Contest rewards cabling technicians’ installation, presentation skills

After a successful first run that included a marketing agreement with industry educational association BICSI (www.bicsi.org), the Cabling Icon contest is set to kick off for a second time, scheduled to culminate once again at BICSI’s Winter Conference.

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From the September, 2012 Issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine

The Cabling Icon contest takes place entirely online and includes a cash award as well as a paid trip to the industry’s biggest annual event.

by Patrick McLaughlin

After a successful first run that included a marketing agreement with industry educational association BICSI (www.bicsi.org), the Cabling Icon contest is set to kick off for a second time, scheduled to culminate once again at BICSI’s Winter Conference. The contest, run entirely online, seeks to identify the most-skilled cabling installation technician based on the evaluations of a set of judges combined with online voters.

The winner is guaranteed a cash award of at least $5,000 as well as the “Golden Punchdown” award plaque and a leather vest embroidered with the Cabling Icon logo. Additionally, the winner receives an expenses-paid trip to BICSI’s Winter Conference, which will be held in Tampa, FL January 20-24, 2013. Organizers of Cabling Icon will pay for the winner’s travel, hotel and meals for the duration of the conference, and will also pay the winner one week’s worth of wages.

Additionally, the winner will have the opportunity to apply to participate in BICSI’s Cabling Skills Challenge, held during its Winter Conference.

The contest, open to anyone 18 years of age or older, is organized and funded by Concert Technologies (www.concerttech.com), whose president, Dennis Mazaris, developed the idea in 2011. Mazaris encourages participation for anyone who “has the drive, skills and talent to compete against other competitors from around the world,” he said when announcing the contest details.

Cabling Icon founder Dennis Mazaris (left) presents the Golden Punchdown award to the 2012 Cabling Icon, Dan Dosch.

This year’s contest will follow a similar format to last year’s and will be organized at a dedicated website, cablingicon.com. Contestants enter by submitting a written application along with a video, no more than two minutes in duration, describing why they believe they are worthy of gaining the status Cabling Icon. Those who make the cut move on to one or more rounds of competition in which they demonstrate installation and/or termination skills, again on video. Judging-panel rankings as well as online voting determine which contestants move on to each subsequent round. The final round is an interview-style video in which the judges ask questions, providing the contestants with an opportunity to describe their working styles, methods of job training and preparation, and overall professional demeanor.

Driven by social media

About the online format, Mazaris noted, “Running the contest through social media, Cabling Icon allows participants a high level of exposure that, years ago, was only available from the participation in large-production TV reality game shows. With the audience, contestants and promotional partners involved and interacting on so many levels, all participants will see a benefit to Cabling Icon—not just the winner of the contest.”

Promotional opportunities are available to companies and individuals; all fees paid by promotional partners go directly to the cash award that the winner receives. Through Cabling Icon’s marketing agreement with BICSI, the association offered a scholarship seat to a BICSI ITS Cabling Installation Program course in the event the contest winner did not hold either the BICSI ITS Installer or Technician credential. If that had been the case, and the winner successfully completed the course and passed the associated exam, the contestant then would meet the qualifications to apply as an applicant into the Cabling Skills Challenge.

Views from an Icon

As it turned out, the inaugural Cabling Icon winner, Dan Dosch, holds the ITS Installer 2, Optical Fiber credential. Dosch won a $6,000 cash prize and participated in the 2012 Cabling Skills Challenge. While attending the BICSI Winter Conference, Mazaris spoke to Dosch about his victory and his overall participation in the contest. The entire conversation can be seen at the cablingicon.com website. On the topic of other participants in the Cabling Icon contest, Dosch told Mazaris, “The competition was real good. A lot of guys have their own businesses, and I was pretty sure I was the youngest one. Those guys were pretty good.”

Mazaris asked Dosch what he believes gave him an edge over that competition, to which Dosch responded, “My edge had to be the way I made the videos. I put a lot of detail into them.” He said he used a fairly simple editing software package, Power Director, to compile his videos.

Dosch also took advantage of the social media avenues available to him and did what he could to make the voting process viral. “I tried to reach as many people as I could through Facebook,” he said, “asking everyone to vote for me.”

Cabling Installation & Maintenance later interviewed Dosch. When asked if he is a natural on camera, he said he is “far from it … at least when it comes to talking,” adding that the initial video entry as well as the final interview took him out of his comfort zone. The skills-related videos, however, he found to be easier because they involved work that comes naturally to him.

Because contestants submit recorded videos, they have the opportunity to treat the contest like a true Hollywood production and perform as many takes as necessary until they get it right. We asked Dosch if he timed himself or conducted multiple takes when putting his videos together. “I did a dry run first, just to make sure I had everything covered, like safety, proper techniques, best practices,” he recalled. “Then I made sure the video looked the way I wanted on film. Then I would just have at it.”

He said his “pitch” video that accompanied his written entry form took a number of takes. “The speed challenge took a couple tries,” he said. “The video of me dropping a cable down a wall only took one take.”

When asked if he had any advice for upcoming Cabling Icon contestants, Dosch offered: “Find a way to have a lot of people see your videos. Be persistent asking people to vote. And make your video interesting for people to watch. Something as simple as adding music to my videos made them 100 times better to watch.”

He added that becoming the first Cabling Icon gained him some recognition within the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, where he had been employed just a few months when he won the contest. “The lab has its own newspaper that did a story on me, including a picture of me holding the Golden Punchdown Award. After the article came out I would be walking down the halls and people would stop me to ask about the contest and to congratulate me.”

Entry applications for the upcoming Cabling Icon contest will be accepted until October 1. The contest will take place throughout the month and the winner will be announced October 31. Full detail on the program is available at cablingicon.com. ::

Patrick McLaughlin was a judge for the initial Cabling Icon contest.

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