With IT concepts including networking and programming becoming an even larger part of AV, your integration firm will need to sharpen its IT skills in order to stay relevant and continue to sell integrated AV systems that connect to a customer’s network.
Historically, most of your clients were facilities managers who oversaw the electrical and mechanical systems and made sure everything was running. With companies now undergoing digital transformation at a rapid scale, IT professionals are increasingly becoming your point of contact.
Why IT skills are becoming essential in AV
Being unable to display a basic level of IT skills, or being unable to answer simple questions about networking or remote connections could cost you that job.
More importantly, the AV industry needs to keep pace with the rest of the tech industry as it continues on a journey to the cloud and a distributed work model.
According to Michael Lane, VP of operations at 1Path, both an AV integration firm and IT managed service provider, the convergence of IT and AV is forcing AV professionals to learn certain IT skills.
As more devices get deployed onto IP networks, the main point of contact for integrators is now usually an IT professional who manages that network.
“We just call it AV over IP,” Lane says. “It’s a whole giant subsection of product that is just AV gear that’s on the network.”
It wasn’t too long ago that the industry evolved from analog video to digital video, which forced AV professionals to learn about DVI, HDMI and other concepts.
“Now, if I was somebody coming into AV today, I would not concern myself with that very much at all,” Lane says.0” I would learn as much as I could about IT.”
According to Lane, there are cybersecurity implications involved here as well. Since devices are being deployed on the network, AV professionals need to be fluent in networking to help secure customer networks and devices.
In fact, that is the most important reason why AV pros need to know the fundamentals of IT and networking.
“You’re putting a device on somebody’s network,” Lane says. “We’ve all heard stories about big hacks that have happened to big companies because something that went on the network wasn’t secured like it should have been.”
IT skills essential in AV
These IT concepts are becoming critical and must be learned and adopted by pro AV if the industry expects to stay relevant.
- If devices are going to be deployed on an IT network, audiovisual workers need to understand networking concepts like VLAN, security, diagnostics and troubleshooting.
- Voice-over-IP. Traditional business phone lines are becoming obsolete in favor of voice-over-IP, and every provider is different, which can challenge AV professionals deploying a VoIP system on a customer network.
- Active Directory. Microsoft’s directory service for Windows domain networks can be a very helpful tool to manage an AV system.
According to Lane, 1Path is looking for AV professionals that first have an affinity for the industry, but also that have at least some knowledge of those concepts.
“As we’re looking for new people to bring on, we’re asking networking questions at the same time,” Lane says. “What do you know about networking? What have you learned about networking? What do you do in your spare time? Have you worked on a home network?”
If the industry was able to pivot from analog video to digital in the past, it can continue to adopt these IT concepts.
“That’s part of being in a technology industry – it always changes,” Lane says.
Looking for a job? Better have IT certifications
Aside from 1Path – which already has that deep IT expertise to complement the AV side of the business – other integration firms are similarly prioritizing job candidates with some IT knowledge.
Clients of AV recruiting firm TierPM are increasingly looking for job candidates with basic IT skills, and even some certifications, like Cisco’s CCNA, an entry-level training and certification course designed to help prepare people for an IT career.
“It’s definitely becoming part of the mainstream,” says Mark Winner, managing partner at the firm.
When the firm assesses a job seeker’s candidacy for openings, their IT skill set is evaluated.
They are asked questions about their experience with networking, programming, troubleshooting and more.
Integration firms working with Winner’s company want new talent that already knows the “nuts and bolts” of how a network works. This becomes even more important as cloud computing proliferates all subsets of technology – including pro AV.
“It’s much more than just someone that can go in and plug this stuff in,” Winner says