Kelsey Mayhew, CTS, reveals how she learned to gain confidence as a newcomer to the AV industry and how she keeps the momentum going.
When you’re new to an industry and you find yourself surrounded by people that don’t look quite like yourself, it can be a great relief to find a support group of like-minded peers ready to prop you up and look for the positive in every situation. That is the thinking behind groups such as AVIXA’s Diversity Council, Young AV Professionals Council, and the AVIXA Women’s Council.
For Audiovisual Design Engineer Kelsey Mayhew, CTS®, being a woman in a technical role in the AV industry puts her in the minority and her young appearance often surprises people when they first meet and work with her.
Confident in her technical skills, she says she finds herself putting in extra effort to convince others of her abilities.
“That was one of the conversations I had at a recent AVIXA™ Women’s Council meeting: how to deal with getting the right technical information across when you’re a woman and you’re young,” says Mayhew, who is part of a small AV team within New York engineering firm Jaros Baum & Bolles. “It’s interesting. A lot of times when I visit manufacturers with my coworkers, who are male, they immediately put us with the engineers because they are familiar with my team. But if I’m on my own, I’m normally steered toward the marketing department! But I’m taking proactive steps to present myself more confidently from the get-go.”
One of these steps is initiating conversations about technical information and asking engineering-related questions so that people don’t make an incorrect assumption about her presence. Another is touting her CTS credentials, something she achieved in 2018 with the encouragement of her team members.
“I wanted to be able to speak the language that integrators and architects and clients speak, and to have the common vernacular,” she says of her motivation to get the CTS under her belt. “Once I started studying, I realized it was going to give me everything I needed to know as well as the confidence to present myself better. I find I’m taken more seriously now that people see those initials after my name.”
Mayhew joined JB&B as part of the company’s newly formed AV department in 2016 straight from college — Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, where she earned a degree in music technology. With her strong audio background and a knowledge of architecture from her contractor father, she was able to combine two of her interests. The rest of the AV equation she learned on the job under the mentorship of her first department boss Bruce Manning and coworker Richard Coley. Since gaining her CTS, she is now designing full AV systems, such as at a 15-floor hospital facility she recently worked on as well as corporate office buildings and public spaces.
“I’m enjoying the ownership and responsibility of working on projects by myself. Some days I go onsite to make sure that what is being installed is what’s in our drawings. I’m coordinating with HVAC and electrical departments and learning a lot about cross trade installation, as well as doing AutoCAD drawings and system flow diagrams. What I love about the work is it’s always something different every day,” she says.
A new development that she’s thrilled about is having a female intern and being able to pass on what she has learned. She is also involved in her company’s mentorship program, which gives high school kids the opportunity to spend several weeks at the firm, including a week in the AV department, learning the ropes.
“Technology changes so fast, so for someone new coming into the industry it can be hard to get started,” she says. “I like being able to pass on the knowledge that I have learned as well as show them that it’s a good industry to be employed in, even if you’re young and straight out of college. I have stayed in contact with some of my kids, and they often ask for advice. It’s exciting when you see someone else excited about AV.”
Mayhew now has her sights set on working toward her CTS-D, and to reach new benchmarks that show that, despite being young and female, she in fact knows what she’s doing and can speak the language of AV just as well as her peers. Determined to continue her career trajectory within the field of AV, she is driven by a desire to keep learning and keep inspiring others.
“I love the fact that the technology is always changing. AV 10 years ago was completely different to AV now. I’m excited there’s always something new to learn, and it’s something else every day. There’s always a new toy to play with and new technology to adapt to,” she says.
Find out how you can get involved in AVIXA’s Council communities.