Eventually, we all learn to glean from those who came before us or those who are ahead of us. No matter the industry. No matter the field. No matter the purpose. We can learn only so much on our own, but the help of others, the guidance of a boss or the mentorship of a trusted friend is invaluable.
Alexis Bryant La Broi, an account manager at AVI-SPL and an 18-year AV industry vet is one of those women who have not only been on the receiving end of mentoring, but is on the forefront of mentoring others. But Alexis’ drive and work ethic and love of mentoring didn’t all happen overnight.
Originally from Gary, Indiana, at the age of 14, Alexis headed off to Connecticut to attend a prestigious boarding school called the Hotchkiss School. Alexis was accepted into a program called ABC – or “A Better Chance” – a program that connects minority students with college preparatory boarding schools all over the country. After being accepted, her family encouraged and supported her leaving home to pursue an education at Hotchkiss.
“While I was [at Hotchkiss], I became interested in theater production,” La Broi recalled. “I never knew that theater production what something that I could do until my drama teacher, Joel Brehm, encouraged me. So I got really involved in that.”
A new world and a new interest in technology began to grow within Alexis. After graduating from Hotchkiss, Alexis went on to study at Northwestern University and her love of AV and technology only continued to grow.
“I remember seeing a flyer for Sound and Sight — it was the AV company on campus that provided all the AV services all over the campus… and it was a work study program,” Alexis said. “I didn’t know that it was even a possibility to get paid doing what I do. So, I began that work study job making $6 an hour. I’d set up projectors, film projectors, and I’d even have to converge the 1040Q projectors. That was back in the day.”
During that time, Alexis took the opportunity to soak up as much as she could.
When she graduated from Northwestern with her bachelor’s degree in 1995, she began working with PSAV as a technician at the Renaissance Chicago. She eventually was able to move up and became an assistant director.
In 1998, Alexis left Chicago and moved out to Virginia to become the director at the Hyatt Fair Lakes. In 1999, she moved to the Hyatt in Reston, Virginia. The entire time, Alexis was learning more and more about AV and becoming even more passionate about the potential for what technology can do.
Two weeks after September 11, 2001, Alexis lost her job. So, during Thanksgiving of that year, Alexis took the plunge and moved to Nashville, TN and began working for AVI- Audio Visual Innovations. She continued working in the industry for a few more years, until she decided to leave AV in 2003. She moved back home to Gary, Indiana and sold insurance.
“My grandfather has had an insurance business for 55 years and I so I figured I would try working [in the family business],” said Alexis. “However, I quickly realized that I wasn’t passionate about it at all. It just didn’t make me happy. I was waking up every day unhappy. I would watch my parents go to work each day loving what they did, and I realized I wanted that. I knew that AV was where my happiness was. I wanted to be happy doing what I was doing.
“I always go back to this one quote a former boss of mine always used to tell me and that was, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day.’ And for me, that’s so true. That’s what it’s about for me. You have to love what you do – that’s the moral of the story. You can’t do things because you want to make somebody else happy. You have to do things because you love doing them.
“The feeling I get walking into a hotel ballroom at the beginning of the day and there’s nothing… and then at the end of the day there’s a show – that’s always done something for me. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. I love being able to take the ideas of a customer and turn it into a show.
“It’s corporate theater. That’s what I’ve always loved. I’ve always looked at it as just corporate theater. We’re putting on shows for corporations, associations, events, etc.
“And at the end of the day, if you’re in AV, you’re in the communications business. Our goal is to communicate the ideas of the customer. The management. The stakeholders. The potential buyers. It’s all communications any way you look at it.”
So, after her short stint as an insurance saleswoman, Alexis packed her bags, left Indiana and got back into the industry. In 2008, she moved back to DC to help open the Gaylord National in 2008 with PSAV. Then 2012, Alexis went back to work with AVI-SPL after having worked with them in Nashville in 2001-2002.
“What I love about my job that I do now is that I’m able to attend a lot of industry networking events,” explained Alexis. “I LOVE meeting people [at the events]. It’s always fun for me to hear how someone else got involved in meetings and events and I love talking with them about why I love technology and AV production.
“There’s not enough women doing what we do, so when people ask me they’re always like, ‘You do what? And you’ve been doing this for 18 years? That’s crazy!’ People are always surprised that I’m in this industry and for so long. I love talking about it,” said Alexis. “I just love meeting people. AVI-SPL affords me so many opportunities to go to conferences, meet other people, and business opportunities – not just in the DC, Virginia, and Maryland area – but all over the country.
“I’m able to showcase what I can do and try to reach as many customers and get out as many messages as possible. There’s still not enough women in our industry and we have to have more women who are interested in technology who maybe don’t know about this field.
“I know there are a lot of women out there like me who in high school and college don’t realize that this is something you can do for a career.”
Alexis has taken her passion for AV, and especially her passion for women in the industry, and mentored others. Alexis was given the first Women in AV mentor of the year award at InfoComm in 2012. She’s always looking to help others grow.
“I try to be as open as possible when somebody new comes into this industry. I try to see if there’s anything that I can do to help them,” explained Alexis. “Man, woman, whoever. It doesn’t matter. I’ve always tried to be that way. In the jobs that I’ve had people know that they can call me and get help. They know I can find the answer to whatever it is they need. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it for them.”
As hard as Alexis works at AVI-SPL and in the industry, Alexis loves spending time with her family and at home.
“I am kind of old fashioned,” she chuckled. “I read A LOT. And, something people would NEVER know about me is… I crochet. My grandmothers taught me how to crochet when I was really young. I love when it gets cold enough out and I can pull out the scarves I’ve made.”
Alexis also loves the outdoors — including gardening and exploring Rock Creek Park in DC near where she and her husband Jonathan live.
Alexis also LOVES spending time with her nieces and nephew. Her nieces Sydney (11) and Sophia (6) and nephew Alex (11) come to stay with Alexis and Jonathan every summer for a few weeks.
“I love getting to play mommy for a while and spend time with them. They go to summer camp and they have a great time. Last summer we rode the train from Chicago to DC overnight. It was a great adventure,” she said.
Alexis and her husband Jonathan have been married for six years, but have known each other since the fifth grade. In 2005, they began seeing each other again and the rest is history.
Outside of work and family, Alexis is on a committee for PMPI (Potomac Chapter of Meeting Professionals International) and spends a lot of time doing things for that. She also spends a lot of time doing fundraising for Hotchkiss School. Last year, they organized an event with the Capital Area foodbank, the Hotchkiss Day of Service. Alexis’ goald is to do that a few times a year.
“It’s really important for me to bring other minority students to Hotchkiss – and the way to do that is to raise funds for the endowment,” she explained. “I would totally attribute what I’m doing now to my experience at Hotchkiss. I also have to thank my parents and my family for even letting me go – a lot of people, their parents said no. But my parents had a vision for what they wanted me to do and they supported me the whole way. They still do.”
From the beginning, Alexis has learned from others and made education a priority.
“There’s a couple people who very early on – my managers Craig Powers and Ken Peve – who taught me everything I know. I was 22, 23 years old and I was the only woman on the team. Craig and Ken mentored me and they taught me what I needed to know to be successful and how to be a professional in a working world,” she said. “Those are things I never would have known had they not believed in me. Also, my current mentor, Diana Hagemann, works with me at AVI-SPL.”
Education and mentoring are paramount for Alexis.
“Education comes in a lot of forms,” she explained. “Yes, I have a bachelors and a masters degree. I have a CMP certification. But education comes in a lot of different ways. It comes in the form of a CTS. Or attending an industry event where they’re teaching you something.
“You can’t stay in your bubble and not learn anything. You have to find opportunities to learn. Hear from other people how they solve this problem and that problem and how they achieve the success they did.
“I really would say education is the key to anybody who wants to move up in their field. Anybody who wants to have a new opportunity.”