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Integrate 2015 special report: Why Audio Visual is a great option for (the right) IT professionals

 

Audio Visual recruitment specialist, Dave Gallagher is in Melbourne for the Integrate 2015 conference and exhibition. In this post, he talks about day one of the conference and discusses an employment trend that is gathering pace.

 

Melbourne, 25 August 2015

Today was the first day of Integrate 2015 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre. After an early start to catch a flight down from Brisbane, I was excited to see a lot of the great people I’ve dealt with or spoken to over the last two years serving the audio visual industry as a recruiter. There’s also a lot of cool new technology around too!

At the end of day one, I can honestly say it was hugely enjoyable to see so many familiar faces and to make some new contacts, who I hope will become customers and perhaps even friends in the future. But the purpose of my visit isn’t just to ‘drum up business’; more important for me is the cementing of existing relationships and hearing the thoughts of what is pretty much my entire existing and potential customer base within the AV space.

There was a lot of positivity around today, but common themes arose too: it is getting tougher, there’s more competition, and not just from the usual AV suspects. Organisations who traditionally stayed away from AV are now chasing and sometimes winning the work. I think that this is healthy and it will push AV specialists to differentiate themselves, as well as rise to the challenge of offering their clients more.

As specialists in both IT and Audio Visual (AV), we at Morgan are seeing rapid changes in employment opportunities for professionals in both sectors. On one side, convergence – the merging of communications, IT and related technologies – is giving rise to demand for what are traditionally seen as IT skills in AV. On the other, the trend towards cloud-based applications has had a dramatic effect on demand for IT staff, with many roles being shipped offshore or disappearing entirely.

So, while opportunities for IT project managers, installation engineers, commissioning engineers, programmers, testers and support staff have fallen in traditional areas such as banking and finance, government, education and big business, they are growing in the AV sector.

 

The internet of things (IoT)

Traditionally, AV technicians, engineers and other staff were almost always people with a strong interest the field. They may have begun as hobbyists, volunteer show techies or have undertaken courses because of their desire to master the topic and then found employment because of their expertise and commitment. It was all about the sound and visuals and the artistic merit of the end product.

As connectedness increases and the internet of things continues to approach reality, the AV industry is changing. We are seeing a far more integrated approach. Just like at home, where consumers expect to control almost everything via a smart phone app, the professional world of AV is relying on computers and the internet to control everything to do with audio, video, collaboration and communication.

In this environment, where the AV industry needs to attract IT professionals more than ever, convergence doesn’t just refer to the technology. The term is beginning to apply to salaries as well. While AV salaries are not as high as those we are used to seeing in IT, in some cases they have risen in order to attract people who combine a background in IT with an interest or experience in AV. I can also honestly say that some professionals I have dealt with over the last twelve months have taken a drop in salary to get into the industry, such is the attraction of the technology and the developments within the sector right now.

 

A different culture

If you are considering jumping from IT to AV, you need to be prepared for the cultural differences. Employers in the AV sector are often small to medium enterprises (SMEs) rather than large corporates. This is true from the manufacturer level (with the odd massive exception – LG, Samsung, etc.) through to distribution and integration. These smaller companies may be contracted (or even acquired) by larger organisations, businesses or government, but if you have been an IT contractor working for banks or other large institutions, you will need to adjust to a new working environment. In AV, people often pitch in where necessary and there is a less formal division of labour.

The industry is fast paced, and insiders say you must be ‘ready for anything’ at a moment’s notice. The work can be challenging and stressful, but it is also exciting and rewarding. Teamwork is essential and deadlines are generally tight.

You could find yourself working on a multitude of projects, from sound, lighting and vision to webcasting and videoconferencing. The common thread going forward is that all the project managers working in these areas will need to have IT specialist skill sets in their teams – particularly IP networking skills.

 

Upskilling

At the same time as we are seeing people move from traditional IT sectors to AV, others who began their career in AV are retraining so that they can stay in their chosen profession as convergence continues. We are seeing many people take on Cisco CCNA and similar courses as a way of upgrading their skills. The programmers I talk with these days are upskilling from being AMX and Crestron specialists to include other coding in their repertoire. As one experienced programmer put it to me today: “We don’t want to get pushed put by the new blood coming in.” There seems to be a consensus that employers (and end-user clients) expect more.

Whether you are an established IT professional looking to further your career in a new sector or an AV expert who wants to remain employable in a field you love, the effect of convergence is similar. There are great opportunities for those who are willing and able to combine the two sets of complementary skills.

 

 

About the Author

Dave Gallagher is specialist recruiter working in the audio visual, lighting and security sectors across Australia, and occasionally overseas. He works with sales, marketing, technical and senior management professionals, helping them move their careers forward. He serves manufacturers, distributors and resellers/systems integrators, as well as consultants.

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