Home Automation Podcast Episode #30: An Industry Q&A With Helen Heneveld
An Interview with This Year's Recipient of the CTA TechHome Leadership Award
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Helen Heneveld. Recorded live on Wednesday, January 17th, 2018 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Helen Heneveld
Helen Heneveld is a well-respected and recognized industry expert with credentials to include: MBA, CEDIA Installer 1 Certified, and CEA-CompTIA DHTI+ certification. Helen speaks and consults worldwide in the connected home industry. Her early entry in the 1980s into the smart home business and her years in industry training make her contributions valuable as a current board member for CEA Tech Home Division and a past member on the CEDIA Board of Directors.
She received the CTA TechHome Leadership Award at CES 2018, an honor given to an individual that has made a significant contribution to the growth and success of the TechHome industry and shows continued dedication and devotion to the industry.
Helen is co-author of the first and second editions of DHTI+ Home Technology Integrator All-In-One. Passionate about the industry, Heneveld leads Bedrock Learning.com in providing effective, convenient, and affordable training and resource materials to the connected home industry.
Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Helen:
- Highlights of CES 2018
- The CTA TechHome Leadership Award
- Workforce Development
- Women in CI
Ron: Hello everybody. This is Ron Callis with another episode of Automation Unplugged, brought to you by One Firefly. So hope everybody's having a great day. It is Wednesday 12:34 starting a few minutes late here on January 17th. Hope you've had a great start to your new year. We are streaming live into the One Firefly Facebook page. Let me take a look, see if that looks like that is cooperating. It does look like it's cooperating. If you're out there, please like the video and, or comment if you have questions for our guest please. This show's always the most fun when we have interaction and we have folks participating both watching and of course commenting and telling us your thoughts. So I'm gonna bring in now our guest, we have Helen Heneveld of Bedrock Learning. How are you doing Helen?
Helen: Great, glad to be here.
Ron: Awesome. Now where are you coming to us from? Where are you today?
Helen: I am in Holland, Michigan. That's the West side of Michigan. It's probably 12, 14 degrees out there, but sunshine today. So we're happy and lots of snow on the ground.
Ron: You know what, there's, there's a silver lining to every dark cloud. Right. So it's, the sun is shining. That's a good thing. I'm not going to tell you the temperature here in Florida and or what it looks like outside. Cause that wouldn't be nice. So I'm not gonna do that.
Helen: You didn't start your day shoveling like I did.
Ron: Yeah. No, I did not start my day shoveling snow. Although my parents are actually in town. My mom and dad are in town from Virginia and it is brutally cold. It's been the single digits up there for quite a while for them. So I know they're enjoying the warm weather. So Helen, you just returned from Las Vegas, you were at the CES show?
Helen: Yes. Last week 180,000 of my best friends and colleagues in the industry were there with me.
Helen: That's 180,000 at least attend the CES, it's the largest business technology show in the world.
Ron: Holy banana. You know, I don't know that I should be proud of this, but I've actually been in the industry now, you know, 18 years and I've never been to CES.
Helen: It's an experience. It's something you should experience. I remember going when it was small venue and now it's taken over the whole city. There's 2.75 million square feet of exhibits.
Ron: So how can you even hope to you know, get across even half of that or a fraction of that. What do you go in with a mission or a plan of what want to see?
Helen: Yes, yes. You really only see maybe 5-10%. So before I go, I spend a lot of time looking at who's going to be there. What are my goals and objectives of the show? One of my favorite things is Eureka Park. And I remember not too many years ago, Eureka Park was for the startups and it had maybe 60 tabletops. And that is where I saw the first what I'm going to call the ultimate user interface, which was telepathy. And it was probably five years ago that I did that. I wore a wristband and I was able to move something on a computer screen. Well, think back to one little ballroom with 60 tabletops and now they're probably 800 exhibitors from countries from around the world do pavilions research institutes, research departments of universities are there. It was quite exciting, just that one floor. It's something to see all the startups now. 97% of them won't be back next year, but you certainly see all the innovation and creativity happening in the world.
Ron: So Helen, I want to get more into CES. And you were awarded a very special recognition this year and I want to talk about that at, but before we go there can for my audience are generally people from the audio video business, the automation space, many of them are residential contractors or manufacturers or distributors and reps. There's probably some security contractors, maybe some commercial contractors, but for some of them they may not be familiar with Bedrock Learning. Can you give just a high level explanation of that business and then I'd like you to explore or help us understand how you, even how you got here. How did you start Bedrock Learning if you don't mind?
Helen: Yeah. Okay. Bedrock Learning. I started 14 years ago to deliver online training, interactive online training, generic objective to teach the technology behind products. Cause I saw the crisis was going to be qualified installers. Well in my life, I've always been ahead of my time. 10, 15, 20 years. You're going to laugh at this. Back in 1974, I earned my varsity letter at the University of Michigan. The first year women could earn their varsity letter and I know you're going to ask, what sport was it? Synchronized swimming.
Ron: Okay. Maybe like the, where you put your legs up in the air?
Helen: Yes. Dancing. It's swimming and dancing to music underwater and such. So I earned my varsity letter. Have my letter jacket. That was way ahead of my time. I also went back to undergrad education, Master's in Athletic Administration and served on the board of intercollegiate athletics at the University of Michigan. The one student, the token female, this is back in the 70s. So very early ahead in my time, I was ahead of my time and my sports. I was ahead of my time and going to graduate school, I went to University of Michigan, the MBA program, earned my MBA degree in 81 when only 10% of the class was females. Fast forward to today and I'm really excited about that. That's changed quite a bit. So I had owned several businesses, an import business, a metal finishing, deep verde, flash degrees, parts washers, vibratory finishers, metal and a finishing machine industry in a man's world. And I'd done very well there. Then I was looking for something to get into and I found the concept of home automation. Now remember, this is back in the late eighties.
Ron: How were you exposed to home automation in the late eighties?
Helen: I mean, well, I had five criteria for the type of business I wanted to be in market niche, not served, phenomenal growth opportunity, bigger than cell phones, bigger than VCRs. I could hire a technical expertise. Okay. And I had done well in a man's world, so a nontraditional role for a female. And my last criteria was mail order capabilities. This was before the internet. So mail order capabilities. I said, Oh, you can replenish or get orders incoming 24/7, and now that's what the internet is today. So I found the concept of home automation, a young kid in his early twenties that was passionate about it and I bought his boxes full of information and the Jetsons and what was happening and such. And he kept saying, we got to open up a retail store. Well, I knew the public was not ready for a retail store selling home automation items. This was before structured wiring, before the only lighting control or remote control was X10 where we used to send and pray that the signal got through and turned it on. So I started a company and here it is called Tali the automation. TALI yeah. And it stood for the..
Ron: Uh oh, ladies and gentlemen, we just lost Helen. So let me get her back. Bear with me here one moment.
Helen: Hi there. I'm back.
Ron: All right. Hey there, we lost you. But I'm glad you're back. I told you there's always the random technical challenge, but no worries. So you were telling us about Tali.
Helen: Tali. Tali was a single source full service integration company. We wired for the future and we made technology easy to use.
Ron: Oh my goodness. She keeps dropping folks. Let me get her back.
Helen: I'm back again.
Ron: Yeah, I wonder what that is.
Helen: So Tali's made the technology easy to use the interested in our tag line back in 1989 was technology for individuality, which we would customize the technology for homeowner.
Ron: My goodness folks. Let's see here. Standby. We'll see if we can get this resolved. Well everyone, I appreciate your patience.
Ron: The internet here is good. So there's nothing obvious from our end. Maybe she's in the middle of a snow storm. Let's see here. All right. Sorry, you guys have to watch me here. Live, solve this problem, but we'll try to get it going.
Helen: Three times, four times, five times the charm. I'm back.
Ron: Yes. Is there anything obvious from your end Helen as to why?
Helen: My IT guy, your checked us, our internet connection is good but sometimes technology isn't your friend.
Ron: Sometime. Amen. That is so true and it's hard to know. Yeah. It says here our connection speed between us is fast and but you know, it is what it is sometimes the gremlins attack. That's right. So, all right, let me get you back on here where the audience can see you. Thank you. If you're out there, thank you for your patience as we troubleshoot this. And by the way, Taylor from my office just us messaged you. He said hi Helen. Hope you are well and congrats on your award.
Helen: Thank you Taylor, I look forward to talking to you later this week.
Ron: Awesome. Okay, so you were just telling us about Tali.
Helen: I was telling you about Tali my home automation installation company based in Grand Rapids, Holland, Michigan back in the late eighties I started it and had it for 10 years and then sold it. I'm glad to say they're still around and serving the high end consumer and automating their home.
Ron: So Tali as an organization or as an integration firm is still alive today?
Helen: Yes, and the integration firm is still alive. They changed their name to Grand Home Automation because they had grand commercial automation, so they wanted to leverage their branding so they changed it, but it was Tali. It's still Tali.
Ron: No kidding. And you showed me before we got, we went on air here we, you showed me a magazine where you are actually in that magazine promoting your business and I think you were in that magazine and then I know not too long ago you showed me another magazine where you actually were in there with your son.
Ron: Do you have either of those that you could pull up and show our audience?
Helen: Here it's here. You know how famous I am. This is when I'm a cover girl.
Ron: Little bit higher. Yep. There it is. Oh there you are. Okay. You're the cover model.
Helen: I was the cover girl on the home systems installation magazine and also here's a article my son wrote bragging about how he's had home automation for five years and this was back in the early nineties and he talks about how he was able to get the Butler in a box voice control unit working faster and sooner than his mother could get it working. He said home automation is cool. He's now 34 and working in IT of course. So the funny thing is back when I started Tali this brochure, this was our brochure in 1990 shows the house in the center, the systems we could control audio, video security, lighting, HVAC and the methods of control, touchscreen timers, a remote control, et cetera. Nothing has changed. And we said keep your home from becoming out of date. That was back in 1990 so for those that don't know, I did home automation. This is a two page spread in the Detroit Free Press. In '92, the house that can voice activated system adds personal freedom for a quadriplegic. He could open doors, made phone calls, change TV channels, control the lights, et cetera, open doors all by his voice. It was really a cool system that we did and this was before any of some of the software engineers.
Ron: Who else, Helen in the country was getting publicity like this around the topic of home automation?
Helen: No one.
Ron: You're talking almost 20, 28 years ago.
Helen: Yes, yes. This is 25 plus years ago and I set a goal. This is a good marketing for all your integrators and everybody get published every month that published couldn't publish, could be in your home builders newsletter, which we were in often. It could be in your local newspaper, it could be on a TV show, but every month I wanted Bedrock, well Tali to have exposure and so we were nationally exposed and the international, we actually did houses in Canada too, so we have a plethora of articles and magazines. We did a home in Tucson, Arizona called Green Home built for the earth. The people in the 21st century where they did recycled glass for the counters, recycled tires for the floor. We had voice control in there. We had automation. So if they open, they could put it in grandkid mode. If they opened the door, the house said don't go out to the pool without your grandma or grandpa. Okay. When it was in grandkid mode. So we did all sorts of fun things and that was written up in magazines and we partnered with Tucson Light and Power. This is back in the early nineties. So yes, we were way ahead of our time.
"I've been in the business for a little bit. It feels like historically it's been a more male-dominated industry than female. And here you were almost 30 years ago as a business owner leader, forging your way, carving your own path."
Ron: Question. So I have a perspective that, and I've been in the business for a little bit that a lot of the businesses and a lot of people, I feel that for some reason, and I love to ask my guests their opinion on this. It feels like maybe historically it's been a more male-dominated industry than female. And here you were almost, you know, 30 years ago as a business owner leader, forging your way, carving your own path, and you know, Hey, how did you do that? What's your perspective of maybe how that, do you see a shift happening in our industry from then to the present?
Helen: I definitely see a shift and it's a good shift. I'll go back. I invented the Multiport, the first multi-port plate. It was called the OnRamp to the information super highway. It had 2 RJ 45s, and 2 category category 3 or 5, I tried to talk them up to cat five back then and 2 RJ 45s and a co-ax connector. Okay. And I had it made and they said, why do you want these multi jacks and the single plate? And I said one, cause I'm a girl and I don't want four outlets on my wall. I want one outlet on my wall. Okay. Now isn't it a good thing that I patented that? That was before anybody had Multiport plates.
Ron: Genius. So you're like a multi multi-billionaire by now, right?
Helen: Not, I thought it was so obvious I didn't patent it. So what should I have? So it's just an obvious thing. So back then I was doing home automation and I realized every house I went in doing home automation, had audio, video. After a couple of years I saw that and I said, Oh I can double sales cause audio video was the same amount of money as my home automation. So I said, I'm going to learn audio video. Hired a guy who really knew his stuff. Scott came in, he sat me down, he talked with me about audio video and blindfolded me and made me listen and I learned it and I'd go out and talk to the homeowners and I'd come back and say, okay, I got $24,000. We're going to put in better music system and then good music in the bedroom. So whatever you see can, but what, you know speakers, I said, you pick the brands, you sold it and they signed it. You don't even know what brands? And I said yes because they trusted me and that was the female selling and that I'm going to stay has carried over a very successful in the sales because I realized they wanted the technology transparent, the male in the family and the home wanted it. So they were Mavericks, I'm going to call them the Mavericks. They wanted the latest technology in the home, et cetera. But it was getting to know the homeowners, both the female in the house and the children and how they were going to live with technology and finding the one little thing that made a difference for them and making that happen. So that is where I think early on I leveraged being a woman in the industry. I did hear from some of the builders, it scares me when Helen shows up with her tool belt on. No problem. Send out my guys to do the sale. Then they'd call me up on the phone and ask me the technical stuff to make home automation happen. And I would tell them, okay. So also in 2000, CEDIA came out with their very first certification. Oh, I was the first woman on the board of directors at CEDIA, so I broke that ceiling. And also when they came out with their first certification and at one of the banquets, there were 1400 people at the banquet and they asked the first 100 installers to come certified installers to come up on stage. It was me and 99 guys. So back in 2000. So again, I've been ahead of my time. Okay. So I've done a lot on I think my early elementary education training and such, I am not coming from technology, but coming from a pragmatic world I designed here is the puzzle house. The puzzle house were the different systems, audio, video, security, lighting, and this is how I explained to the consumer what you need and do you want that piece in your house? Okay. If you do, what is so important? All the pieces are held together by the network. Okay. And this was how we educated the consumer about the options, the systems, and how, why they needed a network in their home. And that was back in my you know, with talent. Okay. I sold Tali in the late 1990s and said we need to . educate the world. So I did a lot of training, traveled around the world when to Australia, four times. Went to Dubai, did a two day training there, which was interesting. I said, how can I train? My colleagues went with me. I said, how can I train as a woman? They said, no, no, no. You're a woman from another country. You know your stuff. They were so respectful. It was great fun. I'm trained in Europe. I trained for CEDIA, did a lot of training. Then I got involved with the training department and we did training videos. Okay. Now this is back in the day.
Ron: Is that VHS? Nice. Oh no, we lost her again. Let's see here. Let's try to get her back. She's on a roll. All right. We'll see if we'll see if tech, we'll see if it cooperates.
Helen: Okay. So I are showing you the training videos and I did that for several years. All generic training again. But I realized that was a one way learning and then that led to me starting Bedrock Learning 14 years ago and I jumped over webinars, webinars, share information. They don't educate and you learn stuff, but they don't educate you on the technology behind the product. So Bedrock Learning does online training with interactive questions and to move ahead in the course, et cetera. So that's when I started Bedrock Learning and that's what I've been doing ever since.
Ron: So was the goal, Helen, to take your love for teaching and packaging information in a way that's consumable by your audience? Was that the, I guess the passion behind trying to per turn that into a business and Bedrock Learning where you could say create courses that customers could buy either in I guess, VHS or via online methods of delivery. Is that why or how that came about?
Helen: Yes, my passion for training. Remember it was simple. I can take complexity and simplify it down and teach it. And so my love for one, the industry, when I found it, I said, this is it. I'm all excited. And then two, having been an integrator and figuring out pragmatic ways to do things and documentation and such that then it was a natural extension. I was doing training. I remember at the early CEDIA expo, I stood behind the counter, took people's money, registered for my class, and then ran down the hall and taught the class. Okay, now I just go in and teach. It's much better. But I've always had a passion for helping others. And I mean I have a full day session. I did in the early nineties called Warp Into Business. It was how to get into this industry and start a business in it. Also very boring. Here's a 870 page book I wrote from McGraw Hill for the DHGI Plus Digital Home Technology Integrator certification by Comp TS and Comp TIA and wrote that book and it's not being.. It's older, but it was good when it came out. It was the Bible for the technology of the industry. I'm currently writing a book called Connected Home and Smart Office Technologies and that will be out within a year. And again, it would..
Ron: Are you doing that though an association? The new one you're writing part of?
Helen: Yeah, I'm actually doing that for the Electrical Training Alliance. Okay. And they'll be using it. They have training centers all over the country. They'll be using it in their training centers. And then also I will be able to share that book as a resource for dealers and integrators and curriculum in trade schools and community colleges and such. So that's what we're writing the book for.
"You were awarded the CTA 2018 leadership award and it's clear even from just hearing about your past and what you've done for the industry that you've absolutely been a leader for many years."
Ron: So time is, is running away from us and I probably have taken too long to dig into this. So you were awarded the CTA 2018 leadership award. Can you and by the way, congratulations. That's amazing. And it's clear even from just hearing about your past and what you've done for the industry that you've absolutely been a leader for many, many years. But can you tell us about that experience and what that was like receiving that on the stage in Las Vegas?
Helen: The best thing is the award is for your dedication and your time and commitment to the industry and your passion for the industry. And as anybody who knows me knows I'm passionate about home automation and I'm passionate about helping others and contributing to their success. So being recognized by my peers was humbling and honoring and it really, you know, really made a difference. I also look back to when I was the first female involved, certified, etc. And in that, when I did my acceptance speech, I said I want all the females to stand up. And here we had 45% of the attendees were females in the industry. And I have over the years had so many women come up to me and say, thank you Helen for your gumption to get out there and stand up for us. I'm just an installer. And I said, no, you're not an installer. So I'm really proud and humbled to have inspired and mentored so many women in our industry. And I think that's changing. It's really happening. I also started Woman of Worth, which was a women in technology group and turned over the list to Carol Campbell who's done a great job building the women in CT and consumer technologies. And we were on the cover of the CES Daily, all the women award winners and such. So I feel great to have contributed not only to our industry and helping people get started and succeed in the industry, but to helping women find a place and a voice.
Ron: So what's next for Helen? What's on your hit list? What accomplishments or activities you want to take on here in 2018?
Helen: Well in 2018 I'm going to get that book done and get that to be published, which I think our industry really is in need of. I've got some other product ideas, you know, that on-ramp I have something else I'm working on and I really want to get the education out there with others. It's time. Others pick it up and run with it. We partner with different associations and such with our training. And there's such a need. Oh, I didn't even mention the past year I chaired a workforce development, white paper for Kaaba and that is 65 pages about how to build, who's building the workforce, what are the skills needed, where are the shortcomings and such. So I really would, that's one of the reasons I'm writing the book is to contribute to helping build the workforce to deliver all this. I want to inspire our young people that their careers in our industry and their fun careers.
Ron: What advice do you have Helen, for those integrators, those small businesses that are watching and listening to you and I would imagine in awe of your 30 years of leadership in this space? What from your observations, what are maybe some pieces of advice that you could give them that can help lead to their success or their continued success?
"First, believe in yourself and your ideas. Because if I hadn't, I wouldn't be where I'm at. I'm glad I didn't realize it was going to take the 20 some years for home automation to come to fruition because I probably would've quit long ago."
Helen: Okay. First, believe in yourself and your ideas. Because if I hadn't, I wouldn't be where I'm at. And I'm glad I didn't realize it was going to take the 20 some years for home automation to come to fruition because I probably would've quit long ago. But believe in yourself, have the confidence stand up for what you believe in, contribute and get involved. Volunteer. I would say the relationships with my colleagues or yourself included comes from just wanting to make a difference in getting to know people. I mean that whenever I go to any industry event, I always try to sit at the table where I don't know anybody. My fellow team members, I say, we're not sitting together. We're all going to meet new people. So get out there, make a difference and stay, get involved and learn, learn, learn. So I said I write for SDM Magazine. I just finished my CES cover, recap story and yeah, read the industry magazines. CE Pro, SDM, Technology Integrator, Residential Systems. Read those, get involved, attend the events and involved in the associations, a CTA Tech home division, the CEDIA cetera. It's through that, that you're going to learn and grow.
Ron: Were there any takeaways you had from attending CES that you know, I know you only got to see 5 or 10% of the show floor, but through either your interactions or maybe those that you are our friends with our peers with maybe what they saw. Any big takeaways? Any news coming out of the show?
"The data is who owns the data."
Helen: Yeah. One is, it was a total technology tsunami. I mean, it was technology everywhere and one of my hidden, it's all about big data. I wrote an article about six months ago about the data. The data is who owns the data. And the keynote by Intel, the CEO of Intel, said that the hidden power of the data, it's in the analytics. And knowing that right now we're just collecting all that data. I also, one big takeaway was it was about being human. Everything is about us being human, being well being comfortable. The fitness items, the wearables that can work my muscles. They have fabrics that will work the muscles for the guys when they're in up and outer space. They can sense your sugar level by just the socks you wear. I mean, it's just amazing. So technology, it's about me as a person, the human aspect. How do I connect with my family? How can technology help my family? How can I feel better? A lot about indoor air quality. The HVAC, Oh, lighting was huge. Tuneable lighting, white lighting, and how do I adjust the ambient lighting? And I had my wellbeing and productivity increases with control of the lighting around me. So I would say one of my takeaways was the human aspect of technology coming back to us as humans and how that technology can help us, not only connect but improve our quality of life.
Ron: So I'm going to take your advice. I'm going to hit one of these upcoming CES, I dunno if it'll be next year, but sometime soon I'll make sure to do that. Helen, it's been a pleasure having you on Automation Unplugged. This is episode number 30. So that's a nice round number.
Helen: Number of years I've been in the industry.
Ron: There you go. It's perfectly. Yeah, we did that on purpose. That's how that happened. Yeah. But thank you very much for being guests on our show. You have so much to share and so much passion. It's really been fun having you on.
Helen: Thank you Ron for the opportunity and it's great. Keep up your good work.
Ron: Oh, well thank you. We'll certainly, I will certainly do that. I can only do that because I'm surrounded by a great team. And I know I've heard you say the same about your team many times. So we'll keep doing what we're doing. So ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining me for another episode. Again, please like this, if you like the interviews, you like the content, that's how we get this content shared with your peers and your friends. Again, feel free to comment, put a comment in the comment section if you want others to be guaranteed to see that, share the video and thank you and Helen is here to to help. I have in fact dropped the Bedrock Learning website link right into the comment section. So if you want to know how, find Helen and find her business and all of her awesome training offerings, it's right there. So definitely, please be sure to check that out. So on that note, folks, I'm going to sign off. I want you to have a great Wednesday, great rest of your week. And I will see you next time on Automation Unplugged. Thanks guys.
Helen Heneveld, with Bedrock Learning, has been in the industry since the '80s and some of her accomplishments include MBA, CEDIA Installer 1 Certified and CEA-CompTIA DHTI+ Certified. She is a well-respected and recognized industry expert who speaks and consults worldwide in the connected home industry.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing in the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.