In her role as Business Development Manager at Mad Systems and advisory board member of Women of Digital Signage, Brandy Alvarado places great value on forming connections, encouraging mentorship, and promoting education and certification. For women in the AV industry, she believes, those core values are vital and can truly open the path to growth in their careers.
Three years ago, Alvarado, the chair of AVIXA’s Women’s Council, co-founded the first local AVIXA Women’s Council group, in Southern California, with Cory Schaeffer of QSC. Their primary aim was to provide quarterly networking opportunities to supplement the annual AVIXA Women’s Council meeting at InfoComm. The positive energy and enthusiasm of the SoCal group convinced her that more frequent meetings and the establishment of local groups was not only welcomed but could ultimately result in a more powerful voice for women in the AV industry. The two women have led the march to expand the Women’s Council via a network of local groups, to fulfill a mission of providing more opportunities and support for women in the global AV community.
“Cory and I started the Southern California group on a whim. We knew each other through our work and felt that the mentor/mentee relationship we had could be expanded to a wider group within our area, so we coordinated a first meeting and it quickly spiraled from there,” says Alvarado. “We’ve since spearheaded the formation of what is now more than 37 women’s networking groups.”
Alvarado assumed the role of chair of the AVIXA Women’s Council at the beginning of 2019, after Draper’s Penny Sitler completed her term as the council’s first chair. Although she describes herself as a relative newcomer to the AV industry — coming from the insurance field, she spent five years at rp Visual Solutions and recently joined AV systems design and integration firm Mad Systems — she has become passionate about the issues that face women in what has been a traditionally male-dominated industry.
“I benefited so much from having a female mentor when I started in the AV industry,” she says. “When we formed the SoCal Women in AV group, Cory was very much my mentor. I’ve learned an enormous amount from her and she helped me solidify my career and affirm that this is the industry I want to be in. Part of what we’re launching this year with the Women’s Council is a mentor’s program, to provide guidance and networking opportunities to more women in our industry.”
Alvarado believes that connecting people and growing the network is an important backbone to offering positive benefits such as mentorship and education, and she is encouraged that in just three years the Women’s Council has grown from a handful of women to become the largest council within AVIXA. Local Women’s Council groups now meet quarterly in numerous U.S. cities, as well as in India, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, and Brazil.
Among the events that have proven successful in the local groups are tech tours, lunches featuring panels of women speaking on workplace challenges, and “headshot happy hours,” where members are able to get a professional headshot to use on social media or for marketing purposes in exchange for a charitable donation.
“It’s so rewarding being among a group of women where you feel safe to talk and not in competition with each other. We’re a group that’s always straightening each other’s crowns,” she says. “I would love to see a cross-pollination with other councils, such as the Diversity Council and the Young AV Council. It’s important for minorities to empower each other and lift each other up. We tend to not toot our own horns and so it’s useful to connect and promote ourselves in the best way that we can.”
Outreach and recruitment are areas she is keen to advance, to show young women that this is a supportive and exciting industry to forge a career in and to encourage a wider range of women — and men — to participate in the council. Joining a local Women’s Council group and attending the Women’s Council Networking Breakfast and Women in AV and IT Panel Discussion at InfoComm 2019, are great starting points, she says. There are also opportunities to meet virtually, via career empowerment alliances, in which each month small groups dive into topics related to career advancement, work-life balance, conflict resolution, and so on.
“The Women’s Council is wide-ranging and open to anyone to join — all genders are welcome. This isn’t about finding men to champion us, it’s about creating supportive environments in the workplace and access to education and certification. Everybody has value and something to contribute.”
Alvarado encourages women to reach out and connect, with her and other women on the council. “I love being able to introduce people, and to be a resource,” she says. “It’s so exciting to feel the momentum and see the council continue to grow. My next big initiative is a STEM/STEAM outreach program within the council. Stay tuned!”
Explore more about the AVIXA Women’s Council. To connect with Brandy Alvarado, you can message her through LinkedIn or via AVBrandy on Twitter.