Spotlight: Joe Way, PhD, CTS – Director, USC Learning Environments ♦ Host, Higher Ed AV ♦ Author, Producing Worship ♦ CoFounder, HETMA ♦ Writer/Speaker

In my biweekly blog series, I am highlighting some of the incredible people who work for the Audio Video Industry. In this post, we are profiling Joe Way. Here is a brief introduction. 

67816948 10161912983810580 5479634402835169280 nJoe Way is Director, USC Learning Environments ♦ Host, Higher Ed AV ♦ Author, Producing Worship ♦ CoFounder, HETMA ♦ Writer/Speaker.

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

Ironically my first job was in the department I now run 25 years later at USC. I enrolled to USC as a recording engineer major, and took on a student worker job running the live productions on campus. Even though I ended up changing my major, I spent my 4 years running sound, lighting, and producing the university’s largest student events and concerts. It was a great learning experience. I spent the next 25 years in many different aspects of the business development side of the entertainment industry from running my own production company, as well as nightclubs and venues. I think like everyone in LA, I’ve worked in TV, film, live events, and just about anything you could get a contract for. In 2011, I transitioned from owning my businesses to TD for two large houses of worship in Orange County, CA, until I moved to higher education in 2016.

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

I actually believe this is a great time for new blood to enter our industry. We’re changing, and that’s a good thing. The focus on “experience” means that we need to think different about how to connect one another through media transmission. And that’s what the next generation does best. The key for their success id working for those who understand and embrace the change ahead. Get training, meet people, and show why this industry is primed for them.

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

There’s no doubt we have the greatest people. I mean, the AV “stuff” is cool, but that’s really just sending signal—or data packets—from point a to point b. It’s the people who make this industry special. Having worked in so many different aspects of the AV/entertainment industry, I can truly say we’re the only ones who show respect to one another and believe in what we do. There is focus on customers and good outcomes, and I think that’s because we work so close to the end users. It makes us extremely connected and concerned with quality, and to do that, we build relationships. It’s something special.

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

That’s simple. Diversity and youth. As I said earlier, we are in a new era. The world is changing and AV is changing. New technologies and focus on experiential AV opens up huge opportunities. If we do not welcome more diversity, women, and youth, we’re doing an injustice to them and the opportunities in front of us. And it’s not just about the numbers; it’s about empowering their voices, and truly listening. This is why I am active in AVIXA’s diversity and women’s councils, and I highly encourage others to be as well.

BT9A8037 3[RELATED] : If you have missed any of my previous interviews, please click here.

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

Well, I am the customer, or better stated: an in-house integrator. I have both customers of my own and am the customer of integrators and manufacturers. So I think the better question is: what do I wish integrators knew before trying to sell me stuff? I wish they knew me and my problems. There’s nothing more annoying than a cold call email that tells me they have the solution to all my problems, but they don’t even know what my problems are. Build a relationship first. Learn about my pain points. Build trust. And if you do those things, I’ll be hunting you down to sell me your solutions.

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

Haha, wow, good question. It’s easy to think I took the long road to the higher ed side of commercial integration. But really, I needed all those experiences in order to have the success I’m having now, and to best serve my university and our students.

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

That’s what I love about higher ed; every day is different. My routine begins with the 5:41am train from Irvine to Union Station in downtown LA, where I check my calendar for the day, prep for important meetings, and return some quick emails. I’ll arrive at the office at by 7:30am, prepare a cup of coffee, and make my rounds with the team. I’m a huge culture and community guy. I love to see how my team are engaging with one another, and I believe if we start the day that way, it makes for a better workplace for everyone. After that, who knows what will happen. It could be high-level administrative meetings for the university, procurement and budget planning, going over designs with my architect team, checking in on the ticket count for the day, or even recording an episode of the Higher Ed Av Podcast. I’ll head out around 4pm to begin the train ride home, finishing up loose end emails along the way. When I’m home, I enjoy editing my podcasts and writing for industry publications.

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

I’m huge on ensuring my team is using proper tools to be productive. We’re big on Zoom, Slack, and Asana. All three of these are key in ensuring we can keep in community while also accomplishing our daily tasks. For gear, my MacBook Pro, iPhone 11, and podcast gear (Shure SM7B and RODEcaster Pro) are the essentials for me getting anything accomplished. Last, is Twitter and LinkedIn. While most people may see those as distraction, I think that stay connected to the rest of our industry is essential to being productive and always seeing the road ahead.

9. How do you stay relevant in this industry?

Like I noted above, connecting with our people. Whether it be interviewing other great higher ed tech managers on my Higher Ed AV Podcast, hosting meetings and events with the Higher Education Technology Managers Alliance (HETMA), attending AVIXA Tech Managers, Diversity Council, or Women’s Council Events, or connecting with other industry pros on social media (mainly Twitter and LinkedIn), we all grow better when we grow together. Likewise, I am a certification whore. I love learning and training. I will sign up for just about every industry webinar from any manufacturer or service provider, and attend every local and national trade show possible, just to be able to listen. We have so many talented people in our industry; all we have to do is slow down enough to listen and learn from one another. I also enjoy my time in giving back to our community; it’s those times I find I learn even more.

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