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Exclusive: Absen brand manager on rising awareness of tech

Jessica Golding, Absen European brand manager and Pro AV Watch List 2021 pick speaks!

How did you get into our industry?
I fell into it! Didn’t we all? I was working in the FMCG market for a distributor and manufacturer straight out of uni trying to find my feet. Although working with products like Fairy WUL and Tresemme was great, unfortunately there was no progression unless I wanted to uproot and move to the outskirts of London and that wasn’t something I was prepared to do. I stumbled across a job at BenQ, with its office based near Bicester (25 minutes from my house!) on a farm! I was sold. I am a country girl at heart.

How would you say things have changed in the last few years (pre Covid)?
I think people are becoming more aware of the technology around them. With the rise of TikTok millennials are using this as an opportunity to teach the slightly older generation how to use technology in a more innovative way. In retail for example, we are all so used to online shopping and each year more and more of us chose to online shop. So, retailers must work even harder to encourage customers into their stores, there is no easy fix. It needs to be adaptable, and it needs to be current! Those who don’t keep up unfortunately will be left behind. 

How is Covid set to change the landscape?
People need encouraging out of their homes, whether that be to the office or to the shops. I think a lot of businesses agreed it was time for change when Covid set in, making changes to be more flexible and making statements that this is the way forward. However, many businesses are starting to slip back into pre-covid times, expecting their teams to work from an office environment 4/5 days a week. We have all seen a lot of movement in the industry with talented people leaving businesses they have worked for, for years. I don’t think this will slow down any time soon! 

For those businesses that continue to be flexible with their employees, I think these businesses will boom! Creating experience centres in their (what was) offices. Spending time to look after employees’ mental health and wellbeing. Generating an environment that both employees want to work in and a company that customers want to work with! 

Where do you see AV technology going in the next few years?
I think higher quality technology will become more accessible – gone will be the days we go into an airport and see poor quality LED, or attend a meeting and not being able to connect to the screen! You’d think we’d be there already, but we’re not! But we’re getting there. With hybrid working being more common than ever, the AV in these working spaces is incredibly important. Virtual studios will play a key part in how TV and films are produced, through-out covid we saw the tip of the iceberg with these types of studios, and I am excited to see the next generation of technology. 

Any thoughts on ISE this year: how things were handled; how the two shows went (assuming you attended/exhibited); thoughts on ISE Digital?
I didn’t attend ISE this year physically, but I did digitally. I think they did the best they could, it wasn’t ideal, but neither was 2020! I have a lot of sympathy for those who have sadly had to change their in-person event to online and I applaud them, it’s not easy. Online will never replace in person events, especially in our industry when being hands on with the products is super important. From speaking to friends in the industry, everyone has drawn a line and is very excited for ISE 2022 in Barcelona. (One of the best cities in the world!) 

What are your plans (personal and business) for 2022 and beyond?
Personal – get another dog! We have a cocker spaniel called Floyd, who quite frankly has kept me sane through the pandemic and having a side kick whilst I work from my home office is pretty cool too, I’m sure he’d appreciate another four-legged friend! 

Business – Absen have so many exciting projects, products, and developments in the pipeline, and I am extremely happy to be a part of it! I can’t wait to build a team and continue to expand my knowledge of LED and the AV industry!

What would you say are the most significant changes / developments in the industry during your time?
I’ve only been part of the industry for around 3 years now, but in that short space of time I can already see a change in women’s representation in the industry. I used to attend events and be the only woman in the room of vendors! Now, there are a fair few! I am really lucky to have met some great women in this industry who I can now call friends. The industry is known for being very male dominated, but I can see a shift of talented women entering the industry and women who have worked in the industry for a while, receiving great recognition. It’s all about balance, and we’re heading in the right direction.

What personal, professional achievements are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my work ethic and never giving up, no matter what is thrown at me! Through university I worked a full-time supervisor position in a popular retailer, working a morning shift, attending uni and then back to work for an evening shift. I proved to myself I wasn’t scared of hard work, and it has paid off. 

Personally, I am a 26-year-old woman, a homeowner and doing a job that I love. Without blowing my own trumpet, I am proud to be able to say that through hard work I have achieved those things.

Do you have a philosophy you live by professionally? And if so, how has it helped your career and those you have worked with?
Be mindful. I take this approach in my personal and professional life. One thing to come out of the pandemic is supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. You have no idea the battles people are dealing with, so remain professional and be mindful. There are ways to talk to people and everyone deserves to be spoken to with respect. I think this has helped me build relationships in my career, I am personable and have worked my way up from sweeping hair off the floor in my first job to where I am now. I will continue to be mindful. 

Pre-Covid, what would you say were the biggest areas of technological or operational challenge to AV?
What makes me laugh is we are an industry with the best innovative technology around us, and we don’t use half of it! Pre-pandemic, we spent hours in airports and in the car traveling to meetings. Why did it take us a pandemic to realise we don’t need to do that? But even when we get to a meeting room, a lot of the tech isn’t up to scratch, no way of connecting your device, or sharing content to make those meetings productive. Looking back, there was no benefit in attending some in person meetings. I think the pandemic has taught us to use the technology that has been created in the most beneficial way.   

What needs to change in the industry?
More promotion of the industry in universities and schools! Like I mentioned previously, I fell into this industry by accident, like many others. Whilst at university, I didn’t even realise this was an industry! Or what I knew of it, was not what I know now. I thought if you weren’t computer savvy you could forget about it, I’ve learnt that’s not true. 

Something needs to change if we want new talents to enter the industry on purpose and it’s all our responsibility. There needs to be more of a collaboration with education establishments, not just to sell them AV but to invest in students.

In your opinion, what will be the biggest drivers of change in AV in the next 5 years?
Businesses investing in their own workplace, creating experience centres to encourage employees into the office and giving customers a reason to visit. Businesses need to stand out, and a way they can do this is creating an experience that is unforgettable and personable. 

With new consumer habits, expectations are higher than ever. We need to deliver on quality and reliability. Supporting businesses in all industries on their accelerated plans for a digital transformation.

Our industry is at a crossroads, customer expectations have changed so much in the last 18 months, and AV as an industry has a critical role to play to help brands, businesses, venues, etc. understand new habits and provide the tools and solutions to create the experiences that customers are now looking for. 

Finally, what would your message be to those starting out their AV careers?
Take a day at a time. There is much to learn so soak it all up! The industry can seem daunting, as everyone knows everyone, but you’ll get there, it’s not that scary!