By Convergent AV
This is an interview with commercial AV industry professional Joseph (Joey) D’Angelo. Joey’s career in the industry began in high end car audio. His career then led him to consulting with one of the industry’s most well known consulting firms. Later on he joined high profile industry manufacturer QSC, and finally today he is the VP, Design and Engineering at Utelogy, who won significant awards for their technology at ISE 2017.
Joey, tell us how your career began.
At about 15 years old, I began doing car stereos out of my parent’s garage. By 19, I was the lead installer at Mobile Audio Concepts in Bakersfield, California. At 20, I built a demo vehicle for the Tokyo Auto Show for MTX (Atlas Sound). By 22, I was going to school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo pursuing my degree, building demo vehicles for the consumer electronics show in Vegas, and competitively showing my car at IASCA (International Autosound Challenge Association) sanctioned events across California.
Toward the end of my 22nd year, I placed at the IASCA world finals in the pro 300-600 watt class in Greenville, South Carolina. I thought to myself, “hmm, hobby complete.” So I focused on wrapping up my degree in Industrial Technology and met Ethan Salter, who happened to be in my same major at Cal Poly. I actually did his car stereo for him, and his father, Charles Salter asked if he could meet me.
So you met Charles Salter, the President of well-known industry consulting firm Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc. What happened next?
Charles and I hit it off so I joined the firm at the age of 23, one week out of Cal Poly with degree in hand. I started out as an entry level consultant there not knowing anything about AV. I knew audio, but not professional audio and video. My advantage though was that I could literally build anything, and I was a wizard at CAD since I had taken introductory courses in AutoCAD in high school. By 24, they had promoted me to Senior Consultant and I had a bank of good, solid projects and clients under my belt. At 26, after hearing that the Navy had lowered its vision requirements for flight duty, I was going to leave Salter and join the Marine Corps so I could fly the F/A-18 tactical fighter. I’m guilty of being a kid who had model airplanes hanging from the ceiling and loved Top Gun. I was making barely $50K a year and spending thousands a month on rent living in San Francisco, so I figured why not pursue my dream as I was still young. It was a tough decision though as I absolutely loved my job, but I just wasn’t getting ahead.
What did Charles Salter do at that point?
Charles actually made this decision easy to forego, as when he caught wind of my plans, he made me a Principal Consultant on the spot and I decided to stay. Shortly thereafter, I began to get larger projects through my client base. At 29, I did a huge multi-million dollar project for Sandia Labs, then a few years later the largest Marriott project in the U.S. Before I knew it, I had projects in Texas, Seattle, New York City, Denver, Los Angeles and San Diego. I was very busy and really enjoying life.
In 2011, I landed a project for Juniper Networks and secured the single largest fee and project that our firm had ever taken in. It was at that point that I was made a Vice President of the firm. The Juniper project ended up being a complete success and it also changed the industry some since it was the first large-scale use of network audio, video, and control across all systems on a campus. It still is to this day.
However, as the industry was changing so was I, and the chemistry at Salter as well. A younger, new generation of consultants had joined the firm and most of the veterans had left to seek newer opportunities. In all honestly, the stresses I was under for a decade doing such massive projects changed me at the core and led me to thinking “maybe it’s time for a change.” My internal optempo after all the stresses of these huge projects rubbed some people the wrong way. Plus, when you’re immersed in a ten plus million dollar project for two years and then it’s over with, you tend to lose connection with your core client base since you’re essentially off the radar or not taking them to lunches. I loved Charles Salter like a father, and still do, but I wanted to continue to change the industry, stay connected with it, and not just design AV systems day in and day out in a way that I disagreed with based on my experience. It was also at that point that I became addicted to being disruptive and coming up with new ways of doing things, and I was ready for a change.
So what was your next move?
One day in 2013, Joe Pham, the CEO of QSC came through Salter on a listening tour to tap the “brainskulls “of various consultants and integrators around the world. He and I had a great discussion and I utterly loved it. We stayed in touch and I participated on a number of advisory boards for QSC for a few years. Then, in late 2015, I decided to make a big change and went to QSC. I sold my house in San Francisco, got engaged, and moved to southern California for what I thought was the opportunity of a lifetime with QSC. My wife (Lauren) was the best thing that ever happened to me and my new job description was a close second to her.
I thought I’d be able to continue to change the industry, but my job really just consisted of getting end users to buy QSC solutions. I wanted to help the end users, even going as far as solving their problems in terms of whatever they needed. Having been on the front lines of big projects, I also wanted to do this in my normal fast-paced and urgent way, and that unfortunately wasn’t going to work in a 400 plus person company. The people at QSC were absolutely wonderful and the experience there taught me more than I could begin to describe, especially in terms of how things work from the manufacturing side, however it was again time for a change.
Which brought you to your current position with Utelogy – tell us about that.
A day after I left QSC, I was on the phone with Frank Pellkofer whom I’ve known for fifteen years since we always chat every now and then. I told Frank that I had left QSC and was going back to consulting, not with an established firm, but on my own. I wanted to breed a firm that consisted of people like myself, going for it at 100% pace while taking care of our clients at any cost. Frank was very supportive, however he urged me to come work for Utelogy. He had wanted me to work with him as far back as 2009, however because I was very busy at Salter, as well as the fact that Utelogy was a brand new company, I wasn’t ready to make a move. And actually, at the time, I just didn’t understand what Utelogy was.
One day though, it hit me as I was in the Core AV room at Juniper (note: see picture above) and within the room are 96 Crestron CP3N processors running a mixture of 5-8 “slots” of code per box. Basically one “slot” of code per discreet AV system on campus (note: Joey gave kudos to programmer Josh Vallon here). Back in 2011, it was a rather smart way to go about saving money by centralizing the control processors and using only IP-controlled devices campus-wide. So there I was sitting there staring at racks of control processors that only had two connections each…one for power and one for data. I thought to myself why buy 100 of something, when you can do the same thing with a single server and a failover, or even with the cloud, and it was right there that I realized what Utelogy could become. I even wrote an article in 2011 which no one seemed to take note of. Not even a single comment was posted to the article.
Frank graciously offered me the job in January, however he also offered me the freedom to be exactly who I am. I would be designing systems for Utelogy projects, along with helping their end users. I would also be able to take on consulting projects of my own that interest me. And honestly for me, what could be better? During a dinner that was set up to introduce my wife to the team, Frank said to her “Joey is the kind of guy that works so hard that he pisses off everyone around him off, and we need that here. He can be himself.” It became a no-brainer for me as I can design, change, strategize, contribute to the strategic direction of the company, revolutionize, fabricate, build, charge hard with people that know me and love me for who I am. I even get to build the InfoComm tradeshow booth for 2017! I can have an effect and an affect at Utelogy by being myself. God help us all.
You can find out more about Joey on LinkedIn.