Samantha Phenix comes to InfoComm 2022 as chair of the AVIXA board. In 25-plus years she has worked at the intersection of research and design, business development, and corporate leadership especially for display technology at companies including Leyard, Planar, Intel, Dell, and Barco. Her work as consultant and with the Society of Information Display and AVIXA’s Women in AV have all helped her navigate a time when AV is rapidly changing to meet the moment.
How has AV evolved throughout your career?
Samantha Phenix: I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. When I was in university studying for my degree in Computer Science, my focus area was Artificial Intelligence and that’s where I thought my future career would be based. But as it happened, my first job was in computer graphics and that’s how my career continued to evolve. Still AI was always my passion and it’s been interesting to see how Machine Learning and Big Data have bubbled back up and become so relevant over the past few years in AV. The idea that AI can be used to personalize your technology tools and capture data and using it to build for better experiences and expand your social and business networks, that can be scary for some, but personally I love it.
That said, in-person experiences are priceless, and I’m thrilled to be able to do that again. The last two years have been an incredibly painful time with many losses for many people. However, it opened us up to new ways of learning and communicating, doing business and living our lives, and with that comes new expectations from ourselves and from the tools and technology we use every day. I realize not everyone has found that shift easy, but I think we can all agree that there’s no going back. Now that we’re back in-person we have the chance to consider how emerging technology adds to opportunity, not just as an emergency need.
What stands out about your experience working with AVIXA?
SP: Volunteering is something I’ve always found to be very rewarding. In the case of AVIXA it connects me to my community; I’ve had conversations I probably never would have had and built relationships with people I would have never gotten to know. We’ve leaned on each other, especially over these past two years. For me personally, I launched my consulting business at ISE 2020, so I was extremely grateful for the relationships I’ve built through AVIXA. I know that’s not unique to me. I’ve seen how supporting and advocating for each other has made a difference in individual lives, including helping people make it through the last two years.
Can you give an example of the value of AVIXA for AV professionals?
SP: Here’s where the threads of what we’ve been talking about come together—the power of AI and the power of community. That’s what the AVIXA Xchange platform represents. It’s designed to help you personalize your experience; initially you share your interests and as you navigate through the content, it builds on those data points to direct you to new insights and people that align with those things. You can find your community within your community. The more you interact with it, the more personalized it becomes. I have this dream that it eventually plans my InfoComm week for me—visit these booths, attend these education sessions, network with these people. We had this in mind for a long time, but Covid solidified the importance of such a tool and also provided the time and space to work on it. If we have hit the mark, the Xchange will augment and increase the value of the in-person experience. I’m beyond excited about it just in case you hadn’t picked up on that!
Speaking of real world, what are you most excited to experience at InfoComm 2022?
SP: I can’t believe I’m saying this but, for a start, I miss Vegas. I know because of all the lockdowns and the quiet periods there has been a lot of investment in AV, and I can't wait to see it! Then there’s all the people and technology at the show. To be able to stand in a booth and be immersed in large-format displays, to feel tiny again in front of a big, massive display and share that with other people. I’m also expecting to see unprecedented innovation. During this period that people couldn’t go see customers and couldn’t go to trade shows, so some were able to accelerate their development and really dig into areas that they wouldn’t normally have time to investigate.
Certainly it presented obstacles for some, like those who could not get into their factories and labs, but it also allowed for a kind of focus that we always talk about but rarely get to do. For example, I know of at least one manufacturer that is launching a new product line that would have taken three years under the normal cycle. It was developed in 12 months. In no way do I want to discount how tough the pandemic was, with people doing their best to make payroll, struggling to adapt their business model, learning new skill sets and evolving new tools because they had to. The unfortunate downside is there were casualties—businesses and tools that just couldn’t adapt or evolve. But there was also a kind of regrowth and rebirth that happens when people have to take risks. That’s never going to be easy, and I don’t want to be trite about it. But I’m also looking forward to taking a fresh look at everything and seeing the innovation and new growth I know is going to be there.