Professional certifications aren’t about bragging rights. They’re about gaining superior technical knowledge, applied skills, and “street cred” with your customers.
I’ve put in the time and effort to get some of the most difficult certifications in the lighting and energy industry because the process simply makes me better at my job. Certifications make me more valuable to the company I work for, help me serve my customers better, and differentiate my skills and experience from the competition.
I consider myself somewhat of an evangelist for certifications in the lighting retrofit industry. Here’s why I’ve pursued certifications for myself, how they’ve helped my career, and how retrofit certifications can help you and your company.
My Job and How I Do It
To understand how certifications have helped me, it’s helpful to understand my role in the lighting retrofit business. I work in the Strategic Accounts division at Graybar, a Fortune 500 wholesale distributor of electrical, communications, and data networking products. When customers express an interest in lighting renovations, I perform an assessment and develop specifications based on standards, codes, and the customer’s design intent.
From there, I create a proposal that highlights energy savings and pertinent financial metrics such as IRR, NPV and ROI, and then I assist the account manager in closing the lighting deal.
A key tool of my trade is SnapCount, a retrofit software package that eliminates the need for pen-and-paper, spreadsheet-based auditing methods. With SnapCount, I can keep all my assessment and retrofit information in one place, transferring it seamlessly to quotes and proposals. I can even use SnapCount to purchase materials and manage the work of electrical contractors, when it’s applicable.
Because SnapCount helps me be more efficient. I gain more “at-bats” with prospects and customers, which is a fundamental step to getting more wins. This efficiency aspect is one reason I wanted to learn as much about SnapCount as I could, and why I was one of the earliest recipients of the SNAP-A certification (SnapCount Network Accredited Professional Auditor).
My Retrofit Certifications
Among several certifications I hold, the Lighting Certification (LC) by the National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professions was probably the hardest to attain. The NCQLP says, “Lighting Certification is designed to set a baseline standard covering the entire scope of the vast lighting field.” I agree with that statement – the scope of the LC certification is vast. It covers all the fundamentals of the lighting design process, and it requires extensive memorization, formula memorization, and analytical interpretation skills.
In addition to the LC certification, I have also acquired NALMCO’s Certified Lighting Controls Professional® (CLCP™) accreditation, which showcases how skilled an individual is about lighting controls and systems, based on the curriculum designed by the lighting controls industry. This certification is curated by the Lighting Controls Association.
The Certified Senior Lighting Technician (CSLT) designation is another accreditation from NALMCO. The CSLT exam covers everything from lighting fundamentals, emergency lighting, energy management, lighting controls, lighting maintenance, to life-safety and code.
The SNAP-A certification is certainly no “cakewalk”. To qualify (as Barbara Pesut-Hanley described in a recent article), you need at least a year of experience as a SnapCount Audit module user. The SNAP-A certification exam is technically open-book, but I found you have to be intimately familiar with the product and have extensive field experience with the software to answer the questions correctly.
Why Retrofit Certifications Are Worthwhile to Me
There are certainly plenty of auditors and other lighting retrofit professionals who don’t hold any certifications. So why would I put myself through the rigors of studying on my own time and sitting for long exams? Didn’t we working people leave all that behind us when we graduated college?
I believe having the right set of professional certifications differentiates me as someone who can answer questions – particularly when I’m out in the field with customers and prospects. Certifications are an ongoing process of continuing education, improving my skills and staying on top of the latest developments in the industry, including advancements in software tools such as SnapCount.
Preparing for my SNAP-A certification, for example, took me deeper into the software than I had ever ventured before. I learned how to refine my auditing process to become more efficient, and therefore, more valuable to my company and my customers.
Not every customer is going to know what SNAP-A or LC stand for. But I think just having the letters after my name demonstrates experience, commitment, and expertise. It tells customers, “This isn’t my first day.”
The Future of Retrofit Certifications?
As LED technology improves, more and more organizations will see lighting retrofits as a relatively affordable way to reduce operating expenses and conserve energy. The current demand for lighting retrofits is high and will only continue to grow in the new decade. Certifications can help retrofit providers and their team members distinguish themselves in this economy by becoming subject matter experts and serve their customers on a higher level.
Another benefit of retrofit certification is that it lets an organization establish a standard, minimum level of qualifications for specific job roles. For example, within a company some lighting auditors may use SnapCount, while others may use spreadsheets or even pen and paper. If all of the company’s auditors were to become SNAP-A certified, the company would be unified behind a single process, which would boost internal efficiency in the entire sales process.
As SnapCount adds other certification modules (for example, I would like to see modules for operations and coding), companies could unify behind those processes, as well.
I’ve already seen how certifications have directly helped me make a great impression with customers and increased both the quality and efficiency of my audits and proposals. I’m eager to see how it will benefit an entire team of auditors. When I find out, you can be sure I’ll report back. In the meantime, how are you using retrofit certifications to stand out from the competition?