Malissa Dillman found herself fully immersed in the AV industry when she married AV designer Doug Dillman.
“I had two choices: I was either going to learn it [AV] or I was going to be very, very bored,” she said.
Dillman has been working in AV ever since. She now serves as learning experience manager for AV distributor Starin Marketing, where she helps create learning opportunities for the company.
Early in her career, Dillman worked with her husband at his AV company. “I got thrown out in the field learning how to install from the ground up,” she said, adding that she pulled cable, soldered, and climbed ladders—she did it all.
“All of the experience I gained early on helps me with training and education, which I found to be my sweet spot,” she said. “That’s the part I enjoy the most, but I enjoy it because I can relate. I’ve been in the field. I get it. I know what it’s like when things break down on Friday at 4 o’clock. I’ve been there.”
Dillman, who was InfoComm’s first woman to be named Educator of the Year, joined Starin in January 2017 after Starin CEO Bill Mullin reached out to her about the opportunity. “Bill told me that he wanted me to come up with crazy ideas, throw them at the wall, and if they stick, great,” she said. “Let’s wash, rinse, and repeat. And if they don’t, let’s just forget it and move forward. He didn’t want me to be encumbered by a bunch of rules and an old strategy. He wanted new, fresh strategy and gave me a green light to do just about anything I wanted.”
Starin produced one of Dillman’s first ideas for InfoComm 2017, where the company had a photo booth that turned a person’s #AVSelfie into a superhero. “This year’s InfoComm is going to be bigger, better, and more fun than I think anything we’ve done in the past,” she said, being careful not to reveal too much of Starin’s plans. “So I’m super excited.”
Dillman did share that Starin will be announcing a new certification early in 2019. “This is something my students have asked for for many years and I have never been allocated the resources to create it,” she said. “Starin has changed all of that.”
Also in 2019, Starin will be partnering with a canine training group, which trains dogs and offers support to ex-military service members who suffer from PTSD. “Through a fundraising drive and with the generosity of the AV industry, we hope to be able to sponsor a dog that will go to a PTSD military member,” she said.
Dillman describes work in the AV industry as a form of art, because many considerations—customer needs, building architecture, goals, etc.—factor into the installation process. “There’s a lot of art to what we do, so it never gets boring,” she said. “It’s constantly evolving and changing, and you have to stay on top of it and learn on a regular basis.” That constant evolution is what makes it fun, she added.
If Dillman could travel back in time and talk to her younger self, she would encourage her to study electrical engineering. “It’s the one thing I don’t have that I think would have been really valuable,” she said, but added that education is only part of what makes a person successful.
“The biggest thing I teach my daughter is that you have to enjoy what you do. If it doesn’t fulfill you, it doesn’t make you happy, your situation doesn’t make you happy, get out and try again,” she concluded. “That’s the key difference, right? Mondays are always Mondays. It doesn’t matter what you do. But Mondays are way more tolerable when you love what you’re doing.”
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