Back in June, Installation revealed its first ever Pro AV Power 20 list, rounding up the most inspiring and influential figures from across the AV and installation market. To get to know them a little better, we sat down with each of our Pro AV Power 20 inductees for an in-depth chat. Here, we meet Brandy Alvarado, business development manager, Mad Systems, and chair of the AVIXA Women’s Council…
How did you first get involved in the AV marketplace?
In 2014 I found a career opportunity with an AV manufacturer. They showed me the ropes and introduced me to a whole new world. I’ve always loved tech and been quite nerdy, so I felt at home instantly.
What would you say are the most significant changes/ developments to have taken place in the industry during your time?
During my short time in AV the technology has rapidly evolved. I’ve seen LED dot pitches getting smaller, and other display technologies getting better in terms of quality, price, and output. This has led to lots of flexibility to create and design some amazing experiences.
What personal and professional achievements are you most proud of?
One of the things I’m most proud of is becoming the chair for the AVIXA Women’s Council. To have the ability to affect change for women in our industry through initiatives set forth in our council is incredible. I’ve had many women say they feel like they finally belong and have a voice in the industry.
Do you have a philosophy that you live by professionally? If so, what is it and how has it benefited your career and the businesses you’ve worked with?
I come from a military background. We moved a lot as a child, and I believe that’s benefitted me in a number of ways. I make friends very easily and genuinely love to meet new people. I go after what I want, full speed, no looking back, and take risks and change very easily as a result of my background as well. These attributes have helped my career in sales and business development tremendously.
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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?
Prior to Covid I would have said the areas of technological challenge were the proliferation of conferencing solutions flooding the market. And while that’s a viable offering, I’ve shifted my thinking towards touchless technology solutions. My company, Mad Systems, works primarily in the museum, theme park, and visitor centre sectors, and has some innovative developments to aid in a more sanitary way for patrons to interact going forward post-Covid.
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?
We are very fortunate to have great leadership at Mad Systems. We’ve not had any furloughs thankfully, and are still working on projects that could potentially open in the fall. But because we work with museums, theme parks, and visitor centres we’ve definitely seen a bit of a pause in those areas due to the pandemic closures. It’s slowed down for us, but we’re still developing ways for these sectors to retrofit or re-think their technology going forward. We think they will gravitate towards exhibits that are contactless, so we’ve spent a lot of time in developing those types of touchless solutions.
What needs to change in the industry? What do we as a community need to get better at?
I’ve seen and experienced first-hand discrimination and harassment of women in the industry. One of the biggest reasons I volunteered with the council was to help make a difference. I wanted to help educate, empower, and enrich women so that they could have a more equal seat at the conference table. We need to get better at showcasing what a cool industry we work in to attract young women in STEAM/STEM programmes to enter our industry. By attracting and recruiting in these areas we can increase our numbers and forge a path for women in our industry.
In your opinion, what will be the biggest driver(s) of change for the AV market in the next five years?
I review forecasts and models regularly, and what I get a sense of is the demand for new, innovative products that can help create unique experiences across a variety of verticals.
Finally, what would be your message to those starting out their careers in the AV community?
I would say continue your education throughout your career. And do so by any means available for you, whether it’s your company offering, or a manufacturer or association. Continued education will propel your career, and offer you vast opportunities. This to me is the best kind of investment you can make for yourself.
Brandy Alavardo is a business development manager at Mad Systems, an award-winning technology company that provides customised interactive experiences for theme parks, visitor centres and museums. During her career she has helped create and promote many renowned digital signage projects.
In addition to her role at Mad she is the chair for the AVIXA Women’s Council. Four years ago, Alvarado co-founded the first local AVIXA Women’s Council group in Southern California. The primary goal 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. Since the inception of the SoCal Group, she has 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.
In her time on the council she’s helped spearhead 41 groups around the globe, led the monthly council leadership meetings, coordinated International Women’s Day campaigns, spoke at the annual InfoComm Women’s Council Breakfast, and led multiple initiatives to help women grow their careers in the industry.
She’s often heard on social media and podcasts promoting the Women’s Council, her work at Mad Systems, and the Women of Digital Signage. Through that outreach she’s grown both professionally and personally as someone who creates a voice for women in the industry. Brandy 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.
Who’s had the greatest influence on your career?
Cory Schaeffer without a doubt has been my greatest influence. She’s been a role model, mentor, and confidant during my AV career.
Who did/do you look up to as a role model professionally?
So many… women like Oprah, Maria Shriver, and Sara Potecha to name a few. They all have conquered over adversity. I admire their strength and tenacity.
How do you measure success?
I’ve never been one for materialistic things, so nothing like that. I’d say at the end of the day, raising my kids to be exceptional citizens is my measurement of success.
What’s your biggest professional regret?
There was one occasion that I wish I would have stood up for myself. I kick myself for staying quiet, and have taken that lesson very much to heart every day since.
If you were a teenager today, what profession would you go into?
Oh my gosh! I’d want to be a YouTuber of course! No, joking of course! Not sure but likely something in the design/ engineering field.