Spotlight: Samantha Phenix – Entrepreneur | AV Tech Executive | Vice Chair AVIXA
1.Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?
After I graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, I emigrated to the US. My first job was as an applications engineer for a company that made display controllers for Air Traffic Control (ATC), as well as for medical \ diagnostic imaging. Since then my career has continued to be focused on the V side of AV, starting as a developer of hardware and software solutions, and then moving into leadership and strategy roles working in a variety of vertical markets.
2.What do you think are the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry?
For someone new to the industry, I think it can be overwhelming – there are so many sub-disciplines, things are changing constantly and we certainly love our acronyms! On the plus side, there are so many resources available now to help you come up to speed, and then stay up to date. For example, certification courses such as the CTS certification program offered by AVIXA can really help someone get to grips with the basics on the technical side, especially if they don’t have a STEM background.
3.What are the positives of working in this industry?
So many! Being a part of such a dynamic, fast-paced industry and watching it continue to evolve.
And I’m always amazed by the creativity of some of the solutions that are enabled through the use of AV; not just the big, live events where you expect the wow-factor, and all of us have been missing over the last year during the lockdowns, but also everyday activities and workflows.
Just look at how the rapid adoption of collaboration solutions allowed us to continue to stay connected with our teammates, our customers and our loved ones, all over the world, while forced to stay home over the past year.
And last but not least, the people; that’s the thing I treasure the most. I have developed friendships all over the globe that will last a lifetime, and for that I am so grateful.
4.What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent ?
Like any technical field, there is not enough diversity in AV. I’m proud of the work AVIXA has been doing to try and change that, especially over the last year. Just last month we ran a survey to collect baseline data and also announced the launch of the AV Industry Pledge for an Equitable Future – readers can visit this link to learn more.
I believe that true innovation happens when you bring together the broadest range of perspectives you can find. There’s a discomfort that comes from engaging with people who are different from ourselves but that’s when the magic happens.
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5.Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you?
Early in 2020, I launched an independent consulting business focused on serving clients in the AV industry so as you can imagine, that didn’t quite work out how I originally anticipated and I spent the first half of 2020 on volunteer activities. For example, I led the efforts to transform SID’s DisplayWeek and International Symposium from a physical event to 100% virtual.
Last fall, I started to see traction in client work, ranging from one-off engagements such as technical due diligence for an acquisition to ongoing projects such as helping a manufacturer with developing a business plan to move into an adjacent, vertical market. Most recently I was recruited by a local innovation incubator to help commercialize IP developed at local universities, and the first example is Magwire.
At this point, I don’t really have an ideal client – my main goal is to spend my time on work that is interesting and challenging. I am an entrepreneur with a proven talent for matching technology to customer needs, and a passion for building execution teams who get the job done. I believe nothing is impossible, you just need the right people and the right attitude.
6.Describe a typical work day for you. What are your daily disciplines?
I don’t really have a typical day right now…or I do but I hope it’s not reflective of how the latter part of 2021 turns out! That said, I do all the same things I imagine everyone else is doing these days. I stay home most of the time and a lot of my meetings are over <insert your favorite UCC tool>. I think about food and cook, a lot. If the weather is not too horrible, I go hiking with my husky in Forest Park, which is right by my home here in Portland, OR. I’m so looking forward to the time when we can travel and see each other again.
7.Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?
Aside from the obvious (laptop and smart phone), I use social media a lot to stay in touch with what’s going on and the usual productivity apps such as excel, powerpoint, OneNote, etc. Applications such as Slack, WhatsApp, and WeChat help me to stay connected especially since we’re not seeing people in person these days.
And as it turns out, I’m an old-school Franklin Covey fan – I have a paper planner that keeps me on track. I tried to switch to an electronic version but it didn’t work for me, and then I read some research that showed that we use a different part of our brains when we manually write notes versus typing. I have absolutely found that when I write notes on paper, they are retained. When I type them into my laptop, it seems they go in my ears and out my fingers without getting stored on my internal hard-drive! So now I write notes and transcribe them later, either into OneNote or MinimaList (my to-do list app).
8. How do you stay relevant in this industry?
Asking questions whenever you get the chance and lots and lots of reading – everything from industry publications, to blogs like this one, to twitter and LinkedIn feeds. Staying curious is the key!
So many role models and I’m sure I will leave someone out but here goes: Cory Schaefer is possibly the kindest, most supportive, and at the same time, incredibly sharp person in this industry; Chris Neto has been fantastic at building community through the AVintheAM twitter group; Jennifer Davis who inspires me with her extraordinary energy and passion for all things in life; and last but not least, Jon Sidwick who is my big brother on the AVIXA board and showed me the ropes.
Also please drop your questions in the comments below and I will make sure that she sees them.