August 17 will be my last day at Systems Contractor News (SCN). When I joined the SCN team four years ago, my goal was to modernize the magazine—and I believe I have accomplished that goal. From hosting the first-ever SCN Think Tank and turning that into the modern version of the AV/IT Summit to redesigning the magazine to creating diversity initiatives, I'm proud of the work I've done at Future.
Like anything in life, my goals were not achieved on my own; I had an amazing team behind me at SCN. Katie Makal, managing editor, is always there to make every piece sound 10,000 times better or to answer my never-ending questions about style guides. Nicole Cobban, managing design director, makes the pages of the magazine look beautiful and she never fails to make my half-baked design ideas come to life in an amazing way. Tony Savona, VP of content creation, has never-ending patience to help me problem solve and he does it all while making me laugh.
On a personal level, I will never forget the kindnesses the Future team has shown me. During my time at the company, my brother was diagnosed with and died from lung cancer. It was a very unexpected diagnosis, as he had been healthy and went to the doctor for back pain. I was in Amsterdam at ISE 2019 when we got the news; the team held me up while I spent days crying my eyes out. My brother lived in Hawaii so caring for him was not an easy task, and my family rotated who was with him. "Just go" was a phrase I heard frequently from my team during this time. There was no hesitation, no complaining about the extra work they'd have to do, they simply handled everything for me and allowed me to focus on my family. I could never put into words how grateful I am to them for that.
The last four years have been a happy adventure for me, and I'm so thankful I was able to spend them with such an amazing team. But it's time for new adventures and challenges.
Stay tuned on Twitter and LinkedIn to learn more.
I understand that I will never understand, but I stand with members of the Black community.
We should all be outraged at the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. We should be even more outraged that systemic racism exists.
Use your voice, your wallet, and your vote to be the change you want to see.
Use Your Voice
Write your local government and ask them what they are doing to actively fight racism in both the community and within their walls. Below is the letter I wrote to both my city and its police department.
As an Elmhurst resident, I am shocked by the behavior of our community at this time—including the number of both subtle and overtly racist posts on social media from members of this town.
I am thoroughly disappointed that Elmhurst has asked its citizens to move a protest to next week "in hopes that the broader criminal behavior that we are alerted to has subsided". The time to stand up against racism is now—not tomorrow, not in a week, not in a month.
Furthermore, I am disappointed that our leaders have yet to speak on the matter on social media to let the community know that Black lives matter or publicly shared what we, as a community, are currently doing to fight systemic racism. The fact that the Elmhurst Police Department has posted on Facebook about a space launch and has not said a word about racism speaks volumes.
What is the City of Elmhurst doing to eliminate racist behavior in the community? What type of policies are being changed to eliminate the systemic racism within the local government?
I am looking forward to your response.
Megan A. Dutta
You should also be contacting your representatives in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Not sure who they are or how to contact them? Click here to find your senators. Click here to find your representative.
Click here to find your state representatives in Illinois.
Share helpful messages and help people of color spread their messages on social media. Use your influence to be the change you want to see.
Use Your Wallet
Support Black-owned businesses. Support companies that actively seek diversity—those who speak out on the issue and practice what they preach. Donate to Black organizations.
Here are some of the organization I've donated to so far:
The Audre Lorde Project
The Audre Lorde Project is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area. Through mobilization, education, and capacity-building, we work for community wellness and progressive social and economic justice. Committed to struggling across differences, we seek to responsibly reflect, represent, and serve our various communities.
Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD)
BOLD (Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity) is a national training intermediary focused on transforming the practice of Black organizers in the U.S. to increase their alignment, impact, and sustainability to win progressive change. BOLD carries out its mission through training programs, coaching, and technical assistance for BOLD alumni and partners.
Black Visions Collective
Black Visions Collective (BLVC) believes in a future where all Black people have autonomy, safety is community-led, and we are in right relationship within our ecosystems.
The Loveland Foundation
Loveland Foundation is committed to showing up for communities of color in unique and powerful ways, with a particular focus on Black women and girls. Our resources and initiatives are collaborative and they prioritize opportunity, access, validation, and healing. We are becoming the ones we’ve been waiting for.
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
America's premier civil rights law organization fighting for racial justice through litigation, advocacy, and public education. Established in 1940.
Southerners on New Ground (SONG)
SONG envisions a sustainable South that embodies the best of its freedom traditions and works towards the transformation of our economic, social, spiritual, and political relationships. We envision a multi-issue southern justice movement that unites us across class, age, race, ability, gender, immigration status, and sexuality; a movement in which LGBTQ people—poor and working class, immigrant, people of color, rural—take our rightful place as leaders shaping our region’s legacy and future. We are committed to restoring a way of being that recognizes our collective humanity and dependence on the Earth.
Want more ideas for donations?
The Bail Project
Black Lives Matter
Reclaim the Block
Want even more suggestions?
Check out this article for more organizations that are seeking donations.
Use Your Vote
Vote in both local and national elections. Directly ask candidates what they are doing to actively discourage systematic racism. Show up on election day—your voice matters.
Hey there. Me again. Still a huge nerd and still reading a ton. 41 books this year to be exact.
Because I forget what I read, I keep track here. Honestly, I think I even forgot to log some books in May, June, and July—but who knows?
This year, I've asterisked my favorites so you can read them, too!
Click here for my 2017 list. Click here for my 2018 list.
January - 6 Books
Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger*
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
My Squirrel Life by Ellie Kemper
An Annonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
February - 3 Books
The Spite Game by Anna Snoekstra
Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz
The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
March - 2 Books
Find Her by Lisa Gardner
Our Little Secret by Roz Nay
April - 3 Books
Sweetbittter by Stephanie Danler
Hummingbird by Jude Angelini
Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah
May - 1 Book
Hyena by Jude Angelini
June - 2 Books
Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner
The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel
July - 4 Books
Look for Me by Lisa Gardner
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman*
Layover by David Bell
A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan
August - 6 Books
The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda
Darkness to Light by Lamar Odom with Chris Palmer
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman*
Life Will Be the Death of Me by Chelsea Handler*
Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
September - 6 Books
Someone We Know by Shari Lapena
Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss by Frances Stroh*
Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
Sisters First: Stories From Our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush*
Wild Embers by Nikita Gill
The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir
October - 3 Books
Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland
That's What Frenemies Are For by Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell
Daisy Jones and the Six: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid*
November - 1 Book
Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang
December - 4 Books
Inside Out: A Memoir by Demi Moore
My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams*
Born to be Brad: My Life and Style, So Far by Brad Goreski with Mickey Rapkin
A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like by Ashley Graham with Rebecca Paley
Today is my brother Billy's 35th birthday. Just two months ago, we didn't think he'd make it past 34.
At the end of January, he went to the E.R. for back pain. They discovered he had a herniated disc...but they also discovered something much worse--Stage 4 Metastatic Lung Cancer.
The past few months have been an emotional roller coast for our family and our friends. The cancer was discovered so suddenly and things went downhill more quickly than anyone could ever have imagined. There were some really dark days.
We have been blessed with additional time because they found a genetic mutation; he is doing a targeted therapy that has given him back a year or two with quality of life. Each day brings new challenges, but he's happy and grateful to have more time to spend with Noah (10) and Sophia (5).
Billy is now able to care for himself, but he's unable to work. Money is tight and life is not fair.
In honor of his birthday, I'm going to ask you to skip your Starbucks today. Instead, how about making a donation? His work ohana set up a GoFundMe to help with his medical and living expenses.
CLICK HERE TO HELP SUPPORT BILLY DURING THIS BATTLE.
I love industry awards. It's important to recognize innovative products, industry leaders, and future talent. Publishing SCN's The Nine each year is one of my favorite things to do. The honorees are excited, but what's even cooler is the industry is excited for them.
It's so fun to see all of the congratulatory tweets and LinkedIn posts when awards are announced. People love to brag and say "Hey, that's my friend and I'm so proud of her!" or "This is so cool that he's being recognized." And I completely love that.
But there's one thing I don't love about awards season...industry professionals taking credit for "discovering" people or even taking credit for their accomplishments. We don't discover talent—we take notice and let them shine. The accomplishments of honorees are their own. We all get by with a little help from our friends, but, ultimately, a person's success (or failure) is his or her own.
So, my friends, choose your words carefully. Celebrate the successes of your friends, but don't try to make their success your success. And to award winners who are politely biting their tongue while other try to claim a piece of their pie, never let them dull your sparkle!
You've seen my Twitter and Instagram posts about reading. You may have even seen my 2017 and 2018 reading lists on this blog. But do you know why I read so obsessively? It's not solely for my love of reading and learning (although that definitely plays a role)—it's because there was a point when I couldn't read.
Let's start at the beginning. I grew up with a love of reading, inherited from my mom. She read to us constantly, and I believe that is that foundation for my love of books. I could read before most of my classmates, even though I was the youngest in the class. I was embarrassed when my first grade teacher would make me read to the class for storytime, but also a little proud.
As a child and teen, I always had my nose in a book. I wore out the pages of Anne of Green Gables, and, owned nearly every Babysitters Club book, thanks to my older cousin Abigail who had outgrown them. Nights were often spent reading the Little House on the Prairie series with my mom. Books filled my birthday and Christmas wish lists.
But in my late 20s and early 30s, my eyes were exhausted from working all day on a computer. Of course, I still read, but not with the voracity that had previously consumed me. A book here, a book there. Maybe one a month, but probably less if I'm being honest. I was busy living my best life.
Then came May 2016 when I had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I was in denial about the seriousness of it all for a long time (and sometimes I still am); more realistically, my brain was unable to process that I couldn't do the things I used to do. I was off work for a long time, and didn't understand why. I was unable to write any kind of cohesive sentence, and couldn't focus for more than a few minutes at a time.
Most devastatingly, I couldn't read. Yes, I could see the words and I knew what they meant. But I could not process more than a page at a time. The words would jump around on the page—nothing made sense. And I definitely could not remember what I had read a few paragraphs before so it would take me around five minutes or more to read one page. I don't know if you could even call it reading a page, because I would inevitably forget what I had read within minutes. This was not the brain I was used to. This was not my brain.
My doctor suggested trying books on tape. I tried, but could only listen for around 10 minutes at a time before I would lose all comprehension. Reading, even auditory "reading", was a painstakingly slow process. My ability to read quickly and comprehend easily was something I was so proud of, and I had lost that ability nearly entirely. At one point, the doctors weren't sure I'd ever be able to go back to an office job because they couldn't guarantee that my reading and writing abilities would ever return to where they were prior to the TBI.
After several months of not being allowed to work, I returned to the office. It was a painful process; I was exhausted all of the time. Using your brain, especially when it's broken, depletes so much of your energy. I would get home from work, and go to sleep within an hour or two. But, slowly, it started to get easier. I wasn't transposing words as much as I used to; my newly developed stutter was subsiding. Every day, I was able to process more and more.
I was listening to a lot of podcasts, which were easier for me to comprehend than audiobooks. Then I started listening to more audiobooks and—slowly but surely—my attention span and comprehension increased. Then one day in late 2016, I opened a book a friend had given me to read once I was feeling up to it--Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. It took me awhile to get through it, longer than I was used to. But it awakened something within me. That love of reading that I once had slowly started to return.
Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. I started visiting the library again, checking out a few books at a time, and making my way through them faster than I'd imagined. I decided I would read 25 books in 2017, but I knew I could do better. So I challenged myself to read 50; an ambitious goal, one that I knew I probably wouldn't meet, but one I was excited about. I didn't meet that goal in 2017, and was two books short in 2018. But none of that mattered to me. I was—and am—so damn proud of myself for how far I've come. To go from not being able to read a single page in mid-2016 to reading over 48 books in 2018 is an accomplishment I'll treasure, goals be damned.
I guess that old cliche is true, if you love something, set it free, and if it comes back to you, it's yours to keep. Looks like I'm stuck with books and my love of reading forever, and that's a-okay with me!
Author's Note: All of this is something I've never shared with anyone outside of my immediate family and a few close friends. It's scary to even put it down on paper, because all of the memories—the struggles, the sadness, the frustration—come flooding back; it's a place I hope I never have to return to.
What I've written today is just a small portion of the struggles I experienced with my TBI, and, maybe one day, I'll be ready to share more of the story. But, today, I'm sharing this part with you in the hopes that it helps someone else who is struggling with a TBI or a learning disorder or anything that prevents them from doing what they love. There is hope at the end of the tunnel, and things do get better. It hasn't been any easy road, but it's a road worth taking.
Last year, I set a beautiful word of the year--explore. I had more adventures than I could count in 2018. I explored a lot—the earth, myself, my feelings.
What I didn't know at the time was that this exploration would also have negative connotations. It was a tumultuous year for my family. We loved, we lost, we struggled. In every way you could imagine. But we made it through, because that's what we do—we persist.
So my word for 2019 is hopeful. I'm hopeful that there are better things to come. I hope that 2019 brings us peace, prosperity, joyfulness, and that we continue to be surrounded in love.
Best wishes to you and yours for a beautiful new year!
As you know from last year, I'm a huge book nerd. I love to read. But I also forget how much I've read. So for the second year, I'm keeping track here.
Here's what I've ready in 2018, and I've asterisked my favorites so you can add them to your 2019 reading lists.
January - 4 Books
A Stitch of Time by Lauren Marks
I'm Fine...and other lies by Whitney Cummings
Lucky Charming by Kate Chastain*
Unqualified by Anna Faris
February - 5 Books
I Was Saved By The Bell: Stories of Life, Love, and Dreams That Do Come True by Peter Engel
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo*
The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide by Jenna Fischer
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Behind Closed Doors: A Novel by B.A. Paris*
March - 5 Books
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz*
Pretty Girls: A Novel by Karin Slaughter
Superconsumers: A Simple, Speedy, and Sustainable Path to Superior Growth by Eddie Yoon
I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart with Neil Strauss
April - 4 Books
The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
Scranton Lace by Margot Douaihy
Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work by Piyush Patel*
The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic
May - 3 Books
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
The Party by Robyn Harding
Go Set A Watchman By Harper Lee*
June - 3 Books
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
July - 2 Books
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
Billy Blockade by Stephen King*
August - 4 Books
Believe Me by JP Delaney
I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
September - 7 Books
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish*
So Close to Being the Sh*t Ya'll Don't Even Know by Retta
The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell
Running Against the Tide by Captain Lee*
An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
October - 5 Books
The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed & Lorraine Warren by Gerald Brittle
Map of Days: The Fourth Novel if Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
Final Girls by Riley Sager*
The Merciless by Danielle Vega
November - 2 Books
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Suck It, Wonder Woman! by Olivia Munn
December - 4 Books
I Don't Know Where You Know Me From by Judy Greer
Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler
The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel*
Bond Girl by Erin Duffy
Have your Aladdin lyrics ready? Good. Now sing along with me "A whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew."
Why are we AVraoking a Disney score? Because that sums up my experience at CEDIA Expo 2018. I've been to CEDIA at least eight times—I've done set-up over enough Labor Days for a life time—but this year I saw it differently. Could it be that I wasn't chained to a booth? Probably has a little bit to do with it.
The bigger difference is that I've spent the last 13 months totally immersed in the world of pro AV and resi had fallen to the wayside. Sure, I'd reach the occasional article from Residential Systems, but I wasn't really keeping up with the trends. When Tony asked me to help out with the CEDIA Expo Daily, I said "An all-expenses-paid trip to San Diego? I'll take it." Because, you know, California.
When I arrived at the show, WOW. Just wow. It was truly a whole new world for me. Who are all these security vendors? Why are there mini-houses on the show floor? Exhibitors were getting creative and I loved it.
Making things pretty has always been a part of residential AV. But this year, it seems the show managers and the manufacturers were taking it very seriously. Things were made to be beautiful...AV is bringing sexy back.
The CEDIA Expo staff definitely spent a significant amount of time talking about design thinking. There were several sessions where experts discussed how to unify technology and interior design. There was even a tour specifically geared towards uniting the design and custom integration communities. CEDIA Expo is taking a page from AVIXA's playbook and bringing new people into the fold, and I'm digging it.
Alexa, Create a Smart Home
We're all buzzing about IoT. But I saw it in action on the CEDIA Expo show floor. Design thinking didn't just apply to the way things look—things are being designed to work together. Both exhibits and classrooms were abuzz with discussion on how to flawlessly create a truly connected smarthome (shameless self-promotion: read my article on 5 Things You Need to Know About IoT for the Home). I've never heard the name "Alexa" so much in my life!
I left San Diego thinking, man, residential AV is RAD! Which is a good thing because pro AV is preparing for resimercial. I'm ready for beautiful products that function well together. Are you?
Fun Fact: each and every year in college, I won my sorority’s Princess Procrastination Awards. A test at 10 a.m.? No problem, I’d start studying at 8 a.m. I actually started my 75-page thesis about three days before it was due. Some of you may be surprised by this as I love structure, organization, and planning, but, as I’m writing this a few hours before we go to print on our August issue, I can see how old habits die hard.
Read my full August edit letter here: https://www.avnetwork.com/insights-and-blogs/old-habits-die-hard
Megan A. Dutta