There will be bonding. There will be splicing. And there will be firestopping.
Yes, it’s time to roll up your sleeves, de-fog your goggles, climb your ladder and get ready for the 9th annual BICSI Cabling Skills Challenge next week in Orlando, where the Installer of the Year will be crowned and awarded a $5K prize (not to mention a towering trophy).
This will definitely beat the NFL’s Pro Bowl as a competition fix during the seemingly endless lead-up to Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7.
The Installer of the Year needs to be versatile, good with his or her hands, and smart to boot.
The competition takes place on Feb. 1 and 2 right on the show floor at the annual BICSI Winter Conference & Exhibition for cabling design and installation professionals, who will attend sessions with titles such as “Design and Deployment of Reliable Physical Infrastructure Networks for the Industrial Plant Floor” and “Designing Wi-Fi Networks for High Capacity.” The installers and technicians who tangle at this event will be surrounded by attendees visiting expo floor booths promoting everything from the latest in Ethernet cable assemblies to wireless locks to what one exhibitor calls “patch cable the way it should be.”
(You can check out some of the action from 2015's event, starting at about the 1:28 mark of the video embedded at the bottom of this article.)
This year, 15 competitors from as far away as Japan and Australia have signed on to test their skills at the Cabling Skills Challenge. Among them is Alberto Luna, a project manager at Total Network Consulting in the Atlanta area who says he has been in the business for 18 years, initially as a cabling technician and now on a path towards sales and business development.
He’ll seek to become the third back-to-back champ, possibly following in the footsteps of Lee Renfroe, who ruled in 2012 and 2013, and Jessie Spearman, who took top honors at the very first three events. Odds makers no doubt are aware of Luna’s track record, which includes a previous win as Cabling Icon in a separate contest to find “the world’s best low voltage installer or technician.”
While Luna wouldn’t bite at my suggestion that he has become a bonafide celebrity in wiring circles since last year’s victory, he acknowledges that the honor is something he is proud of. It tops his LinkedIn profile and also adds zing to his email signature.
Luna, who jumped into networking right out of high school in south Florida when he joined BellSouth, says it took him three tries in the Cabling Skills Challenge to take the title. He didn't place in any of the judged categories -- Installer 1, Installer 2, Technician -- during the first year in which he competed.
The difference during Year 3: “It takes some getting used to. It can be nerve-wracking…I calmed down, I was prepared.”
Luna describes the competition as very hands-on – and fun.
“They don’t make it easy,” he says. “They put in little things to trick you that when you’re rushing through you might not catch.” Plus, the written exam makes sure you really know what you’re doing too, he says.
The hardest part for Luna has been finishing a bunch of fiber terminations in the time given.
Though the hardest part this around could simply be staying at the top of his game while having a target on his back as the defending champ.