Working in commercial AV integration is a calling. The hours are often long, sometimes stretching into weekends and holidays. There are also complicated interpersonal dynamics. AV integrators sometimes bid on consultant-designed projects, meaning there’s another party to work with. Various projects require integrators to collaborate effectively with general contractors, acousticians, electricians, architects and IT professionals. All this, doubtless, adds considerable complexity. And that’s not to mention the systems themselves, which often encompass dozens — if not hundreds — of products, whose output might ride on the corporate IT network or on a discrete AV network. As I say, for those who dedicate themselves to wrangling all this, commercial AV is a calling.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
But being part of our #avtweeps industry family also entails another calling…one that I’ve been thinking a lot about since the NSCA DEI Action Council and CI’s “Amplifying Diverse Voices” webcast. We must propound and effectuate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within our own ranks. Before anyone gets their hackles up, let me be clear: This isn’t a political issue; instead, it involves our industry’s long-term survival and capacity to thrive. For years, we’ve had trouble recruiting talent, not least because so few people outside of commercial AV even know that our space exists. With the assistance of trade associations like NSCA and AVIXA, we’re upping our presence in school curriculum and at job fairs, and we’re rolling out internship/apprenticeship programs. However, a key fact remains: Just as millennials and Gen Zers want to work for environmentally conscious companies, so, too, do they want to work for diverse organizations. If commercial AV firms don’t embrace DEI, many of these young talents won’t join our ranks.
Although DEI has become table stakes to attract younger, more consciousness-raised generations, the business imperative oughtn’t to be foremost in our minds. We should center our thinking about DEI on more human matters. We’ve often heard that people skeptical of LGBTQ+ rights soften their hearts when they discover they have a gay brother or a trans cousin; the reason, we’re told, is humanization. In short, it’s not “an issue” anymore; it’s a flesh-and-blood person about whom they care. Even though commercial AV is still heavily white and male — the most recent data I have indicates that InfoComm attendance is only about 14% female, despite AVIXA’s passionate and ongoing DEI advocacy — we all know dozens of powerhouse women and people of color who propel our industry forward. One need only look at associate editor Amala Reddie’s three-part series (concluding in this issue) spotlighting some of commercial AV’s most formidable females.
Step Out of Your Subjectivity
So, I ask you to engage in an exercise that I, myself, attempt — namely, to depart from one’s own subjectivity and take on another person’s perspective. Step into the shoes of a female AV integrator whose expertise is doubted by a client who seeks out her male counterpart. Occupy the headspace of an AV engineer of color who stands alone as the only nonwhite person in his company. Already, too many outstanding talents have left commercial AV to pursue opportunities in peripheral industries. Let’s make our industry community — our industry family — stronger by leaning into our common humanity and suffusing our companies with a sense of inclusivity and belonging.
It’s not about making our businesses better (although it will); it’s about doing what’s right. And that is the calling of our time.
For previous blogs and articles written by Dan Ferrisi, check out Commercial Integrator’s website archives.