Widgets Magazine

The Reid Report: Introspection during the COVID-19 pandemic

Astroman AV’s Sean Reid candidly discusses the emotional and financial impact the global lockdown is having on him and his business

I wanted to begin this article on a more uplifting tone, but the words seemed empty. This is a sobering time and despite the protests of a few, it is a time to put the public good ahead and above our own petty animus and wants. As Spock was so fond of saying, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”

As a small business owner with a new enterprise, this shutdown has been particularly crippling. Coupled with my responsibilities as a single father with an asthmatic child, these past 8 to 10 weeks at home with no work have been a true test. For the first part of the pandemic many avenues of relief were closed to me and I spent much of my free time emailing and calling past clients for work, looking for new opportunities, and juggling having a young child home all day.

As the days turned into weeks, weeks into months and the toll became more visceral, eroding at my child’s and my personal safety and welfare, the reality of the future for Astroman AV has become uncertain. I speak to friends, clients, and co-patriots in the AV field, and I hear the same story coast to coast — everyone is just waiting to see what happens. And, that is where I find myself as well, RFQs and proposals just hanging in the wind with no close date. To their credit, some of my loyal clients have tried to ‘find’ work to send me, but that is not what is needed.

I love what I do. I truly I love AV. I enjoy the problem solving, navigating the maze of system design, the 20-sided Rubik’s cube of large-scale design-builds and all the madness and hair pulling that goes along with it. They say if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life, so I am glad to be doing what I love. Now though, I am searching for a path to provide rather than engrossed in the career of my dreams. I am fielding questions from past projects as end users try to save money by DIY’ing their systems or attempting to resurrect some legacy system for distance learning or an Easter service that requires social distancing. Their desperation is a reflection of the anxiety and uncertainty we are all feeling now, while attempting to hash together the pieces of what was into something that it needs to be and questioning if this is what it will forever be.

The current situation in the world has shattered all preconceived notions of our sense of safety. We are more isolated, yet at the same time more interconnected and interdependent. Everyone is seemingly making the best of a difficult situation — using time to connect with family, friends, and catch up with those with whom they have grown distant. Much of that connectivity is via technology. The very tech within our industry has been brought to the forefront of everyday life, allowing students to continue their education, doctors to serve patients, and religious communities to still congregate in safety for worship. Are we, the AV elite not essential in these times? And are we any less deserving of appreciation for enabling said technology; not to mention a growing need for our expertise?

As we all wait to see what the future holds and how our individual careers and businesses will be impacted, we are also anxious. The AV industry is, now more than ever, at the forefront of essential services. From engineers and designers, to technicians and programmers, all of our skills and trades are now or soon will be in increasing demand. Yet it begs the question, how many firms or available professionals will be left when the economy reopens?

I for one plan to hold on for as long as I am able; to continue to grow, learn and hone my craft, despite the uncertainty of what is to come. I have chosen this path and it is too late to walk another. Many of us have been involved in AV from an early age and now well into our adult years. Our assorted menagerie of sci-fi geeks, anime nerds and metal heads who remember fondly tinkering with home stereos and home theater systems, writing code on Commodore and Osbourne computers in between long sessions of D&D; we are survivors if nothing else. We have seen CRT replaced by plasmas and then OLED, standard definition became high definition and then 4K and now 8K. We are the industry that adapts and rises again like the phoenix. I hope we all come out of this stronger and more prosperous than before!

Sean Reid is a consultant and owner of Astroman AV.

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