Wasting no time with his new year's resolutions, Joel Vugteveen, Project Manager at Chicago-based installer TVTI, started the year with his nose in a study guide. But on Jan. 2, 2016, the celebrations began, as he became the first person in the world this year to earn his AVIXA Certified Technology Specialist™ (CTS®) certification. Now he gets to put CTS after his name and has a little extra money in his pay packet to boot.

"For me, it was more a validation of the skills that I have and a certification that I do know these things," says Vugteveen. "It's still a little new. But I’m liking having 'CTS' added to my name, and, of course, the pay raise."

Vugteveen joined TVTI (formerly Tunnel Vision Technology) three years ago, after graduating from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio Arts and Acoustics and a stint with a local custom integrator that specialized in home automation. At TVTI his work involves managing commercial and residential projects.

"Up until about a year ago I was an installer in the field, and then I shifted roles to project manager, which is much more of a balancing act," he says. "You're constantly dealing with changing deadlines and shifting priorities: managing people in the field, dealing with paperwork and follow-up, presales for upcoming projects, and making sure things don’t fall through the cracks and that the installers are well prepared and the clients are happy."

One of his favorite TVTI projects was a specialized sound system designed for the Advocate Center, the Chicago Bulls' new state-of-the-art practice facility in downtown Chicago.

"There are two basketball courts inside the facility and one is just normal with hanging speakers, but the other has six linear arrays that surround it, pointing at the court, which were designed specifically to replicate crowd noise. It gets pretty loud in an actual game, and they wanted to have that in their practice facility so they could replicate game conditions."

Though it wasn't a requirement of his company that he get his CTS, Vugteveen says that he was very much encouraged to study for and earn the certification, especially when he assumed the project manager position. Several of the company's project managers hold the CTS.

"It's considered the next step in terms of development and skill building, and my company owner really recommended doing the CTS," he says. "The CTS has technical skills in it, and it helps to have an installer background, the exam also concerns the project phases before you do any work on site, such as talking to client, visiting the site, determining client needs, and so on. That aspect of it was very valuable."

He took the practice exam online and, he says, was able to easily determine which topics he was confident about and which he might need to focus on a little more in the future. "That's usually been a good learning strategy for me." Vugteveen sees endless possibilities in the future of connections, especially direct TV connections that can decode video, and the next frontier of television technology such as roll-up TVs and super-thin TVs. "Seeing curved TVs in people's homes and doing really cool programming and integration so you can have these cool automated events, is amazing," he says. "We've done some pretty cool mosaic video walls that are like art pieces. I love being on the bleeding edge of this kind of technology."

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