Debbie Sausville has been a staple at InfoComm International for 22 years. She’s made such an impact on the AV industry as a whole, but how often do we get a chance to know more about the woman behind the name?
A graduate of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia with a double major in English and Speech and Drama, Debbie has always had a history of being dedicated and fully invested in whatever she does. At George Mason, she was captain of the forensics team doing individual events all four years. In 1977, her last year on the team, Debbie was ranked third in the United States in persuasive speaking, 14th overall in individual events, and second on the east coast in individual events. She also was a cheerleader and served as captain for a couple of years.
It’s no wonder that Debbie has such a gift for speaking.
After college, Debbie lived in California for 12 years before moving back to Virginia in 1992. Prior to beginning her career at InfoComm, Debbie was a technical information specialist with NASA and worked on the space station. Well, not physically on the space station… she worked on the space station project. She was, after all, living in Fairfax at the time. When NASA decided to move their program office down to Houston, Debbie opted to stay behind and so she began looking elsewhere.
One day Debbie saw an ad in the paper that said, “Don’t take your talents into D.C.” and it was an ad for an opening at this organization called ICIA (now InfoComm) in Fairfax. So, she sent in her resume, interviewed and got the job. She started off as an executive assistant, moved into the education department, and that eventually led her into the sales part of InfoComm as senior account manager selling trainings, memberships, etc.
“I was in on the ground floor when we launched all of our online courses,” said Debbie. “It all started out on CD Rom and then went totally web based years later. That was back in 1997 and I loved being on the team when all of that started. I’ve done everything for InfoComm from editing brochures to writing blurbs in the marketing department and selling the products we’ve been touting.”
Debbie is proud of the work she’s been able to be a part of over the years. Today, Debbie is the Membership Liaison at InfoComm, keeping in touch with the members and problem-solving.
Debbie has had the opportunity to see and be a part of the growth of InfoComm and of the AV industry. “One thing I always say,” said Debbie, “is that the only thing constant at InfoComm is change and that’s been the same for the AV industry. When I started, I had a seven inch screen Macintosh computer. And then plasmas came out and they were a big deal. And now you have these 85″+ 4K displays and everything gets better and better and faster and faster.”
Debbie got her CTS certification in 2005 saying it was no small feat because she’s not a “technical” person by trade. She credits the three-day InfoComm class and her experience in the industry for helping her learn and apply the material.
“When you’re selling install and design classes and basic classes of the AV industry, you have to know the terminology,” explained Debbie. “I’ve learned that AV is one of the most fascinating and morphing industries I’ve ever been involved with. It’s the successes and billions of dollars that go into audiovisual. AV is everywhere and people just don’t realize it. I love having my big toe dipped in the ocean that is technology.”
That says a lot coming from someone who worked on the space station.
Outside of AV, there’s a very passionate and empowered side to Debbie that many may not know about.
Eleven years ago on a cold December night, Debbie’s stepdaughter Lauren died in a drunk driving crash.
“She was the drunk driver,” Debbie recalled. “She had been at an unsupervised party drinking a lot. She was following a guy from the party down a windy, dark road and was trying to keep up with him doing 55 mph in a 35 mph zone. She caught up to him after she crested a hill, over reacted, hit an embankment and smashed into the rear of his car with the roof of hers.”
That is a night that Debbie and her husband will never forget. Shortly after the tragic loss of Lauren, MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving) had sent a WE CARE card to Lauren’s family. Debbie knew that she wanted to get involved in the hopes that another family wouldn’t have to experience the same loss. Debbie contacted MADD, told them about her speaking background and said she wanted to get involved. Today, Debbie speaks at least once a month at local ASAP programs, on victim impact panels, and even travels the world speaking at MADD events.
In addition to her speaking volunteer work for MADD, Debbie is also a volunteer victim advocate.
“Because I work full time, I can’t be a court monitor,” said Debbie. “A few years ago, MADD lost a bunch of funding and lost their paid counselors for their help line which was, and still is, 24/7. MADD has national staff that can take calls during business hours, but volunteers take calls after hours. So, for the last eight years or so, I’ve been taking helpline calls after hours and on weekends.”
Eleven years later, the loss of Lauren is still very real for Debbie and her husband.
One Sunday morning when Debbie was on call, she received a call from a woman who’s daughter had been involved in a drunk driving crash the previous Friday night. The woman on the phone, very distraught, kept saying, “If only she hadn’t gone out that night. If only the drink driver had done this.”
A feeling Debbie herself knows all too well.
“I say a lot of ‘if onlys…,'” said Debbie. “If only Lauren hadn’t drank that night. If only that guy hadn’t brought the beer. If only there’d been a cop in her path. Those are very tough and very sad feelings.”
But being able to volunteer with MADD and work on the helpline helps Debbie to feel like she’s making a difference.
It’s so evident that Debbie’s passion and gift for speaking have served so many around the world in so many ways. From events for MADD to events for the AV industry, Debbie’s impact is felt and noticed. Her thirst for helping and serving others, in addition to her passion for education is one that we can only hope other people take notice of and emulate for years to come.