Published in January 2007

AV: The Next Generation
By Dan Ferrisi

Spotlighting more young industry professionals.

The future of the AV industry seems bright, what with exciting new technological developments and innovative manufacturers, as well as talented systems designers, consultants and integrators delivering effective systems to clients. But who’s going to take the reins in the future? Last month we talked with two young AV practitioners, and offer two more here. Do you know any promising young people we should feature? Send suggestions to

    • Anthony Paoletti, CTS-I, systems engineer/project manager, Anderson Audio Visual, Sacramento, has been involved in the industry for more than a dozen years. In examining the 39-year-old’s career path, one thing becomes clear: Paoletti never let himself get too comfortable in one position or one aspect of the AV trade. Rather, he tried to wear all the different “hats” in order to gain the widest possible perspective. He started out working in a marketing role for his father’s firm, Paoletti Associates. “Probably about three or so years into it, I was caught up in the emerging computer industry and videoconferencing, in particular. From there, I shifted into a more technical role,” he explained.
    His next position was as a classroom technology specialist for Stanford University. “As a consultant, you’re always complaining about the client. Well, here I go and get a job as a client now,” Paoletti laughed. He cited one of his top accomplishments in the role as working to establish a “standardized” user interface (control system) for all of the technology-enhanced classrooms on campus. It allowed the university to create an interactive tutorial website for users to learn how to operate the AV systems at their own pace and for the university to utilize its audiovisual resources much more efficiently.
    His jobs after that ranged from project management-type positions to a stint in systems integration sales. Paoletti explained, “That’s basically how I got my experience: by moving into these new positions and new areas, and having to learn on my own and find my own ways to get the education and the experience.” He explained that he likes working with clients who don’t really know what they need, or don’t know what they want. “I like to go in, glean that preliminary information and help guide the customers to solve the issues they’re facing for the room. In order to speak intelligently on that, I feel as though I need to have worn all the ‘hats.’ I need to know where they’re coming from.”
    Paoletti also tackled the issues of training and mentoring, both of which he thinks are underutilized as methods of strengthening the industry. He mentioned that he was fortunate to have employers who facilitated attending InfoComm International training and certification sessions, which served to strengthen his technical skill set. He commented, “But, unfortunately, I don’t see that a lot from employers these days.”
    He takes a similar stance on mentoring. “I’d like to see companies hire apprentice installers, pay them an entry-level salary and train them. This new installer can then become a lead installer, and the lead installer can become a project manager, and the project manager can become an engineer, and the engineer can become a designer.” He stressed the importance of developing what he termed “career ladders” within an organization.
    Despite the fact that training isn’t where Paoletti wishes it were, he nevertheless has a positive industry outlook. “I think it really does look bright for young AV people, so bright, in fact, that I think anybody who wants to excel in the field can and should,” he said.
    He believes the future will be tied in heavily with IT and computers, which positions PC-savvy young people well. Nevertheless, veteran guidance still is needed. Paoletti concluded, “Where things go will be affected by the old guard. If they’re open and willing to hand that information down, it can only benefit those who represent the future of the AV industry.”

    • Phi Kim Ho, P.Eng., VP (Technology Consulting) of Acumen Consulting Engineers, Burnaby, British Columbia, says his inspiration to enter the audiovisual industry came from within. “Basically, it was my passion for the visual arts in combination with my passion for technology and science. I wanted to get into a field where I could use both in a way that allows you to enjoy the results of your work,” the 33-year-old commented. A mix of university education and hands-on training prepared Ho for the field. He stressed the importance of both, saying, “University gives you a strong foundation, but once you jump into projects, that’s when you really can refine your skill set and apply your knowledge.”
    Ho mentioned that he most enjoys working on strategy. His firm’s model is unique, focusing on equal strength in AV, telecomm and security. Analogously, Ho personally takes a more holistic, solution-based approach to projects. He explains, “The projects I enjoy the most involve meeting larger innovations where it’s not just one building but, rather, an entire organization. I enjoy assessing their technological needs but, even moreso, their operational needs. The enjoyment is in matching those with the technology solution that will help them.”
    Ho offers a unique perspective regarding how to keep employees happy, revealing, “When I was made partner here, one of the tasks I was given was to restructure our firm from the ground up.” He strove to engender an environment facilitating creativity and in which people felt as if there was a great deal of respect for individual contributions. He hastened to add that among the most important priorities is to give employees a sense of ownership in the firm’s success. “Otherwise,” Ho explained, “your staff will have lower job satisfaction and a higher turnover rate.” In his view, that’s not good for the industry.
    Ho commented on AV and IT convergence, arguing that the “worst” effects probably are over. “I would say that, about two or three years ago, when the talk about AV/IT integration really hit the industry, there was a lot of fear. IT departments within organizations were taking over AV responsibilities. Now, that fear largely has subsided. Integrators have adjusted to that, and some of them have taken on IT expertise,” Ho stated. He called the convergence adjustment a major industry change, and added that the next one probably will be related to the changes in MasterFormat.
    He explained that, previously, AV always had been something of a tag-on to any type of construction budget; it generally was the last thing addressed. “The MasterFormat changes are bringing AV to the developer’s front page, to budget for right from the start,” Ho said, adding, “So now, hopefully, we won’t be scrambling for funds here and there to end up with a shoestring-budget AV system. That’s a good step.” Nevertheless, he expects it to take a few more years to move from words to reality.
    Revisiting Ho’s holistic mindset, he commented that industry growth should be considered the top priority. He summed things up neatly, saying, “I’m not going to gain anything by stepping on somebody else to get a bit further in my career. I would rather contribute, in whatever way I can, to the industry and have it grow. Then, my piece of the pie naturally grows with it.” Sentiments like that should ensure this industry’s future prosperity.

Dan Ferrisi is Sound & Communications' Associate Editor.

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