A co-director of Bedfordshire-based custom installer Thinking Bricks, Matt Dodd is also a driving force behind CEDIA Region 1 training. Nine month into his new role as education chair, Dodd (pictured) tells David Davies about the latest evolution in CEDIA’s approach to training and offers a preview of the new panel sessions that will greet visitors to this year’s edition of the Home Technology Event, which takes place at London Excel from 28-30 June.
Are there any new elements to this year’s education programme at CEDIA Home Technology Event (HTE) that you would like to highlight?
Yes – and they include a series of panels that reflect the importance of business processes, particularly given the [challenging nature] of the last few years. So we are going to bring in some people who have suffered or lost their businesses, as well as those used to managing this type of environment. The hope is that there will be more of a Q&A-style approach in these sessions, of which there are four in total. Subjects are maintenance/aftercare (including customer contracts), PDA/tablet-based control, new technologies in general, and business survivability.
We’re still confirming speakers, but I can say there will be an interesting mix of suppliers, integrators and outside observers.
In what ways has the general approach to education at HTE changed lately?
We are concentrating this year on providing seminars that will introduce people to all levels of what we do – from project management to technology to design – in a way that allows them to manage their time between education and the exhibition itself. In many ways, [the show serves] as a platform for people to identify where there they want their learning to go over the next year, and in which forums and events they want to participate. It’s [not just about] what happens at HTE, which I think might have been a thought-process [for some people] in the past.
Other developments include a new education website [shortly to go live at www.cediaeducation.com], which provides an opportunity to review and book all of the seminars and courses on offer throughout the year. We are now looking far more closely at how we can help members to map their own educational pathway, and doing that allows us to evaluate the people who come on the seminars and how they chart the courses they undertake with CEDIA.
You’ve been involved with the CEDIA education committee 2007, and served as chair since October last year. How does this ongoing role complement your day job at Thinking Bricks?
The first thing to note is that my background was in training anyway. Prior to coming into this industry, I worked on technical training at Compass Group, so basically, if you cut me I bleed training! The role gives me an opportunity to continue something that I am strong at, but it also allows me to bring what I have learned within the corporate world of training to the table at CEDIA. In addition, [the CEDIA involvement] is good kudos for me and Thinking Bricks when we are presenting to clients; it gives us an extra string to our bow and communicates the fact that this is something we are doing because we want to do it.
With your Thinking Bricks ‘hat’ on, what are the specific benefits of attending CEDIA HTE?
CEDIA HTE [and CEDIA Expo, as was] has always been a fantastic networking forum. Within days of starting Thinking Bricks with Ian [Trudgeon, co-director], we went along to the event with a very open mind and found it to be a great opportunity to meet people from across the industry. That remains the case to this day, and for us as a company it’s absolutely essential that we go and be a part of it.
Finally, what are activity levels like for Thinking Bricks at the moment? Any significant company developments to report?
We are busier than at this point last year; business is good at the moment. It’s been a very eventful period altogether as we have changed our business model – again thanks to being an active member of CEDIA – in favour of architects, M&E consultants and architects, as opposed to [focusing so much] on the end-user and one-off projects. Ian has done very extensive presentations across our region and used every last sales skill in his body to get people to come on board, and in the last 6-12 months we have started to see the business coming in from these people, which is great.
I think the business maintenance/aftercare panel at CEDIA HTE will really help people who are looking to go in this direction, as it has never been more important to get the contracting with customers right – be they developers, architects, millionaires buying second homes, or individuals who have just received a bonus and are wanting to upgrade their systems.