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2018 30 Under 35 Profile: Aaron Ard

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Aaron Ard, 35

Aaron Ard
35
Senior director, engineering; Leviton Manufacturing

 

After graduating from Louisiana State University with his degree in electrical engineering, Aaron Ard began his career at Home Automation Inc. (HAI) in New Orleans.

HAI was a major innovator and manufacturer of smart home products such as wall box dimmer switches and related automated items, Aaron explained.

His first impression—and one that holds up in retrospect—was that he was entering the overall electrical industry at an opportune time.

“My impression was a lot of right place, right time in the electrical industry where things were starting to shift and you were starting to see more smart products. It was just when the smart home was becoming mainstream,” Aaron said. “I liked the idea of bringing that type of smart technology directly into lighting, wall switches and dimmers.”

After Aaron had been working there for seven years, Leviton acquired HAI in 2012.

“One of the reasons for the acquisition was that they were trying to get companies that were creating smart solutions and they wanted to bring in development of those product lines,” he explained.

Aaron’s current title at Leviton is senior director of engineering.

“I’m responsible for the engineering and development of our smart home products for the residential market primarily,” he explained. “I’m also responsible, with our team here in New Orleans, for developing all of the cloud and mobile apps for Leviton products regardless if it’s a commercial, residential or industrial product.”

Learning and staying on top of new innovations is the lifeblood of today’s electrical industry, of course. This is especially so for the product lines on which Aaron and his team at Leviton work.

While the exciting innovations make for an inspiring work atmosphere, Aaron and Leviton do have to pump the brakes occasionally on new products and technologies—avoid a too much, too soon scenario.

“There is a discussion about whether people will be ready for it. Even with products we’re developing now, we have to look and see if the market’s going to be ready,” he said. “Are people in the mainstream prepared for it yet? Those are the types of questions we ask ourselves and we really try to look at it from the customer’s point of view when we’re considering new inventions.”

At the same time, there’s the concern about possibly waiting too long to release that new product.

“It’s a moving target. You don’t want to wait until everyone else has already released a product and you don’t want to be too early where customers don’t know they want to adopt the product,” Aaron said.

Aaron was born and raised in Louisiana and after college moved to New Orleans. He and his wife Sondra, a pharmacist, enjoy the New Orleans culture and also like to travel, schedules permitting.

Yet his love for technology, Aaron explained, leads him to researching it even in his free time.

“I really do enjoy technology. This is my passion and even in my off time I’m learning about new advances,” he said. “My whole house is retrofitted with smart Wi-Fi products. And to me that’s a big hobby. I like to tinker with that stuff.”

 

Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?

A. My biggest advice is really to be diligent, work hard and take ownership of things that you’re assigned, or work that you have to do, and own it for good or for bad. That’s a leadership quality that other people see and can respect even if you have to own a problem and you had to work towards a solution and a resolution. So take the good with the bad but just own the problem and take initiative. That kind of goes along with taking ownership.

In the electrical industry the sky’s the limit right now with where technology is going and how this stuff can be put into homes and buildings. So there’s a lot more room for growth here.

The way people in this industry can really advance is to take the initiative and don’t be afraid of trying new things. Not everything’s going to succeed. But, you know, you don’t need everything to succeed. You just need a couple of good ideas.

 

Q. What has changed the most in the industry in the past five years?

A. From my perspective it definitely is the type of technology that we’re putting into the products. We went for probably 100 years with a light switch, right? It was just a mechanical device. You flipped it on or off.

In the last five years we’re putting all this technology into it that you control from your cell phone or voice. So it’s a huge change.

It was pretty steady for a very long time and then suddenly there was this very rapid technology change in the controls. But there are also a lot of changes with those products you are controlling. Obviously LED has been a big change when you talk about lighting.

For years and years we had incandescent bulbs and things like that. And in the last five years, everything is going LED.  Just like the last 112 years, Leviton will be here to help make homes smarter and contractor’s lives easier.

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Joe Nowlan  is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at jcnowlan@msn.com.

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