Project Engineer Danny Pratt, CTS®-D, has AV in the blood. Growing up, his parents owned a voice/data company, and while most of his school friends were bagging groceries for extra money, he was pulling wire for the family business. After graduating high school, he began working for a regional audiovisual integrator and then as an AV tech for a high school in Atlanta near where he grew up.
Following a layoff and six months of contract work, Pratt landed his dream job at Summit Systems, Inc., a Buford, Georgia-based technology solutions provider for the AV, IT, communications and security industries. He has worked at Summit since 2013, primarily in the company’s pro-AV group.
"I mostly work as a presales engineer and as the house engineer. When a project comes in, I’m the one that’s tasked with coming up with the design that best suits the customer’s needs," says Pratt. "In post-sales, I’ll finalize design, oversee it, and see that the integration and installation teams have everything they need. I do a little bit of everything, sometimes some overflow programming, mainly with the audio digital signal processors. I’ll even fill in when we’re swamped on the integration teams."
While most jobs present some kind of challenge, especially when deadlines come into the picture, it’s the day-to-day that keeps the job interesting, says Pratt.
"Between engineering requests and projects that need to go out to order, and generating drawings, I find the biggest challenge is being dynamic enough to jump from one task to another," he says. "You might be down to a miniscule detail on one project and then you have to put that down and go into miniscule detail on a completely unrelated project, while continuing to answer emails and take calls. It takes incredible self-discipline to stay focused and not let the chaos affect you. As much as everybody wants to assume an engineer’s life is calculated, it’s the exact opposite: very chaotic! You have to go with the wind."
Attaining his CTS certification was borne out of a conscious decision to improve himself and solidify his position within his company, but Pratt was totally taken by surprise when his employer suggested he try for his CTS-D.
"I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the team to attend AVIXA 2015 in Orlando, and when I presented the classes I had selected to my boss, he said, ‘What do you think about getting your CTS-D?’ I was taken aback, as I’d heard horror stories about how hard it was … and the show was only three weeks away!"
Nevertheless, Pratt studied like crazy after work each day and managed to complete all the prep classes online before leaving for the show. "It was a grueling three weeks, working all day and studying all night," he says. "It was the most nerve-wracking experience in my life, knowing that all this money was being spent for me to get this certification."
But it was a great experience, he recalls, especially when he passed the exam and received the coveted certification. "It was a huge relief when it was done, and I was pretty proud of myself once it had sunk in," he says.
One thing that sticks in his mind is the quality of the teaching, especially Joe Cornwall, CTS-D, CTS-I. "He was amazing. He made me a fan. I highly recommend Cornwall's webinars," says Pratt. (Joseph Cornwall was AVIXA’s 2014 Educator of the Year. View upcoming webinars to see if he has any on the schedule.)
Like many in the AV industry, Pratt is excited by the increasing integration of AV and IT. "It drives me to keep up with the IT industry and keep my knowledge on par with them, so I can at least speak intelligently with IT techs. The CTS-D course went into great depth about some of those things, and how to speak to a network IT professional," he says.
Shortly after we interviewed Danny, he received a promotion to Manager of the Engineering Department at SSi. He credits receiving his CTS-D certification for the promotion, and says he is committed to growing his team with CTS-certified professionals.
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