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AVIXA's 2020 Young AV Professionals Award: Sean McChesney, CTS

Sean McChesney, CTS, experience technology consultant at Electrosonic, was recently named one of AVIXA's Young AV Professionals of the Year. We sat down with him to hear more of his story.

Read more about all of the 2020 AVIXA Award winners.

Sean McChesney, CTS

Sean McChesney, CTS (Image credit: AVIXA)

AVN: How did you get your start in the pro AV industry?

SEAN MCCHESNEY:  Shortly after graduating high school, I first had a role with PSAV working events throughout southern FL. I worked there throughout college as well, then learned about and was introduced to Electrosonic during my second semester of graduate school. I kept in touch with the hiring managers during the rest of my graduate studies and was fortunate to land an interview the following year. 

Roughly two months after I completed the graduate program at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, I began as an apprentice with Electrosonic in its Burbank, CA headquarters.

I spent a year in the apprenticeship program (now START program) where I cycled through the different departments within the company. I began in shipping and receiving, fabrication, and onsite installation roles. I transitioned through design, engineering and project management with lots of hands on project experience. During my final rotations, I spent time in purchasing, marketing, and concluded with sales. 

Upon completion the apprenticeship,  I joined the sales team as an associate supporting the larger business team. From there I’ve served in a few different roles on my way to the Bay Area and my current role working directly with local clients.

AVN: What do you believe will dominate tech conversations for the next year?

SM: I think a lot of conversation will focus on the role technology plays in making people feel comfortable and what that means for different types of experiences. From board rooms to experience centers, museums to theme parks, there are certain technologies—like surveillance and interconnected systems—that have carried a negative connotation for some time. I think there will be interesting conversations around changing that stigma to help support the guest experience in a post-COVID-19 environment.

AVN: Do you have a mentor in the industry? Tell us a little about him and how he has inspired you?

SM: Bryan Hinckley was my first full-time manager in my professional career at Electrosonic and he taught me a lot about the business side of the experiences we create. Bryan has held many roles at the company and is now its president. I respected the many changes he had throughout his career and aspire to that kind of growth.

Although his focus was on the financial success of our projects, he always kept the guest experience at the center of everything we did. That, of course, includes the experience of the client, but also our internal teams—accounting, project management, engineering, design, etc. He was constantly thinking about how we improve the experience of the whole team, throughout the lifespan of the project. Bryan gave me lots of chances in different roles and pushed me to improve my skillsets across the board.

Bryan always demanded a level of professionalism and attention to detail, but he kept it in perspective with every day life. We help our clients create experiences, but he felt it just as important that we have our own experiences outside of work. I had a personal trip planned a number of years ago when an important client meeting came up last minute, scheduled in the middle of my trip. He made it clear that I’d be supported with work and made sure I went on that trip. That lesson has stuck with me and helps keep me grounded when life is stressful or full of challenges.

Although he’s no longer my direct manager, we make sure to have keep in touch and talk about the state of the industry, our work, or outside hobbies.

AVN: What can the pro AV industry do to attract and retain the next generation of technology professionals?

SM: The educational programs focused on this industry are already much improved, but there’s still a gap between those who need to hire talent and the talent themselves. If companies can build meaningful relationships with local universities and trade programs, I think we’ll be able to find the young professionals with a real passion for what we do, at an earlier point in their education.

Once hired, I think it’s important, where possible, to foster a culture of growth for new employees. An entry-level job is understood, but then what? AV companies need to help build a framework for young professionals that allows them to create an impact will be important now and in the future.

AVN: Where do you see your career heading from here?

SM: It’s impossible to know for sure and, in the current circumstances, I’m happy to remain involved in the industry and having these sorts of conversations. I have enjoyed my involvement with the education-to-workforce transition and helping current students discover what’s possible for them. I see that aspect of my career continuing regardless of where I end up. 

Professionally, I enjoy helping my clients understand how they can leverage technology to enhance their experience—to do that with a larger team and a broader reach of technology would be amazing. I’d like to find ways to make technology more accessible, whether that’s from a knowledge perspective or customer’s budgets.

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Megan A. Dutta is a pro AV industry journalist, and the former content director for Systems Contractor News (SCN) and Digital Signage Magazine, both Future U.S. publications. Dutta previously served as the marketing communications manager at Peerless-AV, where she led the company’s marketing and communications department. Dutta is the recipient of AVIXA's 2017 Young AV Professional Award and Women in Consumer Technology's 2018 Woman to Watch Award. Dutta is co-founder of Women of Digital Signage, an organization designed to provide a pathway to promote networking, mentoring, and personal growth.