Back in August, I penned a piece about longevity at one job (“10 Years…20 Years…30 Years…More?”). In it, I shared a few tips I learned from those who had accomplished that feat. The article was well received. But—and this is a big but—I received some interesting feedback from someone, Daryl Nishimiya, whom I have known for years. Daryl’s point of view—read it in the sidebar at the bottom of this post—is that you cannot get a comprehensive understanding of our industry by working for one company for 20-plus years. It’s a perspective worth considering!
He contends that working at many places gives you more (and different) experiences than you would have working for only one company, and that those experiences benefit not only your career, but also your personal growth. I might be the right person to assess that argument because, over my almost 40-year career, I have worked in sales, engineering, installation, operations and management, whether under the employ of others or while self-employed.
Let’s think about sales. Would working for different companies help you learn things you could learn only by moving around? I don’t think so. A plethora of sales books, videos, courses and training sessions can hone a salesperson’s skills. When weighed against the fact that relationships (both with your employer and with clients) are important in sales, I think working for fewer companies, rather than more, is better here.
When it comes to engineering—engineering is my favorite!—it’s all about attention to detail, thinking things through and complex variables. In this area, the argument could go either way. There’s a lot to be said for staying put, maintaining job security and getting training. But, early in one’s career, one would benefit from working as a consultant, integrator or business owner. (I benefited from doing so.) I have some unique “blending” of skills acquired from working with many great folks, and I think it’s unlikely I would have half the specific skills that I now have if I hadn’t worked for others. However, had I stayed in one place and really expanded and excelled in that particular role, I would now have other skills. So, for engineering, either staying put or moving around could work out well.
Let’s turn to installation. Here, it depends on what kind of career you’re looking for. If you’re content using tools, working with your hands and building things, then, sure, work at a few different places. Doing so will likely benefit your skill set and offer valuable training opportunities. Suppose you’re looking for growth, though. Suppose you, like so many in our industry, want to go from pulling wire through conduit, to supervising a crew, to supervising multiple crews on multiple locations, to perhaps management. In that case, staying put is advantageous.
OK…operations. I’m going to go out on a limb here, as many companies have blurred the lines, and one company’s definition of operations may be different from another’s. For our purposes, operations work consists of overall management of project managers and installers, all with the ultimate goal of delivering your project on time and on budget, and to a client who will hire you again. This has to be one of the most stressful careers in our industry. Most likely, it’s only navigated successfully by those who work their way up from being an installer or another tradesperson who works in the field. Too many others who think they are operations make bad decision after bad decision! Excelling at operations work involves the long, slow process of managing multiple tasks and people. The slow, progressive nature of the work means that practitioners don’t benefit as much from moving around from job to job as some others do.
Last, but certainly not least, is management. Yeah…I absolutely think management-minded people can benefit from moving around. Effective managers have years of experience—direct and indirect—in our industry, and they keep the ship afloat in bad times and good. Many of these skills are not teachable, and they only can be acquired from years of experience, preferably working with different teams of folks.
My thanks to Daryl for opening the door and sharing his perspective. Apart from presenting a counterpoint, his letter also made me think about how the society we live in could be better. (I’ve always been a big fan of science fiction, so, occasionally, I drift off and imagine our society were different.) Imagine if we weren’t all scrambling to climb up the career ladder but, rather, just trying to improve ourselves and help those around us. How cool would it be if you were an engineer, working in the AV industry, and then you went to an architecture firm to learn about that, simply because architecture caught your eye? No repercussions…no drama…no stress. You could learn what you wanted to learn, and then take that knowledge to help and share with others. I, for one, want to be a part of that society!
What do you think—should AV personnel stay in one place or move around…or maybe just live in a future utopia? Let us know. Email me at email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: Subsequent to sending his email to Doug, Daryl Nishimiya departed from Sennheiser and accepted a position with Tangram Technology.
It’s been a long time. I hope you are doing well!
I read your recent longevity article and wanted to raise a counterpoint to it. Some of us change jobs on what could be called a “consistent” basis—not always for the money but, sometimes, for additional experience. There is no way in the world that working for a single company for 20-plus years gives you a comprehensive understanding of the industry. Allow me to list my AV experience so you understand where I’m coming from.
- Phonic Hi-Tech Corp. (precursor to the current Phonic that still exists today)
- Anchor Audio
- Commercial Sound & Video (integration company, under $3
million per year at the time)
- Hoffman Video (integration company, around $20 million per year at the time)
- Audio Visual Innovations, before the SPL acquisition (probably $140 million at the time)
- Revolabs (from the very start)
- Radio Design Labs
I’ve never been an independent rep, a consultant or an end user. However, I’ve worked for small and large AV manufacturers, and small and large integration companies. I think I have perspective from both a dealer and a manufacturer’s viewpoint. Many people on the manufacturer side have never worked for non-manufacturers, and don’t understand why dealers complain about “X”—could be their manuals, how to install the products, using the menus on the front panel, etc.
Many people on the dealer side have no idea why manufacturers release certain products. And, probably, some independent reps have no idea why a manufacturer pushes certain products so hard. I think it would be wise sometimes for people to change their perspective and see our industry from another viewpoint. It might make them understand the reason behind something that frustrates them.
Longevity isn’t bad. Sennheiser has a number of 30-plus-year employees and some 20-plus-year employees in Old Lyme CT. We also have a number of people who came from different companies (occasionally, the competition) and provide insight toward our competitors. Your key points at the end are good lessons, whether you want to be a longtime employee or a longtime participant in the industry. This industry is too small to burn bridges, because it will haunt you!
Thank you for your articles. I make it a point to spend some time reading them and considering what you have to say.