By Johnnie Sanchez
Go here for Knowledge Sharing Part 1.
Tim Albright recently wrote about getting the most out of Millennials in the office. Professionally, I’ve had the most experience with the music industry and PR. Though my company is a control software firm, we work closely with AV dealers. I remember that two summers ago, I had to be told what “AV” stood for. As a 20-something woman who’s been in the game for such a short amount of time, I have more questions than ever. I reached out to a group of AV professionals just on their way and more seasoned, men and women, to see what they had to say about careers and professional development in the AV industry.
- Do you have a mentor even as a seasoned professional? How exactly did you find a mentor?
Yes, I still have mentors that I rely on. Most smart people want to help others and if you reach out, they’ll help. —Coleen Leith Sterns
At this stage of my career I do not have a mentor and can’t say I have – other than my father (who came up through the ranks to lead a consulting engineering firm). —Brock McGinnis
I have been extremely fortunate to have been brought into this industry by Kelly Perkins who is absolutely my mentor. Kelly was my direct boss during her time at Vaddio so I didn’t have to look far. She was fantastic at getting me excited about the industry and helping me to get involved.—Hailey Klein
I approach life like everyone has something to teach me, and if I’m open to hearing the lessons, I’ll be better off for the experience. I’ve found my most meaningful relationships started without labels and developed into mentorships, because people were willing to give and I was willing to ask. —Dave Labuskes
I did not run an ad in the paper for a mentor, it just happened. I have a few colleagues now that I consider mentors. When someone makes a positive impact on my life, I consider them a mentor. —Christa Bender
Laurie Englert, Cory Schaeffer, Rob Sheeley, Tom Mingo, John Haga, Erik Soderlund, Hailey Klein, Sally Blank, Mike Shinn, Tim Albright, Brock McGinnis, Chris Neto, Dan Newman, Jane Johnson, Karen Kleindl, Dawn/Harry Meade, Chuck Wilson, Josh Srago, Jeff Stoebner, Brian van der Hagen – my entire TEAM at AVI. My biggest advice to someone joining the industry (or any industry) is to latch onto anyone and everyone you can. I learned early on that I don’t know everything. I’m just not afraid to ask the questions. —Kelly Perkins
- What’s your biggest bone to pick with people under or over 34 entering the AV biz? How can they remedy that flaw?
Very young, under 24, tend to have very little business or work experience thus the learning curve and ability to foresee past four hours is more difficult. Being able to ‘see’ even just a couple of weeks ahead is a skill that comes only with time and experience. —Coleen Leith Sterns
As someone that is 34 I sit between the generational shift of the “Millennial.” I seem to have more of a bone to pick with those that are younger than older. Many of the people I have met that are younger have no drive, ambition, or goals. They also have a sense of entitlement that drives me beyond crazy. —Jeremy Caldera
I hear a lot of “millennials have no work ethic” – so my bone to pick would be stop acting like just because a person is “young” they have no work ethic – or “Not the kind of work ethic you had when you were their age.” Maybe they do, they’re just doing it in a way you’re not used to seeing. Maybe their work style is different from yours.
Keep an open mind, if you think the person is performing at a less than satisfactory level, I would just further engage that person. What do they like to do? What are they good at? How can they incorporate that into their day to day job? People like to do what they’re good at and they want to succeed, so how do we engage them and make them excited about what they’re doing? —Hailey Klein
I have no issues with anyone solely because of their age or generation. Millennials – having grown up during the same era as society’s increasing adoption of (and now dependence on) digital technology – are natural “adopters” and “learners”, which is their biggest strength / asset. Their weakness (which, I apologize, is a potentially unfair generalization) is an unwillingness to be ‘small cogs’ doing the ‘small tasks’ every business needs. Many educated millennials want their own projects, their own goals, their own rewards, an understanding of the big picture and most of all to ‘make a difference’. Which, in many of today’s corporate structures, simply isn’t feasible. —Brock McGinnis
That’s a loaded question! Let’s try not to generalize and instead let me say that not sharing some of the values that I’ve peppered in my answers above probably frustrates me. I value hard work, trustworthiness, persistence, creativity, humor, and personal accountability. I remember early in my career (I can actually remember where I was sitting at the time), that I made a conscious decision that there were no shortcuts to success. That it was all on me and I had to make choices to get what I wanted and that I had to constantly evaluate that.
I value hard work, trustworthiness, persistence, creativity, humor, and personal accountability. Early in my career, I made a conscious decision that there would be no shortcuts to success; that it was all on me and I had to make choices to get what I wanted. I’m 53 years old and have been working on my career for over 30 years and I still ask myself, “What do I want to be if I ever grow up? What’s most important to me in the next year?” These questions never go away. —Dave Labuskes
- What are Millennials biggest asset? How do they capitalize on it?
Their desire to change the norm. Change is good. Change helps people and industries evolve. —Christa Bender
As a whole, I would say millennials (like any generation) just bring another viewpoint into the corporate mix. —Kelly Perkins
Have the courage to ask questions and make suggestions. And don’t get your nose out of joint if you’re shot down the first fifteen times. Believe me…as a manager I’d far rather have engaged employees than “drones”. —Brock McGinnis
Millennials’ biggest asset is no fear of the digital world. I also think Millennials are more adaptable than many other age groups. They’ve gone through the recent recession and have come out of it with a strong survival strategy. —Coleen Leith Sterns
Millennials have redefined how to work with other people and how to solve problems. They should build on that and leverage their comfort with instant-access information and anywhere/anytime collaboration (the foundation of AV, by the way). —Dave Labuskes
We are great multitaskers who use all the tools at our disposal (like constantly being on our phone) to work more efficiently. Work doesn’t turn off when we leave for the day because we are on these other outlets all the time. —Hailey Klein
After reading Albright’s story I knew I had to dig deeper into what people in our industry really think of Millennials and what does the industry want from us? It was also imperative to ask people questions about themselves and questions that young people are facing for the first time. No matter who the person is or what their opinion was all of these answers add so much color to this unfolding story.
If and when AV wants new blood, we’ll have to figure out what kind of bait to use. As Kelly Perkins said in a recent LinkedIn post, “I think we have to start looking at the bigger picture to remain relevant. According to, well really anyone you ask, our industry has the biggest generation gap it’s ever seen – and I don’t think it’s because of lack of education. I think it’s because business practices, pricing models, processes, skill-sets and hiring tactics from twenty years ago, don’t necessarily work today.”
Ain’t that the truth though, sister. Unless the power players of the industry want AV to die right along with them, they do need to start thinking about who they’ll pass the torch to.
What do you think? Share your own stories and comments below.
Johnnie Sanchez graduated from Agnes Scott College with a Creative Writing & Literature degree. Her background as a music writer with a love for film got her started writing for Adelyte, which introduced her to the custom industry. She believes that a first-class Friday night consists of watching movies in Lumiere with a glass of Jack and a bucket of buttered popcorn—and that the happiest Saturdays always include record shopping, live concerts, and cowboy boots. Johnnie loves that PR is about connection, and is infatuated with the romance of the written letter. She calls the city of Atlanta home, but can usually be found on Twitter.