Doug and Malissa Dillman have been figures within the AV industry for 30 and 25 years, respectively. They are one of the only — if not the only — AVIXA dual-certified married couples in the industry. Doug earned his CTS-D and then his CTS-I early on in the certifications’ rollouts. Malissa followed a few years later, sitting for the last CTS-D course offered in its original format. It is estimated that Doug was approximately the 12th CTS-D; meanwhile, Malissa was approximately the 28th, and she was only the third woman in the world to gain dual certifications.
The Dillmans have both served on a wide variety of AVIXA (and before that InfoComm) volunteer groups throughout their careers. And they have spent a majority of their careers working together for several integrators and a distributor. It is often thought that the two of them combined make up one whole person!
Accordingly, we at Commercial Integrator celebrate Doug and Malissa Dillman together in this installment of our #AVLivingLegends series. We hope you enjoy it.
And if you’d like to read even more coverage relating to our #AVLivingLegends, like Doug and Melissa Dillman, check out our hub page. It, of course, 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?
Doug Dillman: Throughout high school and college, I worked for an electrical contractor; I was a member of the AV/multimedia club; and my father was a geeky audiophile who loved his AV gear. I went to college for electrical engineering, and, when I finished, I found a job that just fit all those interests. The old adage, “Do something you love, and you won’t have to work a day in your life,” does hold true.
In the almost 40 years since, AV has changed a lot, and it continues to change consistently. If you don’t stay engaged, you will fall behind. But how could you not stay motivated when your job is playing with all of this fun gear?
Malissa Dillman: Getting motivated to join the AV industry was easy: I married into it! I discovered early on that, if I wanted to participate in any conversation with my husband and his friends, I needed to learn a ton of acronyms! Finally, one day, I asked, “What is RGB?” The rest is history.
What keeps me motivated? It’s always the technology. I love to play with the new toys, and I love learning about new tech. I believe you must have a desire for this type of ever-changing technology; otherwise, you will not last in the AV industry. Nothing stays the same. The AV industry evolves, grows and reinvents itself frequently. And that’s part of the fun that feeds the passion.
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?
Doug Dillman: I had a few well-seasoned mentors early in my career, and they were great at showing me tips and tricks for the job. But some of the best came once I started training for my CTS-D and CTS-I certifications. InfoComm (now AVIXA) had some great instructors who loved what they did, and it showed.
I love to watch newer AV workers gain experience and knowledge about our industry. I can use my experiences to help shape their strategies for a successful project. Sometimes, it works to let them approach it their own way and learn on their own what works and what doesn’t. But I don’t let them go too far down the wrong path before pointing it out. Occasionally, even an old dog can learn a new trick with this approach.
Malissa Dillman: Obviously, Doug, as my husband, was my first mentor. But I have been very fortunate to have had several other mentors at various stages of my career. Lorrie Morrow, retired, was one of the first women I got to know who sat in the C-suite and was a female owner of an AV integration company. She taught me so much about how to stand strong and how to survive. I’m happy to say that she continues to be a mentor to me even today. Mario Maltese was a huge mentor to me. And, today, I still have mentors, such as Eric Snider from CTI and Kathleen Blackmon from AVer.
As for shaping others’ careers, I was so fortunate to have a position that allowed me to train thousands of industry folks. There have been many whom I continued to coach and advise throughout their careers. And, today, I am so excited to see many of them thriving and excelling, leveraging ideas and goals that we worked on together. At this past InfoComm, I was extremely proud to see some of my past students picking up the baton and teaching others themselves.
Commercial Integrator: What’s the most memorable story/anecdote of your career in commercial AV?
Doug Dillman: Malissa loves to tell the story of early in our marriage, when she came to work for my company. We took on a church project that looked to be fairly straightforward, but it turned out to be nightmare to run cables in a 200-year-old church built from native lumber that was hard as stone. The job went long, and the two of us spent Thanksgiving finishing the project. The customer was happy, but I still hear about that one 22 years later!
Malissa Dillman: What he fails to mention is that this project was where I learned to climb scaffolding and where I learned the importance of safety chains when mounting large, heavy speakers! In the end, the church members saw that we were still working on Thanksgiving and brought us dinner. Through all of it, this was actually a fun and educational experience!
Commercial Integrator: What has been your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
Doug Dillman: Bringing Malissa into the AV industry and watching her become the rockstar she is now.
Malissa Dillman: The accolades have been great: Top Women in AV…InfoComm Top 100…first woman to be awarded InfoComm Educator of the Year…Hall of Fame. This honor is certainly at the top of the list. However, my greatest professional accomplishment to date has been seeing some of my students who are now teaching others themselves, or who went on to have wildly successful careers. Looking at my career, these are people I am the proudest of!
Commercial Integrator: What has been your biggest professional regret to date?
Doug Dillman: I don’t think I have any professional regrets. Everything I have gone through professionally has made me who I am today.
Malissa Dillman: I agree with Doug. Yes, I have made some mistakes in my career. And some were painful. But I learned, and I grew. All of my career has helped to make me who I am today. Most importantly, I rarely make the same mistake twice.
Commercial Integrator: What’s the best advice or pearl of wisdom you either received during your career or came to realize on your own?
Doug Dillman: Hire your wife!
Malissa Dillman: Early in my career, Mario Maltese taught me that, once I learned and gained knowledge and expertise of something, I owed it to the industry to give it back. Those words resonated with me, and I have done my best to live up to them throughout my career.
Would you like to nominate a peer or colleague — or perhaps yourself! — to be featured in this #AVLivingLegends series, just like Doug and Malissa Dillman were? If so, just email Dan Ferrisi, group editor, commercial and security, Emerald, at email@example.com.
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