#3 Sarah Joyce chief global officer, AVIXA
How did you first get involved in the AV marketplace?
I worked for a broadcaster and entrepreneur named Noel Edmonds who had businesses based in Devon and in the centre of London and spent a lot of time travelling between the two offices. We are going back to the time of the launch of the Polycom Viewstation! As we know, this opened up so many more opportunities for organisations to experience the benefit of video communications at a far lower price point than had been available before. Being the entrepreneur that Noel is, he asked me to explore what ‘videoconferencing’ was and create a business plan into the commercial potential. With a very small team, The VideoMeeting Company was born and that was the start of my AV career, 23 or so years ago!
It started a love of technology that I still have – not only from an engineering or design appreciation but its applications in all areas of life and the experiences it enables and enriches. I have been blessed to work on projects in Europe, Asia, US, and the UAE in applications from corporate communications to control rooms and museums and theme parks. All of which bring excitement. I don’t think my colleagues had seen the Sarah who loved the scariest roller coasters or rides.
My career started in marketing. Therefore, I’ve always been driven by user needs, product development, market demands, market opportunities, and the ability to use technologies to enhance lives, enrich our experiences, bring the world closer together, improve efficiency and increase profitability. The list and opportunities are endless.
What would you say are the most significant changes/developments to have taken place in the industry during your time?
Where do I start? The opening of our market with true AV/IT technology integration; the essential need, creation, and adoption of standards; the rapid proliferation of unified communications, and the digital transformation which is driving a number of AVIXA’s strategic initiatives. The next technological revolution will bring economic transformation we cannot imagine in the workforce and working practices around the world.
What personal, professional achievements are you most proud of?
This nomination and inclusion in the Pro AV Power 20 list is pretty special. I am very proud of the companies I have worked with and honoured to have been able to lead them at important times of change. I will always be proud of the leadership teams I have worked with and the leadership development programmes we engaged in which had such personal and professional business benefits. Personal growth leads to business growth; greater self-awareness brings courage, self-challenge, and motivation. It also becomes infectious to the people around you.
I feel deeply blessed to be now working at AVIXA after having served on the InfoComm board of directors in 2014/2015. It is absolutely my dream job where I can influence and support teams to have impact internationally, work with incredibly talented people who share the same passion for the AV industry and who stimulate ideas and innovation, be at the forefront of digital transformation, and have the opportunity to enhance and expand the physical presence of our nine global shows. I am also proud to see the growth of the AVIXA Women’s Council’s local groups around the world, from the first Women’s Council at Integrated Systems Europe back in 2015.
I am proud of the depth and length of my friendships. Many of these are 20-year friendships made in the industry. To consider friends as family and be there for them as they would for you, at any time of the day or night is a blessing.
Do you have a philosophy that you live by professionally? If so, what is it and how has it benefitted your career, that of those around you, and the wider market?
Professionally and personally I strive to live by, “To thine own self be true” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. I strive to live with integrity and always consider the impact we have on other people, particularly when we sometimes have to make very difficult decisions. Professionally, I always seek to recruit people in my leadership team with the skills and attributes I do not have and from whom I can learn. A former boss also said they liked to have people around them they would want to go for a drink with and I think that is a good assessment as well.
In terms of my career: I am an empathetic leader and many times have had to restructure organisations and make difficult decisions about cuts which impact people. I never treat that as simply part of the leadership role and always do it with consideration to everyone involved and personally affected. I hope I always do that with decency, elegance, and consideration. It has ensured I have restructured organisations and led teams for long-term reasons and it guided the success and healthy growth of those companies.
Both the above principles have fundamentally improved and benefitted the businesses I have worked with. Ensuring that if we do the right thing by each other, we will always do the right thing by our clients, shareholders, owners, members, and the industry. They have been the personal foundation which has supported my commercial perspective in leadership – whether I have been involved in cultural transformation of businesses, development of leadership teams, or the refocusing and restructure of businesses as client and market demand required.
I have taken those philosophies and my experience and people-centric focus to everything I have engaged in the industry, from the companies I have worked for, the clients I have supported, and the projects I’ve been involved in. I hope I bring this focus to my role at AVIXA to ensure we are effective at delivering the relevant services to our members globally and deliver our mission to act as a catalyst for global market growth and serve as the trusted hub for the AV industry.
Prior to the outbreak of the global pandemic, what would you say were the biggest areas of technological or operational challenge for the AV industry?
Even before the pandemic, we were seeing more examples of mergers and acquisitions, and they will continue at a greater pace as the world comes out of lockdown. Unfortunately, many businesses and sectors of our industry have suffered greatly. This will impact the workforce, which will mean a greater requirement for upskilling and cross skilling. The demand for AV technologies has grown exponentially during these months of lockdown, particularly the use of video. This growth has been from platforms, software-driven tools with very little hardware required. It has necessitated the need for strong infrastructure, security, and resilience. It has also shown the private equity world what a valuable industry this is.
What impact has the pandemic had on you and your business, and what do you think will be the longer-term impact of this extraordinary period on our sector?
The health crisis has required AVIXA to adapt quickly in order to support our members. Without being able to engage in person, we had to accelerate our digital offerings – providing free access to our online training, adding a weekly market research report on the impact of Covid-19 to the industry, and the highest mountain to climb: turning InfoComm 2020 into a completely virtual show. The silver lining through all this has been stronger engagement with our members. Every day we’re at the drawing board discussing what resources we can gather and create to aid AV professionals during this time. The impact which will continue for us is that a significant amount of the association’s revenue is derived from our trade shows around the world. We are being as innovative about our future business as all companies in the industry are.
What needs to change in the industry? What do we as a community need to get better at?
We need to constantly adapt, innovate, and recognise we are in this for some time and do what we need to do to be more responsive and agile. We need to get better at addressing the supply chain, location of manufacturing, and access to products.
In your opinion, what will be the biggest driver(s) of change for the AV market in the next five years?
Safety measures as we re-enter into public spaces will affect nearly every industry. In spaces like transportation hubs, digital signage won’t simply tell you what gate your flight leaves but what the safety procedures are.
There’s going to be a shift in workforce skills in the AV industry. The proliferation of unified communications will only continue to grow as more companies adopt long-term remote working policies. And that brings with it different requirements in various skills from selling to engineering in the AV industry. There will be a need for upskilling and training.
There is value in AV-as-a-Service because there are so many connection points in company offices and home offices all around the world. This is a huge burden on an enterprise’s helpdesk, particularly in a timeframe when you don’t want to have that overhead. This can be outsourced, which makes it easier to scale.
Always remember it is about the experience. It is how content, space, and technology combine to create the most enriching experience. When space is not necessarily the same physical space, how do you embrace that to bring broader value and experience?
Finally, what would be your message to those starting out their careers in the AV community?
This is an exciting, enriching, rewarding, and innovative industry to work in with breadth and depth of engagement. You can work in this community in every technical, creative, commercial marketing, sales, and design discipline in solutions from medical simulation to theme parks to live events in every geography around the world. Find a mentor. Join an association which will support your career, provide training and accreditation, and a community of peers around the world. Most of all, have fun. This is a dynamic and exciting industry to work in with fabulous creative and innovative people who will welcome you. This is an industry which embraces diversity and creativity.
Who’s had the greatest influence on your career?
I’m going to mention two very personal and professional relationships which inspired me, rather than a particular business leader.
Professionally it would be the person I worked with at the very outset: Noel Edmonds, whose innovation and creativity inspired us to establish the Video Meeting Company and started my AV career. I would not want to be anywhere else.
As a woman, a very early influencer was a fabulous woman named Susan Toner who was my boss when I worked for the Probation Service. She inspired me to do and be anything I wanted and not hold back. Thirty years on, I have not forgotten her influence.
Who did/do you look up to as a role model professionally?
Can I say my boss? Dave Labuskes knows that when he interviewed me, my consideration about his tenure as CEO was equally as important to me as the opportunity of taking on this role and what I could bring to it.
How do you measure success?
The success of those around me. The motivation and innovation in my teams. Clarity of communication and delivery. Seeing their growth and leadership influence the teams around them. Now it is the rapid response to significant challenges around the world to support members and build our industry back up again.
What’s your biggest professional regret?
I genuinely do not have regrets. In life, things happen. Sometimes you influence them and sometimes you do not. They always happen for a reason. Every knock back has taught me something and better things have followed. That does not mean I do not get upset or angry though!
If you were a teenager today, what profession would you go into?
If I knew about this industry, I would have targeted my education toward it earlier. Particularly now. It has given me a life, experiences, people I call friends around the world and opportunities to serve that I could not have imagined as a teenager, and I have a vivid imagination!