Around 20 years ago, I secured my first job in AV following a business traineeship and subsequent sales roles at Dun and Bradstreet. I didn’t have a particular interest in Audio Visual and neither did I go specifically go looking for a role in the industry. A recruitment agency offered me the opportunity to apply for an account manager position at Sanyo. I was excited about the projection technology and the chance to work for such a global brand. Unfortunately, I lost out on the role to someone who came from a competitor and who had many years of AV industry experience. Despite this initial setback, I was lucky that Sanyo created a role for me as a Product Specialist. Two further sales roles at Sanyo and four years later, I took a short career break to travel the world and wanted to return to AV. I knew that what I was best at was people, and a role came up in AV recruitment. I immediately knew this was for me! I got to stay in an industry that I’d fallen into and in love with and I got to keep in touch with all my colleagues and customers.
Next came Woopjobs, and as they say, the rest is history!
The reason I’m writing this is that so many people I speak to lots of people who tell me that they “Fell into AV”, but why do we all stay, and what message should we be putting out to the next generation to make the AV industry a career choice as opposed to an “accidental” move?
I spoke to some industry gurus to find out what led them to AV and what has kept them here.
Lucy Baum, who started her AV/UC career at Imago ScanSource and has now started an exciting new chapter at Bluejeans, confirmed that she never imagined a career in this industry.
“I didn’t plan on getting into the AV industry when I was younger. I thought the world of AV sales would be too technical and incongruent with my background in pubs and clubs. I was wrong. Joining a distributor gave me the chance to learn from people who enjoyed what they did and wanted you to succeed. I got to work with so many different accounts. I was/am never bored, and with the industry we’re in, I don’t see that changing with innovations coming out every month.”
Business Development Manager Jordan Deemer from Barco told me that, straight from college, sales was for him. “I was hungry, ambitious and ready to start a career. Like many people living in Basingstoke, working for a distributor was somewhat of an inevitably. However, it was at Exertis where I was first introduced to “AV”, a category I hadn’t previously even heard of. Huge video walls, UHD projectors, interactive displays seemed so cutting edge that suddenly laptops weren’t interesting enough anymore!”
Jordan went on to tell me how the industry has completely evolved to be an integral part of a company’s strategy. As a result, he wanted to specialise further, delving deeper into the Digital Workplace. This was when he moved to Barco; for Jordan, it was a perfect fit to take that next step deeper into AV. Four years on, he hasn’t looked back. Jordan told me, “As accidents go, a career in AV has been a great one. The technology couldn’t be developing faster and working with key customers across EMEA, I couldn’t be closer to it.”
Chris Smith, UK Sales Director at Hypervsn, was working in recruitment when he fell into AV!
“I was asked to visit a company who were looking to use our recruitment services to fill some business development roles they had. They took me through to a meeting room, and on the wall was an Interactive Whiteboard. I had not seen one before; this was when education had started adopting interactivity in the classroom. The guy stood up and began to go through his company presentation, annotating over the top of his slides with extra information. As he was presenting, my mind was going through all of the different ways to use this technology. As he finished his presentation, he clicked a few buttons and sent all information across by email; It blew my mind. I started to ask questions about the technology. Could you use it this way? Can you do this with it? What about if you wanted to do this? At this point, something switched inside me, and he could see it as well; I had just talked myself into my first Audio Visual job.
I have never looked back; I have really enjoyed the past 15+yrs; I would never have pictured back then the experiences and opportunities I have had through working in this industry. No one day is the same; we meet people from all walks of life. You could find yourself working on projects with your favourite brands, favourite sports team. We cross so many different verticals. If someone had told me 25 years ago that I would now be playing around with 3D holographic displays, I would have laughed.”
Shure‘s Carys Green, I’ll quote her exactly here, “I fell into the AV industry entirely by accident having been made redundant from a sales role at a start-up software company in 2005. I asked a friend who worked in recruitment to help me find a new position, and he put me forward for an Account Manager role at AV distribution company Maverick. I didn’t know what AV was, and I didn’t know what a distribution company was. But I instantly loved the buzz and the fast pace of working on a busy sales desk, assisting customers with their orders, and helping to solve problems. The people were friendly and fun to work with; the technology was exciting and innovative.”
Sixteen years later, Carys is still in the industry, having worked for a number of systems integrators; She recently joined Shure, a manufacturer of microphones. “The AV industry is like family to me now. I love the ever-changing technology we sell, the way we all interact with technology not only at work but in retail and leisure continues to evolve and adapt, and it’s exciting that no day, week, month or year are ever the same.”
I went on to ask Carys what she felt was needed to help people find the industry and allow them to pick it rather than stumbling into it! “It would be great to educate young people through school career events, social media and higher education as to the opportunities this industry can offer, allowing people to actively look to enter an AV workplace rather than fall into one as I did!”
Rachael Hamilton of AV Magazine fame, who now runs “IAR“, a dedicated AV consultancy to help AV businesses improve their sales and brand growth, started her career journey by studying broadcast journalism and politics at university. “I hoped to become a foreign correspondent having grown up in Libya. Sadly, I was unable to find a job in broadcast, so I fell into magazine sales back home in Derby. I knew I needed to be in London to get a journalism job, so I applied for an account manager role at AV Magazine in 2007 and got it, thinking if I work closer to their editorial team, I can make the jump, but once in AV, I found my passion for it. A short subtitle in broadcast further reaffirmed my love for AV, and I soon worked my way up the career ladder at AV Magazine. In 2020 having achieved everything I could at AV Magazine, I decided to jump ship and leverage the knowledge, experience, qualifications I acquired and connections I had made to set up my own company IAR.”
I asked Rachael what made her stay in AV. “I’ve spent more than a third of my life in AV! I think that speaks volumes about how I feel about the industry. What you do find in AV, unlike any other industry’s is that once you’re in, you don’t leave. There’s so much passion in everyone you meet, and it makes you feel like you’re part of something special. I spent my entire career working at AV Mag, which is unheard of in publishing. My bosses frequently asked me whether I wanted to progress my career and run multiple magazines across various markets outside of AV, but I always declined; my heart was in AV. I’ve grown up in AV, and I have been extremely fortunate over the years to have people from across the industry take me under their wing to educate me. There is an overwhelming amount of support running across the sector. It’s where my friends are”
Rachael, like many of us, does see a need to encourage younger people into AV.
“No one outside the industry knows what the AV industry is. Most people working in AV cannot define what AV means. We all have different definitions – so how can we expect to attract the next generation into our industry? We have a vast skills shortage which is well known, but there is little being done from businesses to address this – there are a few businesses out there working on this, but they are doing this in silos. The entire industry needs to back this problem to futureproof the industry for all of us working in it. There is a considerable amount of STEM graduates with transferable skills, but they aren’t going to come into AV as there’s no awareness or career paths to bring them through.”
Rachael continued by telling me the four things she believes needs to happen to achieve this.
Our industry boosts people from all backgrounds; however, regardless of what brought them to the industry, they all promote the same reasons for staying. People and technology. The industry is both charming and exciting. Audiovisual technology makes a difference in peoples lives, and that provides a feel-good factor. It’s tangible, and we can see it in everyday life.
So, my question is: if it’s the people and technology that makes this industry great! Then how do we highlight the benefits of our industry to the next generation without waiting for them to fall into it?
Woopjobs would love to know your ideas on what we need to do. So, if you have any thoughts, please email email@example.com. This article will be a two-parter with the next one based on your responses.