From Ex-Chef to Lead Installer: How Jessica Laski Excels at Southtown Audio Video
Jessica Laski isn’t unique as someone who came to integration as a second career, but she is rare as a female in her position and has proven to be a key player in Southtown Audio Video’s success.
Jessica Laski has always been one to blaze her own trail, whether that meant becoming a chef when her father, Tommy “Tunes” Laski, encouraged her to join him and sister Heather Sidorowicz in the family business, Southtown Audio Video, or becoming a lead installer when she did finally relent about three years ago.
In that time, Southtown has earned recognition as a CI Industry Leader in the higher education and restaurants/ bars vertical, so certainly some of the credit for that award-winning work goes to Laski.
“I have often joked that it is as if Jessica were bred for this position. Coming from a hot kitchen where she was a chef, where she worked weekends and holidays, she understands hard work and never complains,” says Sidorowicz, a CI 40 Under 40 honoree last year.
Married for four years to wife Nicole
Mother of Emma, 1
Avid cyclist who has competed in the annual Ride for Roswell charity event
“Her attitude is second to none, and her ability to work with clients is outstanding — I am not kidding when I tell you they all love her.” Now, let’s go Back Stage to find out more about Jessica Laski and how she went from chef in several Buffalo-area restaurants to one of those who lead the way in the field for Southtown and its commercial division, SAV Pro.
CI: How does someone go from almost 15 years as a chef to pulling cable and installing TVs for a living?
JESSICA LASKI: I was a chef at several restaurants around the Buffalo (N.Y.) area, including Mason’s Grill in Hamburg for three years, Sonoma Grill in Amherst and Chef’s Restaurant, among others. I liked the rush of being super-busy and being able to meet that challenge, but I got sick of working 65 hours a week and decided I wanted something that was 9-5.
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When we were younger, dad always talked about his work, and I thought I could do it. Heather gave me a trial run when I was at Mason’s and I really liked doing it and was pretty good at it.
CI: How do you compare the life of a chef and the life of an AV installer?
JL: The best part (about being an integrator) is it’s something different every day. You can go from one day installing a control system and man cave in someone’s house to the next day putting in 15 conference rooms at the University of Buffalo.
My dream was to own a restaurant, but I saw the stress that came with that and decided it was time to do something different.
CI: How did you prepare yourself for excelling in the male-dominated professional AV world?
JL: When I first started, I’d get a lot of looks from people and questions. They wondered about this girl who knew about technology, and some weren’t quite sure about it. Now, they don’t think twice about it, because I’ve shown I know what I’m doing.
Being a chef as a female, I’m pretty used to being in male-dominated worlds so that was never really a problem for me. Since I came to Southtown, I’ve joked with my sister about buying half of the company, but I don’t think that’s happening any time soon.