By Alesia Hendley
The November 5th Friday 5 from AVNation was outstanding! I enjoy the Friday Five because they’re loaded with the greatest content from the week. That week compiled topics of avoiding the purchase of bad cables to Microsoft discontinuing windows 7 and 8.1 in November 2016. My favorite topic was a post from Hope Roth who spoke at the WIN (Women of InfoComm Network) breakfast event.
We all know women in AV, and tech in general, hold a small percentage of jobs within the industry. I was ecstatic to read the piece WINning with CTS from Roth, co-head of WIN CTS Study Group, not only because I am on the road to obtaining a CTS myself, but because it showed an ounce of importance behind women reaching a higher level of education and gaining access to titles mostly held by men.
I wanted more from the article. I felt it only scratched the surface. So I reached out to Hope and she was happily willing to go a little deeper with me. DING, DING, DING…. ROUND 2!
When did you obtain your CTS and what were some hurdles you came across in the process?
I got my CTS all the way back in 2011 (I think I did the math on that one correctly). The biggest challenge for me was definitely memorization. I came up with a bunch of mnemonic devices to help me remember things like colors of the cables for single mode vs. multi-mode fiber. Because the CTS exam requires taking several different pieces of information and then putting them all together to answer most of the questions, you really have to know all of the material. I’ve always been a good test taker, but I studied my butt off for this one.
What job positions did you hold before you obtained you CTS?
I got my start out of college at a Boys and Girls Club working with the kids and keeping the computers in the club running as best I could. After that I moved into IT and worked for 6 years at Tufts University. I started off doing desktop support, but I quickly moved into classroom support which is where I learned about the wonderful world of AV. I did a little bit of everything on campus, from showing faculty how to use the touch panels to basic code updates to replacing broken equipment. I knew I wasn’t going to advance any further if I stayed, so I used my network to get a job at Verrex. They had some strong incentives to get your CTS (I got a raise out of it!), so I took (and passed!) the test fairly quickly. I stayed in the same job for a couple of years after that as an onsite technician for one of their biggest customers, but I definitely got some props for getting my CTS so quickly. Our regional manager came down to visit us after I passed and made me wear a CTS pin for the rest of the day. I eventually moved into Crestron programming at Verrex and I got Crestron certified in April of 2014. That was the biggest advancement I’ve made in my career. Once I was a certified programmer, all sorts of people tried to recruit me.
What changed? What opportunities opened after you reached your 1st milestone as CTS?
I don’t think that much changed for me personally in getting my CTS, but I do know other people who haven’t established themselves yet that are working on getting certified so that they can show that they have a good baseline level of knowledge. By the time I took the job at Verrex, my painful learning curve was behind me.
What motivated you and Christa Bender to start the WIN CTS Study Group?
When the WIN Council was announced, Christa and I were both so excited to be a part of it and to try and help other women. When I first got started in the industry I didn’t have any female role models or even coworkers that I could go to for support. I want to help other women in the industry so that they don’t have to struggle like I did when I was first getting started. The study group seemed like a really concrete way of doing that. I think the industry has made some amazing strides in the decade I’ve been working in it. I hope I can do my part to help speed progress along.
In the first piece you stated “Some people assume that women are in marketing roles or project management, and that they don,Aeot know the technical aspects, and that,Aeos not usually the case.” What job positions outside of marketing, project management and sales have opened or will open up for women with forms of a CTS certification?
I think that getting certified is valuable even if you’re in marketing, project management, and sales! One of the biggest struggles that I had when I first started out was that people would constantly talk down to me. Some of it was my youth and inexperience, but a big portion of it was that they assumed I didn’t understand the technology. Even today I will sometimes get people who try to over-explain things to me. I think the real onus is on people to not be condescending, but I am also a realist. The fastest way to help the amazing, technical women in our industry to feel like they don’t always have to prove themselves is to change perceptions. Just because you’re in marketing, that doesn’t mean you don’t know everything there is to know about HDCP. Helping women to get CTS certified will hopefully help to level the playing field, and make people realize just how many women there are in our industry who are incredibly smart.
10 years from now where do you see women in AV/Tech? And what can we do as a community to establish more women in AV?
The way that current trends are going, 10 years from now women will be running the world everywhere but the technology industry! (Check out the graph at the top of this post: When Women Stopped Coding. That’s why it’s so important to help establish women in our industry. The further technology falls behind, the less appealing it will be to the women of future generations. I want my daughter to be a technologist like me, but I want her to have the female coworkers and mentors that weren’t around when I was first getting started.
Knowledge is power and we must continue to educate ourselves in order to rise to higher levels. Hope Roth is one of many taking a stand and leading women in the AV industry. I am grateful for her and Christa Bender for heading programs like the WIN CTS Study Group and giving women around the globe yet another path to grow and guide others to go after their goals.-* Thanks Hope!
I encourage everyone, man or woman, to reach out and get connected with people like Hope Roth and Christa Bender that continue to strive for greatness in their own individual way and career paths. Let’s all continue to climb up the ladder of success.
Alesia Hendley is an AV professional that found her passion at a young age as a sound engineer with her Father’s church. In the early stages of the church’s foundation they couldn’t afford musicians. By utilizing audio and technology she and her Father found creative ways to go higher both musically and spiritually, taking the congregation with them. Now you can find her operating/installing audiovisual systems or executing creative ventures. As a young professional she’s finding ways to bring AV, creatives, and creative visions together in the effort to leave her mark by making an impact, and not just an impression.
By Alesia Hendley