AV People: Michelle Miller of Advanced Audio Video Technologies

advancedav4-0813For Michelle Miller, her interest in AV started in high school. The church she attended at the time allowed the senior high youth to run the sound board for services and, although she never had the chance, she always had an interest in learning how to run sound. It wouldn’t be until she was dating her now husband that her love of AV would grow even more.

When Michelle first met Ethan, he was working for a Christian radio station network in the Dallas/Fort Worth area controlling the satellite feeds. “We would go up to the radio station and he would show me how to run the board, how to mix the music, fade in and fade it out just right – and that just got me interested in radio and learning more about sound,” explained Michelle.

After moving to Louisiana, Ethan began working for a local radio station. “I applied for a job at the same radio station and started out on the AM station running the board for the national and local sports programs,” said Michelle. “I then started filling in nights and weekends on the FM station running some of the local and syndicated shows.”

In addition to their full-time jobs, both Ethan and Michelle also work for their church. “Ethan runs sound at our church for all of the services and so I began watching him during the services. A mixing board can look pretty intimidating at first, but once you understand how to run one channel, it’s actually pretty simple. I started out learning how to mix the vocalists. I had a background in music, so I had an idea of how to blend the vocals to make it sound appealing. Later, I began working as the video technician for our church, preparing the songs and sermon notes for the church services.

advancedav5-0813In 2001, Michelle and Ethan had their first son, Cameron. Michelle left her full-time job at the radio station to become a stay-at-home mom and work for their church part-time, running the video projectors for the church services. In 2004, their daughter, Paige, was born.

In 2005, while working for someone else, Ethan began to realize his passion to run his own AV business. He knew he didn’t want to work for someone else the rest of his life. Ethan and Michelle set goals and made plans to make this dream a reality. Michelle’s passion was seeing her husband reach his goal. So, they put into place a plan that by 2008 they would be running their business full time.

“There was a lot of time while he was building the business that we didn’t get to see him very much, but we knew it was important,” explained Michelle. “In 2007, while he was trying to build and run a business AND work a full-time job, Ethan asked for my help running the business. I started out just taking care of the business side of things; learning QuickBooks, entering invoices, creating quotes and tracking expenses.”

advancedav-0813In 2008, Ethan left his full-time job and together they launched Advanced Audio Video Technologies full-time.

As the business grew, Ethan encouraged Michelle to learn more about the AV industry. Ethan began to encourage Michelle to take the InfoComm certification courses and get her CTS

Ethan had taken his CTS exam and passed in 2010. Then, last fall, there was an opportunity where Kramer Electronics was going to be in Houston teaching a CTS preparatory course. Ethan encouraged Michelle to take advantage of the opportunity to take the prep course. After a little hesitation Michelle signed up for the class.

“I was unsure of my abilities at first. I wasn’t sure I really knew enough about the industry to be qualified to take the CTS class or test. I just did all this AV stuff in the background to help and support my husband,” explained Michelle. “I was just doing what I felt like God was calling me to do – and that was help my husband fulfill his dream.”

Once in Houston, Michelle took the CTS preparatory course from Malissa Dillman of Kramer.

advancedav2-0813“As Malissa was teaching,” said Michelle, “I was so surprised at how much I actually knew. I thought, I can do this. I know this! And then as we were sitting there in class, Malissa began encouraging everyone to take the higher certifications as well. She said it was a good follow-up for continuing our education. So, I took the CTS test and I passed and I was just so proud of myself. In fact, I passed with three points higher than my husband. But the truth is, I couldn’t have done that without the help and encouragement from both my husband and Malissa.”

Malissa kept encouraging Michelle to take the CTS-I exam. Michelle had done installs, helped with installs – in fact, when they were launching the business, Michelle and Ethan did everything. So, Michelle began the CTS-I class online, took the exam, and passed.

When Michelle earned her CTS-I in February of this year, there were only two women with CTS certifications in the state of Louisiana – Michelle was the only one with a CTS-I.

But Michelle’s determination didn’t stop there.

advancedav3-0813“Our business has grown exponentially! As our business has grown, so have the services that we offer our customers. Until recently Ethan was primarily responsible for the design work for our customers. Ethan and I realized that our company could benefit greatly from having another person on our staff that was capable of creating AV designs.” With Michelle in the office full-time, helping Ethan with AV designs would ease some of his workload. So, once again, with the encouragement of Ethan and Malissa, Michelle started by taking the AV design level one course this past spring.

At InfoComm in Orlando this year, Michelle took the design level two course.

Michelle is taking design level three in October and plans to take her CTS-D test shortly thereafter.

“We’re already seeing the benefits in our business,” explained Michelle. “I’m able to put what I’ve learned to use. It’s neat to see not only how our business has grown, but how I have grown. You know, there are times where you wonder how you’re going to get all this work done and you just don’t know. But then you look back and you realize what a blessing all of this was. We were able to overcome so much and work through the growing pains — even in a down economy.”

Michelle’s optimism and desire for personal and professional growth is contagious.

And she’s not stopping there — she’s passing that passion down to their children.

“Our children are old enough now where they get to see what we’re doing,” said Michelle. “My daughter has learned to run the computer and go through the slides for songs at our church. Our son is learning about running sound. He has always loved working with his father and me. In fact, the first time my husband paid him to run some cable underneath the church stage because he was the smallest one and could fit under there.”

Michelle’s passions aren’t just in her work for the church and in AV; Michelle also has a passion for philanthropy.

Michelle is an active member of P.E.O. International — a philanthropic education organization for women. It is an organization that supports higher education through grants, scholarships and low interest loans for women to continue their education beyond high school.

“Right now I serve as the VP for our local chapter,” said Michelle. “Through our annual fundraisers we help women locally, statewide, nationally and internationally reach their goals of higher education. This year, our chapter started a named scholarship for the International Peace Scholarship. The IPS is a unique project that PEO offers. This scholarship is offered to women who are from other countries to study in the United States.”

Michelle knows in her heart that education is the foundation for everything. No matter what industry you work in.

“Never stop learning; take advantage of every opportunity,” said Michelle. “When you have an opportunity to talk with someone who is seasoned in the industry, be a sponge. Absorb everything you hear and learn. Never think that you’ve “completely” arrived – because you never really do. Technology changes so quickly. Stay on top of what’s out there. Read trade news. That’s the key to continuing to grow.”

If Michelle’s determination and desire to learn doesn’t set an example for others in our industry, I don’t know what will.

Do you know someone in the industry with an interesting story that should be featured in our monthly column? Email Molly and let her know.