Each week, I am highlighting on some of the incredible people who are in the Audio Video Industry. As this blog is mostly about AV insiders, today we are profiling Jonathan Brawn .
Here is a brief intro about him.
Jonathan Brawn is a principal of Brawn Consulting, an audiovisual and digital signage consulting, educational development, and marketing firm with national exposure to major manufacturers, distributors, and integrators in the commercial audiovisual and digital signage industries. Jonathan has extensive experience in AV and digital signage systems design and integration, as well as expertise in the development of educational programs. Before joining Brawn Consulting, Jonathan was Director of Technical Services for Visual Appliances and he successfully ran his own design/build group, Brawn & Associates. Jonathan holds CTS certification and is on the senior faculty at InfoComm. He received the InfoComm 2012 Young AV Professional award. Jonathan’s work in industry standards is extensive having sat on the System InfoComm PISCR (Projected Image Contrast Ratio) task group, helping develop the industry ANSI standard for system contrast. He is currently the moderator of DVDSCR creating the contrast ratio standard for direct view displays. Jonathan currently serves on the Board of Advisors for the Digital Signage Expo, and helps create the educational curriculum for the organization. He is a founding director of ISF Commercial, a display calibration certification body, and a co-director of The Digital Signage Experts Group. He provides articles for industry publications including Systems Contractor News, Sound and Video Contractor and The Digital Signage Magazine.
Please drop your questions in the comments below and I will make sure that he sees them.
1. Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?
My journey into the AV industry is quite an interesting story, and one I am pretty proud of. It centers on my father, Alan Brawn. When he was VP of Sales and Marketing at Hughes Aircraft’s projector division (that became part of JVC, evolving through Hughes-JVC Technology and then ultimately a division of JVC Professional Products), he needed to produce a lot of training materials in PowerPoint. Over many years, he had become very active as an instructor at InfoComm, and based a lot of how he sold on teaching customers everything about projectors in general, which helped highlight how his were better. Now… he was a busy guy, with modest computer skills. He didn’t really know PowerPoint, or had the time to learn… so he bribed me into helping him out with creating them. He’d write, and I’d get the slide deck put together… this got me interested in the industry, and I decided to make it my career. Now, at 36, I can legitimately state I have been involved in the AV industry for over 20 years… which is both weird and awesome at the same time! I have gone from my own AV integration company, to a startup display company, to now being co-owner of Brawn Consulting with my father, and it’s been a fun ride! I’m definitely staying put in the AV industry until I keel over dead presenting a class at InfoComm!
2. What do you think is the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry.
One of the big ones is training… there is so much specialized knowledge that someone who wants to be a part of the industry has to have. The CTS program definitely helps, but it can be tough to break into a company with limited experience, in my opinion. A lot of manufacturers want more seasoned staff… so I would definitely look at an integrator who would give additional job training, and probably be more open to younger or less experienced new hires. One problem I used to see, that is definitely on the decline is age bias… being a younger person involved in the industry used to feel like a liability. Today, there are a lot more younger members of the industry, bringing a new energy and creativity that it is a pleasure to see.
3. What are the positives of working in this industry
My favorite is the people… I have had the good fortune, thanks to my father and my own career, to work with some of the best people in the world. We are a true community, and every major tradeshow is like getting together with friends. I also personally really enjoy the cutting edge technologies we get to experience first. I’m a die-hard display guy, and getting to explore the edges of projection and flat panel technologies is really exciting. I also like that we are helping push boundaries of communication, and constantly embracing new concepts and technologies that weren’t traditionally “AV”. I do enjoy the travel, and the diversity of customers I am fortunate enough to get to work with… and the chance to stretch my creativity in coming up with new ways to solve problems.
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4. What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent ?
I don’t think there are a lot of negatives at all! Other than the challenges in breaking into the industry I mentioned before, things are pretty good. One concept I feel we need to work on is the “convergence” of AV and IT. I hear too many people speak about it like something that has yet to happen, or is still happening. It’s time to get over it, and come to grips with the fact that we are already fully converged, and rapidly becoming part of the IT structure of our customers, not a separate AV one. Also, all of our technologies are increasingly IP based… mark my words, in no time at all we will be a bunch of boxes hung entirely on an IP network, and a lot of the specialized interconnection we use now will be obsolete. Time to embrace networking, people!
5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you.
As a consultant that specializes in outsourced services, my company prides itself on delivering more than a full time employee would for our typical monthly consulting fee. We provide design support, application engineering, training, and market intelligence for our clients. What I would say are the qualities of an ideal client… I look for clear and consistent communication, and an escalation plan when we need help solving a customer problem. We become part of the tech support / customer service team at our customers, and need to be educated, supplied with reference materials (and sample equipment) and supported so we can go out and do our best. I also prefer it when a client clearly lets us know their structure internally, and gives us clear policies and procedures to follow. I try to be easy to please!
6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently ?
Honestly? Not a whole lot. I’ve been truly blessed with the career I’ve had, and it’s definitely been a defining part of who I am, and how I have developed as a person over the last 15 years. I don’t really have any major regrets.
7. Describe a typical work day for you. What are your daily disciplines?
Communication, communication, communication. We are basically on-call for our clients, supporting end-users, resellers, and distributors. I basically go through my day answering email and phone questions about products and systems design, conducting remote technical support of software, and providing webinar based training and demonstrations of products. It may sound simple, but it’s exhausting! I have to be responsive to the needs of the customers immediately, as challenging as that can be sometimes. I also have to find time each week to work on creating new training material, researching products, and of course administering my own business while looking for new clients from time to time.
I basically start each day by checking my email immediately, and looking for emergencies. Triage is key for us! I will respond to those and return any voicemails (it feels like a liability being on the West Coast some mornings.. by the time I’m in the office, the East Coast has 4 hours on me!) until my first scheduled meeting… from there, it’s going through the day from conference call to conference call, webinar to webinar. Any breaks are filled in with returning emails or calls. When the folks out east start to shut down, it slows down some, and usually late afternoon I can work on specific projects until I keel over at my desk. Working from my home office does have that perk… if I pass out, no one will panic.
8. Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?
I’m actually very simple, and kind of old school. I do much by hand… and yes, I realize a ton of people reading this are going to laugh themselves silly about it. I rely on my smartphone for so much (I’m an Android guy, love my Samsung phone – S7 Edge, sorry Apple fans!) in terms of staying constantly connected, and being aware of my meeting schedule. I do use Cortana on my PC an awful lot… much more than I ever thought I would, when I got my Surface Book (love that thing!). That’s really helped me speed up interaction and keeping my appointments and reminders straight. I did finally cross into this decade and got a smartwatch recently, a Huawei Smartwatch (catchy name). I swore those off as a gimmick, and have bought (and returned) several before… but this one stuck. It’s nice having all of the notifications and tools right on my wrist. Yes, I know… I’m boring. Sorry!
9. Describe the role that InfoComm has played in shaping your career ?
InfoComm is basically an extension of my family, in a way. I grew up going to InfoComm with my dad, and I have been teaching there for many years. The show feels like home, and helped make the name Brawn well known in the industry as experts and thought leaders. This is something I dedicate my volunteer time to trying to repay, teaching classes and working on standards creation (all of which happens to be a ton of fun, too!). I proudly carry my CTS certification, and will continue to support the organization for as long as I am able to.