Spotlight : Peter Kolak, Senior Manager, Conferencing Services(Unified Communications) at Juniper Networks

Every week, I am highlighting some of the incredible people who work for the Audio Video Industry. In this post, we are profiling Peter Kolak . Here is his brief introduction.


Peter Kolak has over 20 years of experience in communication technologies such as videoconferencing, telecommunications, messaging and other emerging technologies.

1. Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?

In 1997 I was hired on as a temp at Turn-Key Operations and eventually hired directly. I knew nothing about videoconferencing or telecommunications, but with the role I was in, I learned a very deep level of telecommunications, communications and audio visual systems. I made my way up to running an “urgent” response team for all things telecom related. Eventually, I left there to go to Blue Shield of California where I took a lead conferencing services support technician role. That’s where I got my first taste of designing and building conference rooms. It’s also the place where I learned creating standards was very hard. Vendors were building identical rooms, but connecting them differently from site to site. I continued working there for 8 years before moving over to Adobe where I was the senior design engineer for Adobe (in the USA). I developed standards and budgets and oversaw large projects involving conference room upgrades. Then, my dream job became available at Juniper, where I would eventually be a global senior manager overseeing a world wide team and responsible for all things AV, from live event support, to conference room design, implementation and support.

2. What do you think are the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry?

The hardest thing for most people is getting the training or experience necessary to get started. There’s no formal degree that equates to an Audio Visual degree. Most tech’s start out with a degree in sound. It’s really difficult to get that experience to get someone interested in hiring you. Most people don’t really understand the variety available in the AV industry. The good news is the industry is very small and some companies struggle with hiring technicians, so overcoming all the above barriers is not as difficult as you would think.

3. What are the positives of working in this industry?

The technology is the most compelling driver for me. The fact that we’re entering an autonomous age, where everything does the work for you is exciting. AV spans so many different levels that you could pick whatever you want to do, from live event support, to design, engineering or tech support. If you get involved in the manufacturing side, you might invent new products or technology to push the world forward in communications.

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4. What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent?

The AV technology is slower to the punch than other technologies. We’re only just now starting to see really exciting advancements in technology for AV. I think there is still some old school thought and techniques that have to die away before we see even more advancement. I’ve met many technology managers and risk taking is low on their priority list and that makes for slow progress.

5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you?

I don’t deal so much with clients. In the perspective of our end users the ideal end users is understanding and as long as you communicate to them, problems are not a big deal. I wish all of my end users understood how failure affects me. I am just as frustrated and disappointed in failure as they are at their meeting or event experiencing issues.

6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently?

Not much. The path I took lead me to where I am now. I don’t have a passion in other areas of work, so following my passion was the right direction.

7. Describe a typical work day for you. What are your daily disciplines?

As the manager of a worldwide team, my day varies constantly. I answer a lot of emails, I work with my project team closely on our worldwide AV refresh. I meet and talk to my support team to ensure all major issues are escalated properly. I will talk with someone on the live event team to see how the support is going as well. I occasionally meet with end users directly to communicate an issue, or clarify a request as well.

8. Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?

Outlook is my number one tool. Followed closely by powerpoint, excel. Technically speaking I use Crestron Toolbox, Polycom SoundStructure software, Shure utility tool.

9. How do you stay relevant in this industry?

I try to keep up on new products. We meet regularly with manufactures such as Teem, Shure, Crestron, and Polycom to help stress our needs and work with them on product development. I also attend lots of tradeshows and events like IT/AV Leadership Summit, InfoComm, Enteprise Connect, The Tide Conference. I am asked occasionally to sit on panel discussions which I enjoy a lot because I try to share my perspective on how conference rooms should be designed and how they should function.

Please connect with him on Linkedin.

Please drop your questions in the comments below and I will make sure that he sees them.


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