Miriam Evaslin found her degree in psychology to be helpful in selling to engineers.In the beginning, she was simply known around the industry as Miriam. Now, her name is an institution.
Back in the late-1960s, Miriam Evaslin left a master’s degree business program at Rutgers for a part-time job with a sound and communications contractor, starting as a secretary and graduating to estimator. The move paved the way for an illustrious career that keeps on giving.
Today, as controller for Pro-Tec Electronics (as well as for Pro-Tec Solutions, and parent company, Ochs Service) she is known as a pioneer for women in the industry and a longtime dedicated industry volunteer.
“In 1972, I went to work in sales for Central Jersey Sound which specialized in school systems,” she said. “Systems for schools were evolving from the old speaker and mic solution, and that was very intriguing to me. I was an estimator, and the boss put me into sales and I gave that a whirl. Our customers included Rauland-Borg, and we sold them all over New Jersey.”
When that business was sold, Miriam was quickly picked up by another, working in sales and writing specs. “I was the only woman I saw in the industry at that time, and everyone called me by my first name,” she said. “A vice president at a Rauland-Borg seminar in Chicago opened the meeting by addressing us as ‘Lady and Gentlemen.’
She was bidding to schools and selling specs to consulting engineers but it was a difficult sell. “Women just weren’t doing this in the 1970s,” she said. “My undergraduate psychology degree from the University of Florida helped me to sell to the engineers; I let a few of the older ones think it was all based on their knowledge. It was a game I played well.”
At a restaurant trade show in the Meadowlands, Miriam bumped into a competitor, Gary Evaslin, who was handling the Rauland-Borg account at his uncle’s company, Ochs Service. Should she ever want to work for them, just let him know, he told her. Three months later, she was ready.
Evaslin, here with fellow NSCA pioneer Per Haugen, has played a big role with the association from its inception.“The best thing you can to do to get rid of a competition is to marry him,” she said, “and I did that in 1989.”
Gary Evaslin is now Ochs Service president. The company’s scope has widened to include drive-through communication systems, surveillance, and business networking, but Miriam still finds time to volunteer, especially for NSCA, where she became the first woman on the board.
“NSCA was always a love of mine,” she said. “Ochs and Pro-Tec Electronics have been members since the inception. Years ago, when I went to the electrical trade shows, few people knew about our industry, so NSCA was a home for us. At our first show in Vegas we had only a couple of tables.”
Her tough and relentless Jersey attitude has driven her to accomplish exactly what she set out to do, said NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson. “I spent many years serving on the various NSCA boards and councils with Miriam. She is just an incredible person; kind and generous, filled with compassion for others. Miriam was one of the three or four women you would see at every NSCA Expo in the early years and she was quite instrumental in encouraging other women to get involved. Her legacy will always include being a role model for women in this industry so they know that they can pursue any career path they choose. Our industry benefited greatly from her countless hours of volunteer time.”
Modesty is another trait. “I guess I was one of the first women’s libbers, and it’s nice to see all the women in the industry now,” she said. “I was fortunate from the time I was 23 years old to be part of this industry. People always tell me I’ve got a great job and can come into the office and go home as I please. But I worked really hard for it.”
Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer living in Boulder, CO.