By Corey Moss

I’d like to preface this by saying thank you to all involved in this year’s Breakfast, another terrific event.

Over six years ago, I was on the phone with someone at InfoComm International, discussing a few things including women in the industry. He said “Corey, I don’t know if you’re aware, however we’re putting together an organization that I think you should know about.” For the longest time I had been a champion for women in the AV industry, including when I was in commercial integration sales – some of the best executives (I’ll note Nancy Knowlton and Marla Suttenberg here) and channel managers I knew and worked with were women.

That organization was the Women of InfoComm – here is the announcement of the very first Breakfast at ISE 2015:

AV Magazine: Women of InfoComm announces first networking breakfast at ISE

At InfoComm 2015, the first U.S. Breakfast was held – the organization’s Chair was Erin Bolton. I got to know Erin, and Jane Johnson who was her co-Chair at the time, along with their passion for this group and the movement. In fact they both appeared on my podcast AV Power Up prior to InfoComm.

Here is an overview of the Breakfast that year:

AVNetwork: Women of InfoComm: Strength in Numbers, Goals in Sight

Over the years, as InfoComm International changed to what’s now known as AVIXA, and the organization to the AVIXA Women’s Council, the Breakfast has become a must-attend event for women as well as men. I have attended regularly since 2015 and the event’s attendance continues to grow each year – though it’s these last two years that have made a real difference.

Let me explain.

In 2017, at the end of the show on day three, I spoke with a few people concerning that year’s Breakfast, focusing discussion especially on the keynote speaker. There was yet another discussion I had with a well-known woman executive that I’ll never forget – she talked about how women need to stop worrying about men in the industry and make their own way. She talked about how there was still so much complaining and not enough action – and I will tell you that this woman is one of the strongest people I have ever come to know in the industry, and she had the right to say what she did 100 times over.

Last year for me (and possibly many others) was a clincher, as on that stage stood powerful women – AVIXA Women’s Council Chair (at the time) Penny Sitler, Cory Schaeffer, Brandy Alvarado and Gina Sansivero – all known for their drive and passion in the industry. But more than that, all a big part of the AV industry like no other guest speaker had been before. I talked about that in 2017 as well, how it was high time for women in the industry to be up on that stage talking to the audience of men and women – true influencers.

Amanda Eberle Boyer with AVIXA (left), Penny Sitler (middle), Brandy Alvarado, Gina Sansivero, Cory Schaffer (right) at the Breakfast in 2018

Now in 2019, the AVIXA Women’s Council has truly done it, especially with their choice for the keynote speaker.

I made my way to the convention center early as usual on an InfoComm Thursday, it’s actually nice walking in at that time (around 7:30) you can almost hear a pin drop. As usual not sure which room it was, I texted a friend who gave it to me. Upon arriving at the room, I looked in and it was already packed. Perfect, yet on the other hand time to find a seat.

I’ve always thought this about such events, where maybe people should be seated with people they don’t already know – more opportunity for networking at the show. I did find a few friendly faces at the table I chose, and of course others who ended up being terrific to talk with as well.

I like to go around the room, see who’s there. I first find Penny Sitler who is sitting with a pink sash around her ‘Past Chair AVIXA Women’s Council.’

I said hi and looked at the sash – I found out later in talking with Christy Ricketts, one of the event’s organizers (Alexis La Brois was the other) that it was symbolic for this year’s event, something different. We talked for a bit, it’s always great catching up with Penny.

Here are some of the women on stage with their sashes (Christy is far left, Alexis far right):

TierPM (the event’s Principal Sponsor) Managing Partner Marika Aquino kicked off the event welcoming and thanking all of the attendees for coming to the Breakfast. I’ve known Marika for over five years now, she has been an inspiration to me as a hard-working person in tech and industry, and for many others I’m sure as well.

Brandy Alvarado, who accepted a crown placed on her head as she stepped on to the stage, addressed the audience in a most powerful way (refer back to my comments for the 2018 Breakfast) talking about women in the industry, her #AVTribe – a hashtag created in 2018.

There is still a ways to go, especially concerning the total amount of women who attend InfoComm, however Brandy and others who are a part of the Council are hard at work every day to improve these numbers, along with encouraging the continued growth of AVIXA Women’s Council groups around the U.S. and Canada (she and Cory Schaeffer are founding members – they head up the SoCal group). Those who want to find out more about the Council, as well as start up a group in their region see here.

As a matter of fact, at one point Brandy asked for group leaders and certain others in the room to stand up.

At one point, I had to find two people in the room – who I call the C(h)ristinas. I met Christina Cruzeiro and Cristina Lucas last year on The AV Life before InfoComm, as Cory recommended having them on the show since they had created the very first group in Canada. Funny, last year I looked for them at the Breakfast and neither of them was there – this year, they were both present and it was truly terrific meeting them.

There they are standing together (Christina is in black):

In fact, Cristina had a message for those booth babes… (check it out):

#AVTribe #IC19Babe

One of the highlights of any trade show or event is the keynote. In prior years before 2018, I had said that some were good (Sam Horn was a favorite) and some just really missed the mark. I’ll never forget the “handshake and eye contact” exercise during one of them, which I and others said was total garbage. Yes, maybe there is a need for some to concentrate on the handshake and eye contact with the other person, however the people in this room I consider all professionals – or they wouldn’t be there in the first place. I had believed that it needed to be someone who was in-industry, a person all could look up to for their true leadership and accomplishments.

Prior to the keynote speaker taking the stage, two young women who were there to introduce her talked about their own professions – they are both engineers who work for Shure Incorporated.

I have to say that after five years of waiting for the right person to take that stage for the keynote, someone who is deep in industry profile and knowledge, it did finally happen. Chris Schyvinck, CEO at Shure Incorporated, has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is the former Chairman of the Industrial Advisory Board for the School of Mechanical Engineering at UW-Madison.

She joined Shure in 1989 as Quality Control Engineer. After several promotions, she moved into Process Engineering, becoming manager in 1997. In 1998, she was made Vice President of Corporate Quality.

Two years later, Chris was named Vice President of Operations, responsible for Corporate Quality, Procurement, Supply Chain, and the Company’s manufacturing facilities in Mexico and China. She was promoted to Executive Vice President in 2004 and directed the opening of Shure’s first manufacturing facility in China one year later.

In 2006, Chris was tapped to head the Global Marketing and Sales Division, assuming management of the Company’s Business Units in the Americas, Europe, Middle East/Africa, and Asia/Pacific regions as well as the strategic integration, marketing, sales, artist and public relations, technical support, and customer service functions. Sales increased by more than 78 percent during her ten-year period as Executive Vice President of GMS.

In 2015, she was designated Chief Operating Officer, and, in 2016, was appointed Shure President and CEO, becoming only the fourth such officer in the Company’s 90-year history. *

Chris addressed the room, an audience that was most truly captivated by an accomplished leader in the industry, talking about numerous subjects including Facts and Figures: Scientists and engineers working in science and engineering occupations – here is a slide as representation:

She addressed the need for young women to continue to be involved in STEM in school, resulting in jobs in STEM fields (as are the two young women who introduced her). Diversity was also part of the discussion here – as was indicated in the slide above as well. There was of course Q&A at the end, and noticing the amount of questions people had for her, I’d say Chris’ address made the impact that it absolutely needed to. In 2019, the AVIXA Women’s Breakfast itself made, I believe, the impact we’ve long awaited (and 2018 truly paved the way).

Congratulations Brandy, Marika, Christy, Alexis and all others who were instrumental in making this year’s event the biggest and best yet.

*Northwestern University: Christine Schyvinck profile.

Also see: Christine Schyvinck: 2017 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient (an interview).

With over 20 years in audio visual integration and IT/computer sales and consulting, Corey Moss is the owner of Convergent AV Media. Corey writes for the publication and hosts/produces podcasts – The AV Life, Convergent Tech Talk, Convergent Week and The AV Tech Trade. He has written for numerous industry publications about AV, IT, unified communications and collaboration (UCC), cloud and software, IoT, cybersecurity and more. He has also conducted interviews with AV and IT executives and global influencers. Find him talking about a whole lot of things, tech and otherwise. On LinkedIn