In January 2007, Dan Ferrisi, editor-in-chief of Commercial Integrator, interviewed a young Anthony Paoletti for an article in Sound & Communications, spotlighting successful young AV pros. Now, 17 years later, Paoletti, who has earned CTS-I and CTS-D credentials, and who is senior sales engineer at One Workplace, officially joins the ranks of the #AVLivingLegends.
Commercial Integrator’s #AVLivingLegends series exists to celebrate the women and men whose lives and careers have shaped our industry. This ongoing series is a way of sharing their reminiscences, anecdotes, achievements and words of wisdom.
In this interview, Paoletti reflects on his challenging yet rewarding journey in the AV industry.
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?
Anthony Paoletti: This one’s easy! I was literally born into the industry. My father, Dennis Paoletti (who is still consulting), started his own acoustical consulting business with Joel Lewitz when Bolt Beranek & Newman (BBN) decided to close up shop in San Francisco in the late 1970s. My father added audiovisual consulting to the practice when display devices were racks of 35mm carousel slide projectors in the back of an auditorium. I have vivid memories throughout my childhood of tagging along on numerous site walks in different cities and being excited to pop balloons on sound system checkouts. I officially started working for my father in 1990 as a marketing coordinator at Paoletti Associates, upon graduating college. After spending a few years in marketing, I eventually moved into a more technical role, focused on video teleconferencing.
After working for my father for a total of seven years, we both decided it was time for me to get some other industry experience. From consulting, I took an end-user role as a classroom technology specialist at Stanford University. While I was working at Stanford, I decided AV was the industry I wanted to stay in. After working at Stanford, I took a project management job at Minnesota Western (just before the MCSi buyout) where I settled into the world of AV integration.
Working in an Everlasting Industry
Once I landed in AV integration, I never looked back. I spent the following 20-plus years honing my project management, installation and design-engineering skills. This past year, I decided to make the jump from engineering/operations to sales. All of a sudden, AV is a whole new industry, and I’m excited to experience it from a new and different perspective!
What keeps me motivated is my love for technology and the AV industry as well as a desire to carry on the Paoletti legacy. Working in the audiovisual industry never gets old! There’s always some new, cutting-edge technology or device that comes out and wows everyone or revolutionizes a way of doing business. These days, I feel more like I’m working in science fiction than AV.
I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with several medical and healthcare organizations over the past 10 years and have had the opportunity to see that AV actually can save lives and can help people feel better. The same holds true for education. Technology can be a major factor in the quality of education and access to information. I love that we have the ability to influence and shape that. I’m always proud to tell people how our AV industry it’s a mix of highly creative, crazy-smart, super-intelligent even polar-opposite individuals. [It is a mix of] lab coat-wearing scientists and engineers working side-by-side with pony-tail clad, musicians, sound guys (and roadies) to make amazing things come to life.
So many of us have grown up with this industry and not just in it! We’ve worked together for companies that don’t exist anymore, we’ve worked with each other as long as we’ve been employed, and some are even getting the opportunity to work alongside their kids.
CI: 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?
Anthony Paoletti: Our industry is full of mentors and role models, however there are three that stand out in my career: My father has always been my greatest mentor and role model, both in life and in business (and still is!). I’ve had a unique insight of working alongside him as an employee and as a son, and have learned a lot from both experiences.
Trying to find my way in this industry, Shedan Maghzi provided guidance in many of my career decisions. Shedan is always willing to stop what he’s doing and share his experience and his insight.
As a design engineer, Michael Neal always stressed the importance of designing audiovisual systems the right way. Michael was determined to make sure I always understood the science and formulas behind successful audiovisual designs.
Because mentors and role models played such an important part in my career journey, I always try to return the favor. It’s important to me that clients and non-technical colleagues are comfortable with technology and can view it as a valuable tool instead of something to be afraid of. Our industry also needs to make sure younger generations know there is an audiovisual/workplace technology career path and that there are venues for them to pursue it. Hint: I’m still waiting for that AV/Workplace Technology collegiate degree!
CI: What’s the most memorable story/anecdote of your career in commercial AV?
Anthony Paoletti: Some of my best memories have to do with all the cool places I’ve gotten access to over the years working on various projects. I remember my father getting us into the San Francisco Opera House and Davies Symphony Hall through the Stage Door entrances. I’ve worked on an Air Force base where I watched U-2 spy planes take off and land during my lunch break. I’ve also flown in a private plane to Vandenberg Air Force Base to work on monitors and displays in one of the launch control rooms. One time, I was in a live patient operating room while procedures were taking place.
Besides these, I’ve been escorted on projects by armed guards with automatic weapons. I also worked at numerous professional and semi-professional sporting events, and even got to do a project in Hawaii for a two-month stretch.
CI: What has been your greatest professional accomplishment to date? What has been your biggest professional regret to date?
Anthony Paoletti: Obtaining my dual CTS certification from AVIXA is my greatest [personal] professional accomplishment to date. Working at my father’s company, I always had the imposter syndrome and the syndrome of being the boss’ son. I took my CTS-I exam before it was ANSI certified, when the exam was a full, eight-hour, in-person, hands-on event that consisted of having to terminate various cable types and connectors (using clear heat shrink), building an equipment rack from a set of drawings, a 100-question multiple-choice exam, and a personal interview by a board of 3 industry professionals. There was no way I could fake it or have someone else “put in a good word” for me. I had to actually complete the physical, hands-on tasks myself, and do them well!
I’ve always had one philosophy: You don’t need to know how to design an audiovisual system in order to install it, but you surely should know how to install an audiovisual system before you try to design one! I wanted the CTS-I certification to be a step on my journey to obtain the ultimate goal of my CTS-D certification. In June of this year, I passed the CTS-D exam after failing it my first time around in 2018 and obtained my dual CTS certification from AVIXA.
I think my biggest professional regret is not taking on the family business. When I graduated college, I don’t think that my father or I ever pictured me working in the AV industry. That being said, passing down the family business never came up in discussion. Working with my father is what excited me about this industry and convinced me that AV was the industry where I wanted to make my career.
Looking back over the last 30-plus years, I think it would have been cool to keep the Paoletti “name” alive and be able to hand the business down to my son or daughter, Just like me, though, my children are currently out pursuing their own dreams — my daughter is getting married in May of 2024 and my son is currently on tour pursuing a successful music career!
CI: What’s the best advice or pearl of wisdom you either received during your career or came to realize on your own?
Anthony Paoletti: While I was still working for my father, John Whitcomb told me the Aristotle quote: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” I didn’t know the quote was from Aristotle then, and I thought it was a funny thing to say at the time; however, it stuck with me. As a designer and an account manager, I want people to feel comfortable with their design and technology decisions. This “tryptic” helps me remember to make sure my clients understand and are comfortable with the designs and solutions I propose.
Would you also like to nominate a peer or colleague — or perhaps yourself! — to be featured in this #AVLivingLegends series, just like Anthony Paoletti was? If so, just email Dan Ferrisi, editor-in-chief of Commercial Integrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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