Among the most curious things in life is the degree to which our destinies are shaped by happenstance—being in the right place at the right time. The start of Leonard Suskin’s career in AV is one such case.
Originally intent on being an engineer in either manufacturing, power, or electronics design, Suskin ended up withdrawing from his studies at The Cooper Union in New York before finishing his degree. Still, he parlayed his experience with electronics into a technical role at the phone company NYNEX, which eventually became Verizon Communications. Then, in 2005, his moment came.
“[Video Corporation of America] had won a big project for Lehman Brothers,” Suskin said. “And this was about a dozen floors of identical conference rooms. And they needed somebody who could get up to speed pretty quickly and could read AV print, and could also work with people, and more specifically, be a site coordinator with the union electricians who were going to be doing the work for VCA and who weren’t AV experts. That’s where it started.”
After the completion of the project, he remained on with VCA as a project manager. “I got more interest in learning more details about how things work,” he said. “And the technical side is what I really loved at that point, so that’s what sent me toward the engineering role.” From VCA, he went to AVI-SPL, first as a project manager, then as a project engineer. However, shortly into this foray, he discovered his affinity for higher-level design. “I really wanted to move on to the consultant side,” he said, “because I thought that the conceptual parts of projects were really interesting.”
Suskin enjoys finding and pursuing new, fun things. When he lived in Manhattan, he used to juggle every day in the park on his lunch breaks. Inspired, he found work at consulting firm Shen Milsom & Wilke as an associate in the AV department, where he served for about three and a half years before moving up to the role of senior consultant. While there, he got to work on projects like boardrooms for the Port Authority of New York in Four World Trade Center—a job that brought him tremendous pride as a New Yorker.
“I see the interesting parts of the job, what we do, is we solve problems for people,” Suskin said of his work in consulting. “We give them the tools to succeed in what they want to do. And it’s very collaborative, and it’s answering the big-picture questions. And for me, that part’s a lot of fun.”
The integration side—“that last mile in getting things to work,” as he put it—is something Suskin enjoys as well. So in 2016, when presented with a position at Whitlock to combine his talents on the conceptual, problem-solving side with some of the nuts and bolts of integration, he jumped at it. It also didn’t hurt that it also afforded him the freedom to work remotely from a home office so he can spend more time around his two young children.
As system designer at Whitlock, he’s working with a lot of corporate clients to figure out their needs and plan technology solutions for them. “I think a big part of the story of our industry—and something I’m glad to be at a place that sees it this way—is to look at it as more than just one room, just one piece of technology,” he said. “It’s about creating an ecosystem for our clients and a unified system for them.”
Beyond his family life at home, Suskin enjoys finding and pursuing new, fun things—he learned to ride a unicycle this past summer—and is a very active writer. His first love is writing short-form fantasy and science fiction, but he also blogs extensively on AV, a pursuit for which he’s widely known among those in the industry. “One thing that I like about what I do outside of my official job at Whitlock is that I feel that—through the blogging and the social media, and stuff like that—I’ve found a voice for myself,” he said. “And I think that it’s important for, and an opportunity for everyone in this industry to find our own voices, and tell parts of that story. What we do as AV professionals, as technology professionals, is about listening, teaching, and having what we have to say.”
See all 2018 Hall of Fame inductees here.