path for a confident completion and client satisfaction. By isolating issues narrowed down to the definitive cause (programming, wiring, setup, device malfunction, etc.) and identifying who is responsible, open items are quickly and easily resolved.
In order to be an expert in testing, troubleshooting, and closing out projects, a technician needs to have a big-picture view of the system. This includes understanding how and why all of the components connect and communicate, and how to identify the cause of an issue when something doesn’t work as expected.
The art of troubleshooting involves clearly identifying an issue, isolating and narrowing down the possible causes, and eliminating each possibility, one by one, while keeping all other variables constant. This process requires a detailed thought process, discipline in execution, and knowledge and experience in problem solving.
All systems require testing, troubleshooting, and a final punchlist in order to validate completion. Technicians who can test and troubleshoot effectively will find themselves indispensable as their projects are completed efficiently and comprehensively leaving their clients with a great user experience.
DEMONSTRATE LEADERSHIP ALONG WITH STRONG COMMUNICATION AND ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS
As mentioned previously, a proficient technician can be a difference maker in success of working system and an overall project. Their ability to become the point person in the field, manage situations, and build trust with the client can prove invaluable. Even more so, technicians who demonstrate leadership in addition to strong technical skills become a greater asset to a project, team, and organization.
Leaders make others around them better by passing along knowledge, solving problems before they lead to bigger issues, identifying opportunities for improvement without being asked, and inspiring others to raise their game. While some may be comfortable serving in a support role and remaining within the bounds of their perceived job description, technicians who are willing to step up and take ownership of the outcome of a project, situation, and/or client relationship will find advancement in their career very quickly.
While it is presumed that technicians have strong technical skills, their ability to master soft skills like commitment to excellence, effective communication, and maintaining an organized approach to their work will propel them to stand out. Technicians who can think on their feet, have the ability to balance multiple priorities, and will resolve issues before they become a problem provide project managers comfort to focus on the most critical aspects of their job rather than micromanaging, and result in greater client satisfaction and trust in a relationship.
An important saying in business is “If you are not growing, you are dying.” It is critical to invest in yourself, advance your career, increase your knowledge, and hone your skills to continue to be an integral part of the industry.
Steve Greenblatt, CTS, is president and founder of Control Concepts, a provider of specialized software and services for the audiovisual industry. www.controlconcepts.net
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