A spotlight on CEDIA’s new CEO

At the end of the November, the industry welcomed a new global president and CEO of CEDIA, following the departure of Tabatha O’Connor in January 2021. Amy Wallington talks to Daryl Friedman about his new role and plans for the organisation.

AW: What are your main goals for CEDIA over the next five years?

DF: CEDIA needs an actionable strategic plan for the next three to five years. My top priority will be to chart a course for the industry that CEDIA can lead. Creating that plan will require the input of CEDIA’s elected leadership, professional staff, members, and industry stakeholders. This is an inflection point: people have realised the central role their homes will play in their lives, and they’re primed to make significant investments. We have this once-in-a-generation moment of opportunity before us; we must take full advantage of it.

AW: What are the key areas you will focus on?

DF: First, I want everyone who works in the industry to appreciate the value of CEDIA. If you’re in the home technology industry, you should want to be a CEDIA member. Secondly, I want to nurture an improved environment for our members to do business, including any legislation that the industry needs to protect its interests. Finally, I want the public to understand the need for this industry, and the value of certification and professionalism in the trade. When you invite someone into your home, you want the best trained, most qualified person possible. We need to make sure that the general public identifies CEDIA certification as that gold standard. We also need to steward our education, training, and certification programmes to produce those qualified professionals, and shore up a vibrant, diverse workforce pipeline to meet the demand for certified professionals we’re aiming to generate.

AW: How will your career background help you in your new role at CEDIA?

DF: In my tenure with the Recording Academy, I’ve had the opportunity to run every division except the television awards programme. I’ve been immersed in every aspect of the traditional trade association, from advocacy to industry relations, to membership, to governance, and I feel confident that my experience in forming trade relationships, advocating for members, and serving as an executive for the Recording Academy has prepared me to lead. My previous work as a communications professional also prepared me to effectively tell the CEDIA story to a broader audience. The work done by CEDIA and its members is critical, especially now, and I want to shout about it from the mountaintops.

AW: Are there any changes / improvements you want to make to the organisation?

DF: First, we have to clarify and communicate the value of the organisation to our own industry. CEDIA has so much to offer at every level of the custom integration value chain. We need to make sure all of our members and potential members recognise that value proposition. Second, we need to make the industry’s customers more aware of the skills, services, and value of the profession — more aware of the profession full stop, really. People interested in a smart home should know that there are professional services available to help them — that in fact, a true smart home experience is unattainable without the help of a professional integrator. CEDIA should be synonymous with the smart home; anyone looking to make improvements to their home environment should be thinking about hiring a CEDIA member. Finally, we need to ensure a pipeline to the next generation of professionals through workforce development and training.

AW: One of the many reasons integrators sign up to CEDIA is to show homeowners that they are a reputable integrator that will carry out a high-quality install. However, most homeowners and end users have never heard of CEDIA. How will you work to change this so that CEDIA have more communication and outreach to end users?

DF: It’s an absolute priority. Through search engine optimisation, we will make CEDIA and our integrators the first thing consumers see when searching to make their homes more connected. A market research programme will inform the current level of consumer awareness, and we will adjust our own marketing and communications accordingly. CEDIA membership will become the – pardon the pun – Good(smart)Housekeeping Seal of Approval!

AW: As part of your new role, will you work to get young people interested in following a career into this industry? How will you achieve this?

DF: The moment is right for us. First, post-pandemic, many young (and not-so-young) people are rethinking their careers. Life is short, and they want to work in a field that provides meaning. We offer that; they can learn a technical skill that they can literally see improve people’s lives. Also, many 18-year-olds are realising that the traditional college grad school path does not always lead to a lucrative career – and may just saddle them with debt. This is the time to tell the story to the next generation. Join the CEDIA community! It will provide a meaningful and prosperous career path for you.

AW: Education and training are a huge part of CEDIA. Do you plan to continue increasing these programmes to get more integrators through the courses? Do you have any other additions you would like to make to education and training programmes?

DF: There’s enormous potential for our education and certification programmes to grow. We want to make sure people understand the value of using a certified integrator. Right now, many of our customers don’t even know that’s an option. We want them to see the value and to see how it can differentiate them from their competitors.

AW: CEDIA has high membership rates in the UK and US. Are you going to work to grow memberships across the rest of the world?

DF: The industry is blossoming. We have an opportunity to grow our membership exponentially. What better business to be in than home technology, which is on the cusp of an explosion? That means that, in addition to bringing potential members into the CEDIA community, we also have workforce development to do. Within that, we need to make a concerted effort to increase the diversity of the industry. That’s an issue we had to face head-on at the Recording Academy. I learned an enormous amount from membership and workforce development diversity initiatives there that I hope to be able to apply at CEDIA.

AW: What will CEDIA focus on at ISE in May?

DF: Once again, we’re hosting an extensive professional development programme to provide everything attendees need in this fast-developing world of technology. With education tracks focused on technical courses, emerging trends, and business success, these sessions are taught by global industry experts and will give all attendees profound insights, advice, and increased knowledge on important industry topics. Courses will be available in English and Spanish.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to take our Cabling & Infrastructure Technician (CIT) Certification examination at the show for the very first time. This new industry certification has been designed from the ground up to meet international standards for personnel certification. As home technology services enter the mainstream, the CIT certification will be one of the markers of professionalism for the industry.


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