Many different avenues can lead to a career in AV, as AVIXA™ members old and new clearly demonstrate. Recently, our paths crossed with Johanna Pierson, CTS®, Media Support Specialist at Boston’s Wentworth Institute of Technology. A graduate in French from the University of Maine, Pierson is a perfect example of desire and ambition trumping a tech education when it comes to finding one’s niche in the AV industry.
“I actually have no educational background in AV at all,” says Pierson. “It just started out as a hobby — an interest in computers, technology, and video games. While I was at college, I was a work study student in the media department and became a student manager, and that’s what led me to an interest in higher education and media and technology.”
After she graduated, Pierson applied for and was accepted for a position in the Division of Technology Services at Wentworth, a private technical design and engineering university in Boston with around 4,500 students, where she has worked since 2013.
“We have a very small team here, because we’re not a very large university. The IT and AV offices are the same, we’re all under the Technology Services flag,” she says. “We recently built a large new building with a collaboration space and a bunch of technology labs. It’s very varied work, including classroom technology and end-user support, live events of all kinds, live-streaming meetings and concerts, and so on. Today, for example, I was setting up videoconferencing for someone in architecture; then I was watching some Crestron training webinars to get myself ready for the next certification I’m going to take; I had a meeting with one of the library staff; and I was running around with the facilities people to work on getting some power outlets placed for new installations we’re doing.”
One of the main challenges of her job is the college’s trimester schedule. “We’re here all year long — there’s no summer break, so we have to do our refreshing in very short period of time,” she explains.
As someone who learned the ropes on the job in a constantly busy environment, Pierson wasn’t aware of AVIXA or InfoComm until 2017, when she had the opportunity to attend her first InfoComm show and take the Essentials of AV course. The following year, at InfoComm 2018 in Las Vegas, she took the CTS Prep class and soon after, earned her CTS certification.
“I was aware that I had the experience, but not the vocabulary or connections or a way to tie myself to the larger AV community,” she says. “Attending the shows and taking the classes was such a great experience. I met lots of really interesting people and the teachers were excellent. There was such a community-like feeling and it made me want to dig deeper.
“Taking the classes and networking with the other people there made me feel a lot more confident about my skills and knowledge. It’s completely changed the way I do my job, both literally and metaphorically.”
She admits that prior to those classes, she knew very little theory or AV math, and even less about the industry standards. But now she has not only a thorough knowledge of the practical tools and the science behind their use, but a grounding in a wide range of skills such as project management and design. And she is confident with which math equations to use in different scenarios.
“I have a lot of new practical knowledge about troubleshooting and about how designing an AV space works. It has given me a better relationship with my installation and design vendor, and information about new technologies that I didn’t know about before, that I can now suggest be placed in classrooms. Also, learning about networking has helped me too,” she adds.
Pierson says she has greatly benefited from becoming involved with AVIXA’s Women’s Council and has attended women’s networking events in Boston through one of her instructors, Hope Roth, AVIXA’s 2018 Educator of the Year award winner, who also lives and works in the city.
“I feel like being involved with AVIXA and getting the certification has been a really positive experience. Definitely the Women’s Council has been encouraging, and it’s inspired me to be especially supportive of my work study students and show young women that this is a good place to forge a career.
“For me, being involved in the AV community is such a huge benefit. I’ve gotten recognition from my department and it’s led to me feeling better about my level of knowledge and actively expanding my knowledge. It’s one thing to learn and experience new things, but it’s also really nice to feel good about it; that doesn't always happen.”