Like so many of us, as a young girl, Gina Sansivero was a little unsure of “what she wanted to be when she grew up.” Coming from an Italian family, she knew she loved the language and she knew she enjoyed children, so she went to study at Fordham University.
She started out with a major in secondary education with a focus on Italian education. At the time, the program was brand new and there were some challenges as it was being built. Gina decided to change her focus to elementary education, but it didn’t take her long to realize she didn’t love it.
“I knew I wanted to help people, I knew I wanted to have that connection with people, I knew I wanted to make people feel comfortable in my presence, and I knew I wanted to relate to people,” explained Gina, “I just knew it wasn’t in elementary ed. So I ended up majoring in psychology because I ended up being fascinated with the biological aspect of it all.”
At the age of 20, Gina left Fordham and went back to a local school on Long Island near where she grew up. She commuted to school, worked in marketing at a medical components company and continued with her degree, finally graduating with a Bachelors of Arts in psychology.
“When I finished my degree, the medical device company I was working for asked me to come on full time,” Gina said. “So I went from a part time marketing assistant to full-time marketing coordinator, then into product management, and then into product development. I kept moving up in the company until I felt like I had hit my plateau.”
After six or seven years at the company, Gina wanted a new challenge. She started looking in the marketing field and found a position in marketing at a tech startup called Eele Laboratories, a R&D engineering optics firm.
During that time, Gina’s love for technology and AV began to grow.
“I worked really well with my boss,” she explained, “And he took me under his wing and mentored me and really fostered my love for AV. He knew a lot of people and he just sort of threw you into the mix — but he knew I could handle it. He knew I had to sink or swim, but he gave me just enough support so that I could figure everything out for myself without feeling like I was alone.”
A few years later, in 2007, Eele Laboratories decided to shut down the relamping department of the company. A friend and colleague of Gina’s, Paul, who was at the time the director of engineering for Eele decided to take on the challenge of marking the revamping department its own company because he saw a lot of potential there. He wanted it to be a continuation of what they’d already built. Paul asked Gina to join him and then a year later, made her a partner in the business. Together they morphed it into its own entity with the clients, suppliers, and all the relationships they had built at Eele. That began Gina’s tenure at Relampit and even further fueled her love for AV and her passion for green AV. In fact, in 2008, Gina started a company and forum called Project Green AV to serve as a resource for the AV industry.
Last year, Gina left Relampit to pursue a position as director of business development for education, focusing on higher education and K-12, with FSR Inc. Having spent many years studying education, she loves that many of her passions are coming together now.
“What I love is that since I did have some in-class time as a student teacher back in college, I get to see the differences between then and now,” she explained. “When I was in school, teaching with technology was so new and there was only one course offered. Today, you can’t get your certification without taking a technology in education course. It’s amazing how things have changed.”
Outside of her life in AV, Gina’s family is the most important thing in the world to her — it always has been. She has a son, Christopher Joseph, and a 110-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback / Bull Mastiff mix named Rocco.
“My grandparents came here in the late 1940s from Italy,” Gina said. “My grandfather was a carpenter living in Brooklyn. He had fought in World War II for Italy and, at the time, my grandmother was living here but left, went back to Italy to marry my grandfather, and brought him back here.
“My grandfather then bought an acre of land in the middle of Long Island and built a house in the middle of it. He then divided the land into four different zones… each of the zones were given to my aunts, my uncles and my parents. I literally grew up on a block where my cousins, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and parents were together every day. It was really an amazing way to grow up. You just don’t see that level of support anymore. Having your neighbors be your family was so special.”
Today, Gina, her son Christopher, and their dog Rocco live about three and a half miles up the road from her parents. They still spend a lot of time with family.
“We do all the holidays together and we love to take on projects together,” she said. “This past summer we jarred over 100 jars of tomatoes. Every year in October, we make about 120 gallons of wine… we crush the grapes, we bottle it, everything. Anything that we can do together as a family, we do. We never take it for granted.”
Gina’s passion for her family, AV, and mentoring is evident in so much of what she does. Her advice to newer members of the industry is poignant, “Find a mentor you trust implicitly,” she said. “If I hadn’t found Wayne, my mentor, and hadn’t understood my personality and what was needed to push me into success, I would not be as far into the industry as I am now. I believe his guidance and the ability to read the type of person I am was paramount in helping me succeed.
“So find that mentor, and trust them. Don’t question yourself or them.”