The Value of Continuing Education for a Programmer
Oct 18, 2012 4:24 PM, By Patrick Barron
There is not a single college degree that can completely prepare an AV systems programmer for all of the situations they will encounter in the course of working with a typical system. A programmer is required to not only understand the basics of computers, complex logic, and algorithms, but also how the various components of the system interact. Traditional colleges and technology institutes can teach the logic basics about programming, but many programmers learn programming on their own by doing research on the Internet and by reading books and other materials. Knowledge of AV is a never-ending pursuit that starts in many different places. Regardless of the path taken to become an AV systems programmer, we all continue to learn and increase our knowledge in the AV field along with learning new programming techniques.
Given the lack of university-driven courses and traditional means for continuing to grow as a programmer, many resources are available through the AV industry itself. Professional organizations exist where members can share information and new ideas. Manufacturers offer a multitude of training courses and various organizations sponsor training programs targeted at the AV industry. Some courses are general knowledge of audiovisual topics, but many are created specifically to teach the programmer needed skills to write software for particular systems.
AV CONTROL TRAINING
With technology changing rapidly and new equipment emerging on a monthly basis, the need to continue learning about new products and procedures is essential to being a successful programmer. Manufacturers of control systems have stepped forward to create extremely comprehensive training programs to continue the education of programmers and others involved with installing and selling their products. AMX and Crestron, for example, are two of the major control system manufacturers that have developed noteworthy training programs.
AMX has called its training initiative “AMX University.” Through AMX’s training process, a programmer can be certified and become an AMX Certified Expert (ACE). According to AMX, the ACE program “qualifies individuals as having the full range of knowledge and skills in a particular product category … ACE certifications are earned through a series of on-demand and classroom courses followed by written and practical testing.”
At Crestron, the training program is called “Crestron Technical Institute” (CTI). According to company, “The Crestron Technical Institute prepares you for the control system design and programming challenges facing commercial and residential AV professionals every day.” By completing a series of courses comprised of online material, in person classes and rigorous exams, an individual can obtain the designation of “Crestron Certified Programmer.”
Extron also has its own line of control systems and they have a one-day training class, which covers its MediaLink and TouchLink products.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CERTIFICATIONS
Manufacturer trainings and certifications are important not only to further the education and capabilities of the individual programmer, but they are also useful as a tool for measuring the qualifications of a prospective programmer. There is a vast difference between a legitimate programmer with experience and knowledge of control systems and a guy that happens to own a laptop and found access to the software. Programmers have been trying for years to find ways to distinguish legitimate professional-level programmers from hobbyists.
Consultants that are trying to find a qualified programmer for an upcoming project can specify particular certifications as requirements to bid on a job. If an integrator is looking for an independent programmer to contract for a large project or is trying to hire a new staff programmer, they can look for individuals holding the proper certifications. In many cases, a high-level programmer is desired, and both AMX and Crestron have methods to designate a programmer that has achieved advanced status beyond their standard certifications.
AMX has a group of specially selected programmers called Valued Independent Programmers (VIP), which according to AMX, “represent an elite level of AV control system programming and user interface design expertise. VIPs maintain yearly ACE certification, hold certification by at least one AV trade organization, and meet stringent business practice criteria to be hand-selected for AMX’s VIP program. What does this mean to you? Reliable, reputable, and thoroughly knowledgeable service for any project.”
Similarly, Crestron has a group of advanced level programmers it calls Crestron Authorized Independent Programmer (CAIP) that have achieved a higher level of accomplishment beyond the standard certification. According to Crestron, “The title of Crestron Authorized Independent Programmer is more than just a label. Having earned his or her stripes through intensive training and real-world experience, a Crestron Authorized Independent Programmer offers a much higher level of expertise and familiarity with Crestron than other independents.”
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