Can Industry Credentials Be Career Jet Fuel?

Published: March 28, 2024
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“Always be learning” (ABL) is a growth mindset. It’s one that I’ve tried to embrace over the years, as I’ve set out to build within both the personal and professional aspects of my life. I know many other amazing humans who likewise have taken on this mindset. ABL is a philosophy that helps you stay open to whatever might come next in life. For me, that included helping me to pivot within my career. 

As a sound girl, I thought running a console was the only way to go. Then, I started broadening my horizons — for example, operating a camera, programming lights, directing for live productions and installing digital signage. The more I learned, the more I grew. That growth opened up big opportunities and brought me to new communities. Overall, I found ways to pivot and build up my career in AV. For me, the building process has been a zigzag approach, but it’s all part of the journey. 

Spotlighting Sam Young 

This month, I continue my effort to shine a spotlight on successful professionals who pursue excellence within our industry — professionals like Sam Young. Young came onto the AV scene back in 2015, having originally started in IT and then bounced around in telecommunications and structured cabling. “Funny enough, I wasn’t actively hunting for anything in AV,” Young explains. “But, in 2015, I found myself in a nationwide AV integrator gig.” 

Sam Young HeadshotAs Young recounts it, “I got hooked on the work and the cool tech. So, I shifted gears to focus on commercial audio/video integration. I had some fun tinkering with audio/video production and fixing electronics as a hobby, so sliding into this dynamic field felt like a natural move for me.” I was actually excited to hear that there was a bit of a role reversal in Sam’s journey, going from IT into AV. Of course, all of us have heard many stories about we in AV having to learn IT. 

For Young, the transition from IT to AV integration seems to have been a seamless one, reflecting this column’s mantra of “perfecting your craft.” Now specializing in designing commercial spaces, Young’s distinct approach has led to some major wins. “I like to think of myself as the Sherlock Holmes of system design,” Young declares. The reason? An abiding belief that the secret weapon for crafting systems is genuinely listening to the customer. “It’s a bit of detective work,” Young states. “[It’s] diving deep into their needs, investigating pain points and aligning everything with their communication goals.” 

Asking Lots of Questions 

Doing this at a high level is no small challenge, but Young finds that, by asking lots of questions, it’s very possible. “There’s immense satisfaction in uncovering what people need — even when they don’t realize it,” Young continues. “I achieve this by putting myself in their shoes and constantly questioning.” Questions like “What’s the message?”; “How are we aiming to achieve better productivity?”; and “What image does the client want to convey to their audience?” all prove valuable. 

Young steers clear of jargon and tech talk. Opting for simplicity helps assess and illustrate complex system components in a way that both the client and the end user can grasp. According to Young, “Visual aids are my go-to. I love painting a picture of their solution come to life in my design plans. But it’s not just a one-way street. I thrive on two-way communication and collaboration. It’s the key to pushing the design process forward, and I enjoy every moment of it.” 

Young has the ABL bug, as well, having obtained the CTS-D in 2022. This reflects what has been a nonstop learning experience. “When I kicked off my journey in the industry, it felt like a tech wonderland,” Young reflects. “Countless technologies, training opportunities and a whirlwind of new concepts were swirling around.” But, for Young, the game-changer was having fantastic mentors, all of whom recommended staying on top of integrator publications and joining trade associations like AVIXA. “Within my first year, leadership guided me toward earning my CTS with AVIXA,” Young states. “I was hooked on the abundance of training materials and standardization provided by the association.” 

Next Up: CTS-D Certification 

After earning the CTS credential, Young set out to execute a plan: The CTS-D certification would be next. “System design seemed like the logical progression for me,” Young reflects. “I discovered a genuine passion for not just providing solutions but [also] dreaming them up.” Indeed, Young became captivated with a new mission: “Injecting my own brand of creativity and problem-solving on the front end to bring smiles and tackle any challenges people face.” Young underlines that the work is not just about finding a solution — it’s about crafting one. And, for that, Young wanted to attain that CTS-D.  

Securing the credential proved to be a groundbreaker, swinging open the door to the vast world behind AV and communication technologies. “This certification not only propelled my career forward but also tossed a myriad of new opportunities my way,” Young recalls. “[It allowed] me to learn and shine in this dynamic industry.” Young also touts the training materials that accompanied the CTS-D, describing them as eye-openers that served as an introduction to a wealth of fantastic publications. Even now, Young is constantly on the look out for paths to attain broader knowledge, seeking to grasp the extensive theory and execution involved in creating a stellar AV system. “Learning never stops,” Young declares. “And I’m all about embracing the ever-expanding realm of audiovisual wonders.” 

For many of us in this industry, having people nudge us in the right direction has been critical to finding our way. If we now choose to pay it forward, we can keep driving others to successful careers in this community. “Being a proud, openly gay person of color, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone stepping into this space to dive deep into the fascinating world of these technologies,” Young declares. “It’s not just about career growth — it’s a journey of personal enrichment and the joy of providing fantastic solutions to clients and, yes, even friends and family.” 

Advice for Obtaining the CTS-D 

I solicited Young for advice for anyone — male, female or non-binary — who might be looking to obtain their CTS-D. “For those eyeing the CTS-D, my top advice is to indulge in some extracurricular research,” Young explains. “There are phenomenal learning materials out there, authored by knowledgeable individuals who can beef up your mental toolkit and provide the resources you need to grasp all the concepts for the CTS-D.” Young points, in particular, to a few volumes that proved extremely helpful: The Sound Reinforcement Handbook by Gary Davis; Audio Systems Design and Installation by Philip Giddings; and Networked AV Systems by Brad Grimes. 

“Always check out the cited sources in the AVIXA study guides,” Young advises. “It’s a goldmine for deeper understanding.” There is still, however, one additional key piece of wisdom to share. “Keep learning and keep playing,” Young exhorts. “Sometimes, the best way to understand a concept is to dive in and get hands on. Experiment with new projects at home, no matter how crazy. And don’t forget to plug into the AV trade community — whether through AVIXA forums, Reddit, GitHub or others. There’s a fantastic pool of professionals out there, [and they are] eager to help and share insights.” 

Twenty-twenty-four will be a year of wins. If you’re setting out to obtain a CTS, CTS-D or another industry credential, let’s get to work! Please know that the community is here to support you! 

Did you or someone you know recently earn their CTS-D? If so, please contact me on X or LinkedIn. I’d love to share your story. 

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on March 26, 2024 and has been updated as of March 28, 2024.

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