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2016: A New Year, with New Goals

I hate cliches.

The New Year always seems to bring out so many of them, and for years I have found them repugnant.

“New Year, New Me” or “So, this is the New Year, I don’t feel any different”(that one is a set of lyrics from Death Cab for Cutie).

But, one of the many great things about the new year is the ability to start over, to press reset and to change for the better. I have typically avoided making resolutions in years past, because they’re all cliché, and I never follow through on them so they become a source of pain and shame for me. I say to myself ‘wow, look at that long list of things you failed to follow through on.”

So this year is different (another cliché) and I’m committed to it making it different (and better). Here are my top resolutions for 2016, personally and professionally.

Personally

  • Disengage more often– I have a real difficulty with ‘unplugging’ or ‘turning off.’ I find myself at all hours of the day panicked when I look at my phone to see what time it is and there’s a number next to my email app (sidenote- how do you people with 34,000 unread emails deal with yourself?). I find myself constantly updating twitter, or facebook to make sure I didn’t miss anything. That ends this year. My goal is to focus on the present more and get away from my phone. I’m looking forward to taking some vacations and just not worrying about where my phone is, or if I missed any calls/texts/snaps/emails etc.
  • Read more– I read a lot, I read a lot for work (articles, blogs, technical manuals and Wikipedia articles to name a few). What has really waned for me in the past few years is the amount I read for pleasure, for fun. My first job out of college I read on average two books a week. That may have had more to do with the fact I traveled full time and had endless captive free time (airplanes, truck, bus, hotels etc). My goal this year isn’t incredibly lofty, I want to read a book a month, that’s a good start and I hope to grow that over time. If you’re interested in what I’m reading, I’d be happy to let you know (and if you have a recommendation please let me know).
  • Buy new jeans- those who really know me understand how momentous this is. I have had one pair of jeans for the last two-plus years that I’ve worn almost daily. Not only have these jeans seen better days, and are starting to deteriorate but they are also quickly becoming too large for me, due to my plummeting weight.
  • Be more positive- I am a negative ned, or at least I was. I am not saying I’m completely cured, or I will be sometime soon. I am, however, choosing to look at things from a more optimistic viewpoint. Choosing to appreciate the little things in life, and be thankful more so than critical are things I need to focus on.

Professionally

  • Write More- I don’t write often enough. I write a weekly recap piece for the fine folks at AVNation.tv called “The Friday Five,” which I very much enjoy, but I miss writing other, different content. I’ve put a lot of my writing on hold lately in pursuit of some other things. So again, my goal this year isn’t incredibly lofty, I just want to write once a month here on my website, and once a month on another website and perhaps even get back into writing for others in the audiovisual industry. If you’re looking to hire someone to provide content for your website, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
  • Work less- This may seem counter intuitive, especially for people who know me very well, but I tend to work way too much. Now, I don’t mean I’m in the office 60 hours a week and I’m slaving away at my desk the entire time, but I do tend to take work home with me, and to sit on my computer late at night answering emails, sending emails and checking in and working on tickets (both customers and internal). This has helped me become an incredibly productive person over the past decade, but isn’t sustainable in the long term, also I came across this article which indicates sending late night emails (which I do all the time) might not be the best thing for you/your team at work.
  • Non-traditional professional development- The CTS credential is great, and I’m thankful for it. I work with the CTS committee to attempt to keep it relevant. One of the things I’ve neglected over the last few years is non-traditional professional development. Yes understanding audiovisual properties is incredibly key to doing my job, but learning things like utilizing excel in a more efficient manner can also have a tremendous effect on my career, especially as just about every company is manipulating data to become more sleek. There’s more than just hard skills to develop, and it’s time to focus on some of my soft-skills deficiencies.
  • Give Back- I give my time to the InfoComm CTS committee, and I participate in various other ways in the industry when given a chance. I am slowly learning that I need to give-back more. There have been plenty of professionals who have generously given their time and effort to help mold me, improve me and make me the person I am today. To name a few: Tim Albright, Matt Scott and George Tucker- who took a 22 year old kid on a 2 hour walk through las vegas to find some food that led to me learning more about the industry and getting more involved. My boss at my last job- Jason Thomas- who taught me there’s more than fixing problems, sometimes you have to fix the perception as well. Several of my colleagues at my current job who have encouraged me to approach things differently and have allowed me the room to grow myself and my position. I would really like to, one day, be that person for someone else. I don’t know how much I have to offer, but I look forward to finding out.

2016 will be a good year for me. I am convinced of that. It’s got a lot to live up to as 2014 and 2015 were both incredibly positive years for me. I’m quite fortunate to have had mostly great years in my life, and I hope 2016 will continue the progression for me.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? What did you resolve?

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Personal Development

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#AVMonth- New things to learn

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This transition has me thinking, however, how diverse the audiovisual industry is, and how small we really are. Now I’m not one to get introspective, but I felt as a technology manager, or user, I had my bearings on what products worked, what products didn’t work what is and isn’t going to be a winner in the marketplace, how future trends would shake out etc. I felt I had a really good “grasp” on technology, and I knew really everything I needed to know.

Yes, I believed there were parts of the industry I didn’t have as tight a grasp on, nuanced parts of the industry I’d really not need to concern myself with, like writing codecs to compress video, or  how SIP traffic is routed in QoS IP networks. I, for a while, thought I knew it all, or at least enough of it, to really make something of myself.

Then I started my new job as an Applications Engineer for Vaddio; I made the jump to manufacturing and was going to bring my “wealth” of knowledge with me.

It became very apparent, very quickly, probably 20-30 minutes into my first day when I started reading product manuals to bring myself up to speed on that I was far from where I needed to be when it came to knowledge of how cameras work, how cameras are controlled and a litany of other subject areas. I spent a week reading, reading some more and then reading some more without doing anything but reading and I find myself still asking co workers to explain terms and concepts to me so I can contribute to the team.

My point is, I thought I knew a lot, and maybe I did – maybe I knew a lot about a very little, but I’m quickly finding out that I could likely work on learning something new, continually, and still not know enough by the time I die. There’s a lot to learn, and a lot to grow into, especially in the audiovisual industry, which is one of the many reasons why our industry is special and unique it’s never stale, it’s never boring and most importantly is members of the audiovisual industry never grow out of things to learn.

Which brings me to my point (375 words later). This is October, or #AVMonth, as it’s being tagged on twitter, and discussed around the web. One of the key tenants of #AVMonth is to not only revel in the fact that we work in an industry far superior to everyone other industry on the planet (sarcasm); but rather to promote understanding and engagement within the industry. One of the best ways to do this is to get involved. I am finding left and right there are people who know different things than I know. Not necessarily know more than, or less than, I know, but know different things. I can learn from them, they can learn from me and together the industry can become stronger than it has ever been.

Fellow REDBAND Collective member Josh Srago touched excellently on the subject in his post “Who But You?” ; so please, stop reading this and read his post and get involved. It’s what the month is about. Wherever you choose to do so, just make sure you join the conversation, there’s always a new angle, there’s always a point someone hasn’t considered, so please use this month to make sure your voice is heard. If you want to write here, go for it, I’m happy to have you post, or comment. Just.Get.Involved.

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Personal Development, Technology

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Technology Leadership Series: Development

Good managers work diligently to get the most out of their employees in their current positions. Great managers work tirelessly to prepare their people for advancement. While the difference in practical application is ever so slight the difference between the two philosophies speaks volumes. Getting the most out of employees is important, and greatly benefits the organization; however, spending time on each employees’ personal and professional development is better than to simply seek efficiency and productivity. The concept of leadership and professional development isn’t new, nor revolutionary, but often times the execution of this concept leaves much to be desired. There are several ways to improve professional development within your organization to ensure your people aren’t just high performers but that they are ready to take the next step in their careers.

Have a plan. Provide guidance on professional development and options of a career path for all employees. If you have employees approaching their review, or work anniversary, take the time to ask them “where do you see yourself going within the organization?” Share your thoughts as to where you see them going and what opportunities exist for them to be challenged.

Know what you can change.  It’s crucial for leaders not only to attempt to provide professional development for all personnel, but to do it correctly. In reality, people don’t change all that much. As a leader, know your people, and know not to waste your time attempting to put in what’s been left out. instead try to draw out, or improve, what’s already there. In other words, hone strengths, increase core competencies but don’t waste time trying to correct or eliminate fundamental weaknesses that are too deeply ingrained.

Celebrate Resignations.  This may be a hard pill to swallow. I’ve worked with, and for, several leaders who constantly say things to their employees like “I want you to be the best you can be” or “I want you to be successful at the next level.” These are great idioms to use to encourage your people to continually grow, but they’re useless maxims if you don’t mean them. If what you really mean is “I want you to be successful at the next level, as long as you wait until an opportunity at the next level is available within the organization” you’re neither helpful nor honest, rather probably self serving and spiteful. True professional development is the mindset of, “I want you to succeed at the next level, even if you have to leave to do so.”

Some of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with or for constantly tell me how excited they are to talk with employees years later and see where they are, and be a resource for them. Professional development doesn’t end when an employee leaves the organization, great leaders make themselves available to continually develop and mentor professionals. Every employee wants to work for a leader who can help them get to the next level.

Each Friday, for the next several weeks, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to email me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Leadership, Personal Development, Technology

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The Value of Continued Learning

I’ve worked in the audiovisual industry for the better part of a decade. Being experienced in higher education classroom A/V, pro sound, video editing and studio recording I thought I had a great grasp on all things A/V. After this week, however, I’ve come to find my grasp isn’t as tight as previously thought. Don’t get me wrong, my knowledge didn’t deteriorate, nor did everything I know become obsolete, methods and standards didn’t change over night either. Rather, I took a three day class on all things audio video in preparation for a certification exam. For three days I sat in a room with 40 or so people from various portions of the a/v industry in a multitude of vertical markets; for three days we shared stories, and complications that are both universal and also specific to certain verticals. 

My point is, though the information discussed wasn’t groundbreaking, or unfamiliar to me; the value in the experience is two fold- first, networking with fellow industry professionals, especially those from other vertical markets is invaluable. The second point is learning, and pursuing new ideas and information is absolutely vital to being successful. As I said previously, I didn’t lose any knowledge, but rather had my eyes opened to a lot of other opportunities for growth and learning that I had not previously considered. 

What do you think?

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Personal Development

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