Widgets Magazine

Comrades In Knowledge

Chuck Espinoza on certification and the camaraderie of the secret CTS handshake  

As the current chair of InfoComm’s Certification Steering Committee, and as a member of many of the sub-committees relating to certification, I am often asked, “What are the benefits of having a CTS?”

The same answers always come up: more money, more recognition, gaining and having the knowledge it took to get the certification, etc., etc., etc., – you know the story.

Well I’m going to tell you about the story behind the story. The hidden perk of being “in the club.”


It’s being in the club.

Let me explain.

I’m a United States Marine.  I have been since I was 17, and I will continue to be until I am “reassigned” to another plane.

What makes the “Marines” special is that, in that group, we are ALL Marines. We enjoy a togetherness which comes from earning that title and right. We share a special camaraderie that only Marines can share. We know what a person needs to go through to become a Marine, so upon meeting a fellow Marine for the first time we already have an appreciation and respect for them based on those shared experiences, knowledge, trials, and tribulations.

The other Armed Services share the same type of camaraderie.  It seems like the tougher the training and experiences, the stronger the bond.

Now, the AV industry is a wee bit different than the Armed Services. Most of our jobs are not life-threatening, and do not have cause for us to make great self-sacrifices.  Most of them.

So how do we get that feeling of community and fraternity within the AV industry?

We need some shared experiences, knowledge, and trials, and tribulations.

How do we know that the person or persons with whom we are communicating and working have the same understanding of the industry and of AV that we have? What tells me, even before we meet and converse, what to expect about a person’s knowledge and experience?

Their Name, CTS

I know they have what it takes to attain that industry certification.

All of a sudden, I feel a little closer to them. Closer as a co-worker or peer, closer as a client, closer as a vendor…Just a little closer.

Some contracts are starting to come out with requirements of “CTS for all persons performing duties associated with this project”; “Must have at least one CTS-I overseeing the installation of this project”; or “Must have at least one CTS-D overseeing project design.”

The credential has been around long enough, and has kept its standard and credibility high enough, that the younger members who attained it four or five years ago are now the ones writing the contracts. They want the assurance that there is some yardstick for the quality of team members on their project, and some technical benchmark met by the personnel on that team.

The contract requirement writers want someone with, at minimum, the shared knowledge they have and the shared understanding of the AV industry. Without interviewing every single person who will be working on the project, the quickest and easiest way is to ask for a credential. The credential they have.

The credential you should have.

They want to know that their project team can commiserate with them on shortened deadlines and unusual requests.  They want to know that their team understands “scope X cost X time,” and how all of that revolves around quality.  They want to know that you know that the system is going to be manned by people when the project is complete…people who are presented with shortened deadlines, and unusual requests.  They want to know the system will be designed and constructed with those people in mind.

Now, I am not saying that three letters will automatically make you an AV guru. I know a multitude of outstanding Account Managers, Designers, Technicians, Programmers, etc., etc., who don’t have that certification.  After I spent time working with them and experiencing their work ethic and quality, I would share the team camaraderie with them.

What I am saying is that when I make a new contact, be it meeting someone who hands me their business card, or getting an email with those three letters after a name, I am a bit more comfortable and at ease working with that person: just knowing that, before we met, they went through some of the same experiences and trials that I have endured.

It’s a comfort, like knowing a secret handshake…or knowing that they know the story behind the story.


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