Commercial Integrator proudly continues its ongoing #AVLivingLegends series, spotlighting Jay Rogina, former CEO and principal of Spinitar (acquired by Solutionz Inc.). This series exists to celebrate the individuals who have shaped today’s commercial AV industry. With more than 35 years of practical experience — including technical design, project management and executive management — Rogina certainly brings a wealth of industry knowledge. In fact, Commercial Integrator recently spotlighted Rogina’s and Jeff Irvin’s leadership at Spinitar.
In this interview, Rogina, now of Rogina Capital Management Group, shares several pearls of wisdom he has learned along the way. Moreover, he provides unique insight into his journey in the AV industry.
Read on to discover more about Jay Rogina and his experience as a true living legend of AV!
And if you’d like to read even more coverage relating to our #AVLivingLegends, check out our hub page, which includes direct links to every living legend!
Commercial Integrator: What motivated you to join the commercial AV industry? What has kept you motivated and engaged in the decades that followed?
Jay Rogina: I fell into the industry in early 1989. At that time, the country was in a deep recession, and I was with a publicly traded company that was having difficulty making ends meet. However, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by an old friend and co-worker from a previous company who got me an interview with American Video Communications, a systems integrator in California. I was unaware that this AV world existed, but immediately fell in love with the technology. Back then, three-gun (red, green and blue) projectors were just making it to market. The control systems available then were York and Crestron, which consisted of programming boxes with relays to turn the technology on/off.
I worked for a few computer technology companies in my early years, and I would have to say they helped shape my love for technology. But being a part of the AV industry really piqued my interest and desire to be a part of something ever-changing and evolving. My experiences in dealing with markets like healthcare, higher education, entertainment, corporate and government allowed every day to be unique. The ability to solve a problem or enhance our client’s ability to promote their products was exciting! Seeing your designs and solutions be a part of everyday life for many was inspiring. To watch TV and see a command-and-control facility being used to manage situations or drive by a facility and say, “I did that” was, and remains, very rewarding.
Since joining this industry, I never had a role that I considered “work.” The industry has attracted and developed so many amazingly brilliant and fun people! The opportunity to work with so many diverse individuals over my career has provided me with a very blessed and fulfilled 35-plus years.
Commercial Integrator: Reflect on your role as both a mentee early in your career and as a mentor later in your career. Who helped shape the trajectory of your professional life, and how have you tried to help shape others’ careers?
Jay Rogina: I must start with my father, Joe, as he developed, pushed and allowed me to have a very strong and committed work ethic. As a child, I didn’t realize it at that time, but he instilled in me the importance of hard work and commitment. From going to church on Sundays and then heading out to spend the day on the ocean fishing (which at the time I absolutely hated), and the daily/weekly chores I had to do before I played with friends to spending holidays visiting family — all of which at the time was painful, but has made me, I believe, a better person today.
I have had the privilege to be a part of this amazing industry, on the systems-integration side, for over 35 years. It has afforded me some unforgettable experiences with creative people. The list of names is endless but think of the early days of bleeding technology displayed yearly at InfoComm via the “Shoot-Out.” To stay current with technology and trying to be a step ahead provided daily challenges for the many people that I continue to look up to. This ranged from the ability to foresee and develop technology, and the incredible sales personnel who sold a bit of black magic, to the team of installers and engineers who made it all work for the client.
In my later years, I found myself recruiting younger individuals into this incredibly rewarding industry. I showed them via site visits and training programs on how to settle into a solid, rewarding and exciting career. No matter their level of education, starting at the entry level of warehousing helped them get an understanding of the number of manufacturers and products it takes to provide our clients an amazing solution. From there, moving into rack assembly taught them how all these products and manufacturers work together. This allowed them to choose a career where their skills and passion excelled in departments such as sales, engineering, programming, project management, etc.
Commercial Integrator: What’s the most memorable story/anecdote of your career in commercial AV?
Jay Rogina: Like many of us, I have too many to count; however, I do have two really important areas I would like to share.
The first was the Reno Bowling Stadium where I saw two highly skilled and talented individuals make a sale that seemed impossible for us to win due to its size. Randy Pagnan and Larry Pell were the two that made magic happen in a “Bowling Alley/Stadium.” They sold vaporware, and with my brilliant technical team, we were able to turn that magic into an amazing event space that has been featured on TV for many years.
The second would be meeting my business partners of 24-plus years, Jeff and Barb Irvin, in 1999 back when Gary Kayye made the introduction. From there, the relationship was off and running. We developed such a strong bond together that even today, we remain close family friends! Like all marriages, our partnership had the usual ups and downs. However, we focused on the ups and worked diligently to ensure our company maintained a culture of family and fun. At the same time, we created career opportunities for our Spinitarians. Today, I am proud to say that Spinitar has provided opportunities for individuals to grow within the company, as well as providing opportunities throughout the industry.
Commercial Integrator: What has been your greatest professional accomplishment to date? What has been your biggest professional regret to date?
Jay Rogina: Fulling my dream of creating a culture of fun, family and partner relationships. Presentation Products, Inc. (dba Spinitar), was a company that focused its daily routine around developing and maintaining fun, world-class customer service and strategic partnerships with our customers, our Spinitarians and our industry partners. We had an amazingly talented group of individuals who made the office a place you enjoyed coming to every day, and where you looked forward to making a difference.
I think my only regret would be not doing more for the industry, especially educating the next generation in an industry that rewards you every day with new people and technologies that blow your mind.
Commercial Integrator: What’s the best advice or pearl of wisdom you either received during your career or came to realize on your own?
Jay Rogina: Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. The return on that investment is priceless!
I also have a quote that I have always lived by: “The difference between playing to win and playing not to lose is the difference between success and mediocrity.”
Would you like to nominate a peer or colleague — or perhaps yourself! — to be featured in this #AVLivingLegends series, just like Jay Rogina was? If so, just email Dan Ferrisi, editor-in-chief of Commercial Integrator, at email@example.com.
If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our digital newsletters!