1.Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?
I started in Live Events almost 20 years ago. I spent about 10 years there working for all sorts of big names and holding roles across lighting, sound, video, show-running, and event production. When I had my first daughter, I needed a job with a little more stability. I had always been pretty technical and gravitated to the emerging network-based Production tech (my dad was an IT guy, so I didn’t have much choice), so I moved into IT to start my next journey. In the years I spent in IT, I learned a lot more about networking, systems administration, and planning technology deployments in the enterprise. I parlayed that experience back into AV by joining a smaller shop as a programmer. I went on to be a senior engineering resource for the company as it grew and have spent the last 8 years in progressively more involved roles centered around technology design, research, strategy, and planning for Global Enterprise.
2. What do you think are the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry?
While many of the same challenges our parents faced are still prevalent, I think the harder element for newer people is interoperability. When any device or service can connect to any device or service, anyone supporting these connections will need to have detailed knowledge of everything that they implement. While some will limit their portfolio to keep this lift lower, many will be forced to learn constantly and at lighting pace to accommodate customer demands. This is also, in many ways, a huge boon. These are the same skills that will enable those entering the market today to learn the technologies of tomorrow as they approach at a breakneck speed.
3. What are the positives of working in this industry?
If you love to learn, this is the industry for you. Personally, I get a lot of joy out of banging my head against a wall until it gives, so I love it here. There is also a deep sense of camaraderie since everyone else that stays in this industry has that same grit. We’re a ragtag bunch of people that REALLY don’t like to be told ‘no’ or ‘that’s not possible’, so other people are also always there to help take up that challenge when you can’t quite see the light. Lastly, I love the diversity of the people with which we interact. You may be partnered to install a monitor with a second-day-on-the-job maintenance worker on a Tuesday and do strategic planning with a CEO on a Wednesday. Where else can you get that?
4. What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent?
The largest thing that bothers me is a huge culture of quid-pro-quo that still exists in many pockets. I believe very strongly that there is an outcome that is right for everyone: the dealer, the manufacturer, and the customer. Often, I have seen dealers and manufacturers come to agreements that are more profitable or easier for them by deprioritizing the customer. If anything, I’d like to suggest people put the customer’s well-being first and foremost. The rest will follow.
The other thing (that is getting dramatically better but has a long way to go) is the gender/race disparity in the industry. Obviously we’ve seen this come a long way, but there’s plenty more room to keep making sure we’re not overlooking the talents of the many awesome people in the industry (or that want to be) that aren’t middle-aged white men.
5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you?
I love this question. My ideal client knows one simple thing: it’s an ‘us’, not a ‘you and me’. One of the hardest parts of consulting with someone is working through the natural distrust that people have (often from past experience or just simple caution). The shortest road to a winning team is trust, and I won’t be able to produce results for people that don’t know I have their best interest at heart (often the success of this process hinges around hard-truths and ripped bandaids). That’s an approach that cuts both ways though and I have to be able to trust that my client will do what’s right too. That being said, once you break down those barriers and lead with trust on both sides, that’s a partnership that is stronger and more effective than any other so we can do great things together.
6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently?
I’d start leading with trust day one. That was the hardest lesson to learn and has completely changed the tide of my experiences with customers and all other people. If I had to pick another lesson to start over with, it would be a ‘see something, say something’ philosophy. I had this from an early age but got some bad advice to suppress that urge. People really appreciate that you aren’t just there to swim in your lane and go home. Sometimes spotting something that’s not even your problem can save people millions, but you have to speak up.
7. Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?
I’m all over the map with productivity tools. Not sticking to one is probably the thing that keeps them all from working better. On any given day, I’m looking at Trello for task-tracking. I don’t tend to use it at the ‘project template’ level but have seen many people who do effectively. For punch lists and reporting, nobody that I’ve seen has Procore beat. It’s a great tool to connect boots on the ground with the home office and make sure visibility and accountability stays high (there are other solutions if you’re not as actively new construction based). For project timelines and tasks, Wrike and TeamGantt both have really strong offerings (I tend to prefer TeamGantt). Fantastical is a huge win for organizing my life on a calendar. I copy my calendar events over from work to my personal that I share with my wife when they might impact family time, so having these combine on the calendar saves me precious real-estate. The location search and simple map help me get where I need to be easier. When it comes to getting updates from my team and syncing with customers, Zoom is my constant companion and the only thing I manage to use very consistently. We can use the free chat internally or externally, and the meetings are easy even when people don’t have the client or an account. Pair that with the Virtual Backgrounds without a greenscreen, and I can connect with customers on the go while appearing every bit rooted and professional as usual.
8. How do you stay relevant in this industry?