By Convergent AV
This is an interview with commercial AV industry professional Jake Corlett. With an early passion for music, and after graduating from a college that is well known in the AV industry, Jake’s career began doing integration work for a company that provides quality service and opportunities for people to experience the power of making music (who celebrated their 75th anniversary last year). His next stop was as an account manager for a family-owned, multi-discipline integration company, and finally as an area manager for one of the most highly regarded and respected manufacturers in the audio visual industry.
Jake, tell us about how audio became a driving influence for you from the start.
I started playing in rock/punk bands in high school, as a natural extension of my love for music – a rare story in the AV industry, I know… As the drummer (industry musicians can insert their favorite drummer/AV pro jokes in comments), I just sort of drew the short straw of working the audio gear. I started recording on a Fostex 4 track cassette machine, with what I recall were duct tape covered cheap microphones. At 17, our band cut an album in a pseudo professional studio in one day, which is still hard to listen to, but scratches the nostalgia itch like crazy. I quite enjoyed the experience and decided to pursue an education in the black arts of Audio Engineering.
I moved to the “city” (Chicago), from the ‘burbs, to attend Columbia College, where I was to hone my craft and make the next best album of our lifetime. Well, I quickly learned about how ProTools and home PC’s were revolutionizing the recording industry and that the job market was tighter than ever. I can still recall my professor Doug Jones, now of Danley Sound Labs, sitting me down and basically steering me away from recording and towards sound contracting, an industry I really knew little about. But the promise of a steady paycheck and sleeping regularly was quite intriguing.
You then graduated from Columbia College, can you tell us what happened from there?
After graduating in 2002, with a major in Systems Contracting and a minor in Acoustics, it was time to get a job. My girlfriend at the time, and now wife, Chantelle, was finishing school in Eastern Iowa so I snagged a gig doing integration work at Sound Solutions, a division of West Music company. I spent those years designing, selling, installing, and commissioning systems for small churches and schools. It was such a great experience, and really instilled my passion for this industry. My colleague and mentor Jon “Monkey Boy” Baumgartner was a huge part of that learning process as he taught me about doing right by your customer, focusing on their needs, and delivering a quality product. I won’t miss climbing on the turn- of- the century cat walks at that high school in the Quad Cities with him, but I’ll never forget the values that came from it!
In 2004, I moved back to Chicago and became the lead Audio Visual account executive for a family-owned multi-discipline integration company called Sound Incorporated. Again, I was able to wear many hats and work on some very cool projects from education to corporate. One of my industry mentors, Keith Kirchoff, helped me hone my construction and technical prowess by introducing me to advanced concepts in video, control and networking. It was a time of gigantic growth for me, since I was coming from a primarily audio-centric background.
Your career in integration then led you to the manufacturing side, can you tell us how that came about?
After working a lot with Biamp Systems as an integrator by 2010, the sales manager Todd Bergum was looking for someone to round out his team in the Chicago land area. I had worked with Biamp as an integrator and always found them to be a great company to do business with, and the company culture always seemed to shine through to even the most mundane of conversations. I can’t explain how excited I was at a shot at an interview for this company, until I learned that it’s an 8 hour interview!!! Despite a wardrobe malfunction due to a faulty hotel clothes iron (as Jake says, a “story for another time”), I was hired as the 2nd Area Manager at Biamp Systems.
Area manager for Biamp is a technical sales position focused on a particular market or sub-region, a really nice blend of traditional sales and technical training and support…so I have been smitten ever since. Around 2015, I was given my own team of talented individuals to mentor and work alongside with, and it’s been quite the ride so far. I am incredibly fortunate to be working for a company with such great vision, and the understanding that at the end of the day, it’s about the people.
It was shortly after I joined Biamp that I realized if I was going to stay valid in this industry as a resource and a thought leader, I needed to expand my horizons. First thing was continuing education. I immediately looked to InfoComm and went after my CTS. To be honest, I had already had 10 years of experience in the industry at that point so I bought the book and took the quizzes at the end of each chapter, and then went to the local testing center for my test. Probably not the best way to go about it, but it worked for me.
I was compelled to go after the CTS-D next, and then after I got those two, I figured I might as well get my CTS-I. So, in 2014 I became the number 150 something dual certification holder in the world, something that I am still quite proud of. The learning that accompanied those certifications was invaluable and really formalized a lot of what I learned in the school of hard knocks.
After achieving dual certification, industry education became your next goal. Tell us about that.
I started to notice a lot of my peers were teaching for InfoComm as adjunct faculty around this time as well, and I thought it would be an awesome way to give back to the industry. I am now an InfoComm University adjunct instructor, and have taught CTS Prep at the show for the last couple of years. It’s a challenging teaching environment because you have people who are truly green to the industry, and people who have been doing it for 30 years but haven’t invested in pursing the certification. You have to teach it down the middle. Don’t lose the “noobs,” and don’t bore the vets. That’s the fun of it I guess.
What else drives you these days?
I’m still playing music, and just getting back into recording with the band which has been a riot. I think the last thing I recorded was a demo for a semi-finalist on season 7 of American Idol, so it’s been a while. I have been trying to pursue other ways of keeping involved in the industry too. I guest lecture at my alma mater once a semester for their Advanced Audio Visual System Design Class and I do the section on networked audio, although I need to update that to networked media since video is obviously proliferating on the network these days. I’ve also been doing industry podcasts, and just being more involved on social media with the #AVTweeps. I have been a member of AES for a couple of years now, and an observer of an ongoing InfoComm Standard for Audio Coverage Uniformity (ANSI/InfoComm A102.01:2017). I haven’t been extremely active in either, but I will look to change that in the near future.
Being a seeker of knowledge, I am pursing some IT networking certifications as well, to me it’s all about the TLAs (three letter acronyms). As long as I am having fun, and the things I am doing help others find their place in this industry, I’ll be content. And if they’re aspiring AV professionals with drumming problems, even better yet.