Lloyd B. Ranola, Vice President at the San Francisco-based acoustical, audiovisual and telecommunications consulting firm Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc., admits he doesn’t look like your average VP.
As a minority, and as someone who has always been mistaken for looking younger than his years, he has spent much of his 18-year AV career working that little bit harder to be taken seriously. It's paid off. From his beginnings running AV systems for a local energy company while studying for a degree in broadcasting, a spell in the television industry and subsequent career in AV integration as both a project manager and an account manager, to his current role as consultant and VP, he's made a point to build relationships and embrace growth and change. And to never be afraid to speak out or admit what he doesn't know.
His main advice to newcomers to the industry, whether they are in a minority or not, is to be present and to ask lots of questions.
"If I see a young Filipino kid on a job, I'll encourage that kid to speak up, put his or her knowledge out there, and not be afraid to take chances and make mistakes," says Ranola. "I can honestly say that most everything I have experience in I attribute to making mistakes along the way. It's important to live through that."
Early in his career, Ranola was fortunate to work with a boss, the company president, who gave him the freedom to "mess up." He says that taking the time to find good people to work with or for, who will provide the space to learn on the job, can be a great way to start out and forge a lasting career in the AV industry.
"If you’re backed up by a good company, you've got a safe place where you can learn and improve. When I started out in this industry, because I didn’t necessarily fit the mold, I had a lot of challenges. I definitely didn't fit into the construction world. One thing that helped me overcome that was constantly being present, and being vocal and active. I've been on long projects where things went really bad and every other contractor was fired, and I was one of the only ones left, just because I was always there and not afraid to speak up."
Living and working in the Bay Area provides a cushion, he admits. It's a diverse city where inclusion is more commonplace, but, he says, he still encounters problems with bias from time to time.
"It shouldn’t matter what you look like. People should be treated fairly," he says. "Everybody talks about the entitlement attitude of Millennials, and even that is a bias. I'm more of the opinion that it’s not so much that young people are entitled to things that maybe us old folks feel we needed to work harder for, but they’re entitled to be treated fairly and given the tools they need to do their job."
While Ranola’s daughter is currently just a kindergartner, he is encouraged by the opportunities that exist for today’s high school students and those at the age where they are starting to think about possible career paths.
"The AV industry is a great place to forge a career. Everything from wrapping cables to being a leader, there are so many facets to the industry," he says. "Those students are actually the ones who get to run the show sometimes. They get excited to get on that equipment and run the cameras. It gives them an idea about what the industry could be like.
"The way we are evolving into the IT world has reinvigorated the industry," adds Ranola. "It's not as old school as it used to be, and we’ve had to keep on our toes. There are a lot of paths in AV; they all connect and some of it starts with that excitement from turning a knob or plugging in a cable."
AVIXA AV Executive Conference
Lloyd Ranola has risen through the ranks from college graduate to running corporate AV to project manager and, more recently, to consultant to VP with a combination of thirst, smarts and agility. He is continually working on his managerial skills and embracing the constant growth mindset it takes to work alongside and manage others.
"The dynamics in an office change so quickly, and our industry changes so quickly, you can never just settle," he says.
In an effort to learn more and improve his skill set, Ranola recently attended his first AVIXA AV Executive Conference (AVEC 2015, in Amelia Island, Florida) and insists he'll be attending each year from now on.
"It was truly an exciting experience for me. The attendees, content and guest speakers were truly exceptional," he says. "There was an emphasis on the ability to be agile, valuable and, ultimately, be remembered by your clients for the experience you are able to provide for them. I’ll definitely be attending again."