The Nine: Elisabeth Kelson, The Technologist

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Name: Elisabeth Kelson
Title: Senior Consultant
Company: Charles M. Salter Associates

Location: San Francisco, CA

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Elisabeth Kelson

Why You Need to Know Her: Equal parts passionate musician and technologist, Kelson offers the prototypical consultant package with a twist—she planned a career in AV from the start. She entered a Master of Arts in Audio Sciences at Johns Hopkins University with a concentration in Acoustics, which she knew would translate into a career in AV. Her course load combined classical music training topped with science classes populated by pre-med students and engineering majors, which presented opportunities to compare and learn across applications.

How She Charted Her Career Path: A career development session for music students highlighted AV consulting as a viable option. “I pretty much always knew that this was what I was going to do—as soon as I realized that this was an industry. It’s a mix of everything that my background was set up to do.”

Where She Got Her Technical Chops: Kelson recorded concerts at her music school, and worked behind a broadcast console as an intern at an NPR affiliate in Southampton, NY. The glamour of the latter location often brought famous people into the studio, but that didn’t stop her from learning how to create a flow of music content for a program.

Product Design: An internship at Definitive Technology gave Kelson hands-on experience with the product side of the business. The tactile work of repairing crossovers with a soldering iron was interspersed with designing frequency curves for subwoofers.

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"The Umpqua Bank SF flagship is a project that I worked on and opened within the last year. This project has a few interesting AV design components, including signage on the storefront which projects video onto glass letters that spell ‘Umpqua Bank’, and motion-activated video walls that are also touch-enabled.”

Guiding Design Principles: Kelson had hands-on experience with troubleshooting in the live environment while serving as assistant audio engineer at the Aspen Music Festival, where she recorded opera, recitals, and orchestral and chamber concerts. Working for classical purists was definitely informative, especially with the drama of live recording. The experience guides one of the main precepts in her design work today: “My desire for making an intuitive system comes in part from recording concerts, because you’re always troubleshooting something and it’s always the worst moment. That’s why I want to make a system that is as simple as possible, and is always reliable.”

How the Past Leads to the Present and Future: As a senior consultant at Charles M. Salter Associates, Kelson enjoys the firm’s connections with a number of tech-savvy clients located in the Bay Area. “They have unique needs and experiences, and the projects present interesting collaborative opportunities. It’s really nice to be located here, where everybody is invested in technology and moving forward.”

Working with great technical minds evokes unique projects, which Kelson appreciates. “I really enjoy working on unique projects, the ones where I get to do something out of the ordinary and challenge conventions. The Umpqua Bank SF flagship is a project that I worked on and opened within the last year. This project has a few interesting AV design components, including signage on the storefront which projects video onto glass letters that spell ‘Umpqua Bank’, and motion-activated video walls that are also touch-enabled.”

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A photo of the Umpqua Bank project.

How Can we Get More People Like Her: “It seems like there is a giant flood of young people who are interested in the technology that is all around us, so we don’t need to necessarily draw people to technology, but rather direct them toward our industry. What comes to mind when people think about AV is not necessarily what actually happens in the industry. They still think about high-school AV carts, but we’re definitely not pushing those around anymore. Our work is about finding the newest, coolest technology for our clients. That’s what we really do. That’s the part that could draw new people to the industry.”

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