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Impressive #WomeninAV by Christopher Maione

This blog is not one of my usual technical blogs – instead the focus will be around Women in AV and in particular about an individual who I have known for over 7 years. Yet the blog isn’t really just about HER, or her accomplishments, but rather it is about what she stands for and how she has made an impressive mark on an industry that she literally jumped into and then grew up in.

First, a little background – I am a very demanding and meticulous manager. In every part of my work day, I strive to improve processes, make things better and most importantly – keep clients happy. In my career, I have had over a dozen administrative assistants, but only a handful who have been able to live up to the challenge of riding in my wake.

Working in the ever demanding world of corporate AV is difficult, to say the least. Corporate Fortune 1000 clients are THE most demanding clients in our industry – and make some of the most ridiculous requests with regards to completing projects with absurd schedules. Case in point, I once told a large investment banking client we needed four days to complete an upgrade to a trading floor AV system. The trading floor manager (a sweet lady named Lucy) looked at me and said: “No problem – you can start the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving but you better be done come Monday morning.” She was dead serious. I make this point to stress the fact that this is not an industry for the faint of heart, or those who are easily rattled.

The role of business owner means you get to handle LOTS of stuff. In addition to client / project work, business owners are responsible for accounting, payroll, 401k plans, HR, medical and insurance plans, employees, running the IT department, implementing CAD standards, overseeing engineering – and unclogging the pantry sink – you get the idea. Anyway, in this type of management position, one person cannot successfully be in all these places without a trusted administrative assistant. A truly competent “Number One” (for those who understand the Star Trek reference) is critical to making one manager as effective as three.

So, when my last administrative assistant burst into flames I went in search of a replacement. At the time, a client and friend mentioned she had a friend – who was moving back to Long Island and that had worked in a photographer’s studio as a general office assistant. My friend convinced me to interview her, which I did. Immediately, I saw a talented person with a strong work ethic and a willingness to “give it a try” (she was warned prior to our meeting working with me wasn’t going to be a cakewalk and she was hired on the spot.

Nancy didn’t even know what “AV” was when we met, but she was a fast learner, and she worked diligently beside me as we pursued and managed some of the most prestigious clients and most sought after AV projects in the world. Nancy learned AV. She grew from a glorified secretary to top notch administrative assistant. She helped me manage and oversee all aspects of my duties and responsibilities – project and non project related. She kept pace with me and learned to anticipate my needs and the needs of our clients. Nancy is one of the few that “get it” and she quickly learned the ropes and the ins and outs of the AV world. (Refer to my article on this subject “Do You Get IT?")

I brought her to InfoComm where she established her own place among many much more seasoned colleagues. With regard to clients, Nancy became the “go to” person on all of my accounts and clients were supremely confident that when they called her, she would address and resolve whatever issue had arisen and that she would handle it promptly and professionally. .

Over time, Nancy morphed into a position I coined “Project Coordinator” as she became the air traffic controller for all of the “planes” I had flying in the AV sky. She scheduled, juggled, processed and managed our very busy AV world. Somewhere along the line she picked up enough technical knowledge to understand the fundamentals of AV design, equipment, processes, assembly and installation.

In every way, Nancy exceeded my expectations. She embellished the position and created a niche in which she continued to learn, to grow and to succeed.

Fast forward to the present day. After I moved on to build another business, Nancy also decided to move on and further her career in AV. She took a position as an associate at Cerami & Associates, a well known acoustical & audiovisual consulting firm and considered to be one of the “best” consulting firms in the U.S. (and incidentally run by another great woman).

It took just over a year and a half, but last week, Nancy was promoted to senior associate for Cerami, an honor and a position that she well deserves. In fact, I smiled from ear to ear when I heard the news, and took pride in knowing that I contributed to her growth and in doing so, to the growth of our industry. Somehow, this photographer’s assistant that I took a chance on, and believed in, morphed herself into a valued senior associate at one of the most prestigious AV consulting firms in the nation.

Nancy stands for the fact that with hard work and great determination you can become anything you want to be. She leaped and knew the net would appear because she had confidence in herself and her abilities. I applaud her, and all the women in AV who are making their mark and making this industry better and stronger for being in it.

Nancy – way to go. Congrats on your success and I expect nothing less than it will continue in the future.

To support Women in AV, join them today on LinkedIn at Women in AV and follow them on Twitter @WomeninAV.