No one is immune to COVID-19. This is a defining moment in world history that our kids, their kids, their kids’ kids (and so on) will learn about in grade school for generations to come. Likely, everyone will eventually know someone directly or indirectly affected by this pandemic, either personally or professionally. As you probably know already, we here at THE rAVe Agency lost one of our own last month from COVID-19. Kelly passed away after she was hospitalized for nearly five weeks.
The pandemic has taken many things from many people. Over the past few months, nearly every company in AV, UCC and digital signage has suffered sales declines and job losses. As I said, this is a defining moment — an entire chapter in a world history book.
Earlier this week, three of my favorite AV people lost their jobs at AVIXA, directly due to this pandemic. Amid COVID-19, many are frozen with nothing but bad news and not a clue what to do to make it better. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I want to take a quick moment to thank each of them. I love them all. I know each one is brilliant — and know they will not be on the job market for long.
Twenty years ago, while I was still the chairperson of the (then called ICIA but now known as AVIXA) PETC — professional education and technology committee — former AVIXA President, Randy Lemke, introduced us, in the middle of a PETC committee meeting, to Amanda Collett.
She was literally fresh out of college, and she was going to be our savior. She was going to help make our vision for a revamped CTS educational program a reality. You see, the CTS program has been around for nearly 50 years, but by the mid-1990s, it was mostly forgotten. The PETC, which I was honored to chair for four years, decided we needed an industry certification program. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we decided to bring back the old CTS certification. Randy, a lifelong educator himself, assured us that Mandy could help facilitate it.
What an understatement. Mandy didn’t just facilitate it, she took ownership of it and became a 20-year flagship steward of the program, first under the leadership of Melissa Taggart, and then heading it up herself as the VP of learning. Yes, the hundreds of volunteer instructors at InfoComms, at the Academy and the various AVIXA regional events are the soul to the CTS program, but Mandy became the heart. She became THE evangelist for CTS certification and helped drive all three program levels that now over 14,000 #AVtweeps are certified in. I only had the pleasure of working directly with her for two of her 20 years at the helm of AVIXA Education. However, afterward, she assisted me and coached me through the complexities of getting an abundance of classes CTS-approved — sometimes in less than 48 hours. She always did this with the most positive of attitudes and a wealth of both knowledge and kindness. So, thank you, Mandy. It is not just for what you did for me but also for over 14,000 others.
Before AVIXA, Debbie was at NASA — yep, that NASA. She was a technical specialist for the freakin’ Space Shuttle! Not many people can list that work experience on their resume. NASA prepared her for the next 27 years as she served in nearly every sales capacity you can imagine — directly or indirectly — at AVIXA.
But, mostly, she was a relationship-builder. She really wasn’t a salesperson — she sold AVIXA memberships and services based on building value via relationships. If you had a membership question, Debbie knew the answer. If you wanted to know what something was called inside AVIXA (then ICIA) back in 1994, you asked Debbie. If you couldn’t remember which company exhibited that new lectern at InfoComm 2002, you asked Debbie.
For a while, I served on both the PETC Committee and, eventually, the AVIXA Board, so I worked with Debbie every time I went to the Fairfax, Virginia, headquarters. I knew her life; she knew mine. Eventually, she focused on membership sales, and I was more involved with education, and our paths didn’t intentionally cross. But, there was never a time when I was there when she didn’t find what office I was working in, say hello, ask about my kids, talk about her life and how we were both doing. Debbie was everyone’s friend. I suspect nearly everyone reading this who’s ever called into AVIXA has spoken to Debbie — and she loves to talk — but always knew the right things to say. Debbie, thank you from all of us!
As one of the few people on earth to have his CTS, CTS-I and CTS-D certifications, Scott is one of the best systems designers in the AV market.
He’s a passionate educator — something I saw in him way back in 1988 when I met him at Jack Culp’s company, AV Services. I’ll admit, I was jealous back in 2000 when AVIXA hired him to be a full-time educator — and I think, the first full-time teacher too (all the rest of us were volunteers). I mean, to be paid to do what you love — teaching — is the ultimate job to me. But Scott was hired at the perfect time, and I know he and Mandy worked closely on the CTS objectives and educational programs. Scott spent his InfoComm shows talking 100% of the time — at the front of a classroom teaching thousands of #AVtweeps how to design AV systems, adopt IT in their AV and make sure to do things right the first time. He’s one of the best teachers in AVIXA history, and I want to thank him for taking a chance that teaching AV design would be worth giving up designing it himself for 20+ years.
Thanks for reading my diatribe and, if you need someone awesome at your company (or a recommendation to hire them), look no further.