It is time to get a real job... Thanks, but I have one!

One person's story of following their passion for audio and technology, and an evolving successful career that emerged.
It is time to get a real job... Thanks, but I have one!
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My name is Nick Orsatti, and I am a director of a large systems integrator in Australia, Fredon Technology (link here). I was recently asked to share my story here, with the hope of inspiring and encouraging the young AV professionals of the future that the AV industry is a real career choice and one full of opportunity and adventure.

I have been fortunate to spend my whole career in the audio-visual industry, and I somewhat fell into it by following my passions rather than the good advice of my family and peers.... And I don't regret it for one second.

TL;DR - Yes this is an industry with an identity crisis, but rest assured, people make meaningful careers and support their aspirations, their dreams and secure their futures within an exciting, fast paced and growing industry. 

If you want to hear my story, read on....

Decade One - Rookie finding his feet

The year is 1989 (yes I am older than I like to think I am). As a student completing my high school studies, I was faced with the question we all face - so what's next after school? I knew two things - I loved playing music and tinkering with electronics. So, whist I chose a bunch of subjects that were appropriate for further studies at university, I also took a couple of "interest subjects" in the last years of high school, one was "Technical Aspects of Drama". You see the high school had a great drama department and had created an elective course dedicated to supporting the drama team, which included set building, costuming, makeup, sound and lighting. 

My first "gig" was designing, rigging and operating a lighting show for a battle of the bands type event, and I did many other extra-curricular activities including starting a lunchtime "radio station" in the school, comprised of my home-built kit amplifiers, equalisers, speakers and the like. I also played in bands and whet my appetite for production during this time.

Fast forward to the end of high school, and I was faced with the options we all do - get a job, go on to further tertiary study or perhaps both. My parents were "supportive but somewhat alarmed" at my choices - was this a fleeting obsession with no real world end? Would I just end up being a "roadie" without a solid path to a real career? 

I decided to try to get an audio job and go to University part time, so with the help of my grandmother, I wrote introductory letters to every audio equipment manufacturer in my hometown of Sydney Australia, 10 letters in total. To my delight and surprise, I received two replies, and after interviews with both, I took a job and enrolled at university part time. 

ICC Theatre, Sydney

My tertiary education took a back seat to the excitement of working in the audio and entertainment industry. My employer, Jands Electronics was an awesome place to work with a great culture of mentoring, and within a short period of time, I went from an electronics assembly worker to working in their service department. 

This was the 90's and AV technology went through an ongoing transformation into digital, and I was at right place at the right time. The Internet was a new thing, and my technical interest & disposition was well served in the emerging worlds of computing and audio. I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge on acoustics, electronics and computing, and I was no longer restricted by knowledge found in books, I had the world wide web.

My roles at Jands continued to evolve over the years, and I found myself gaining knowledge in warehousing, logistics, distribution and the sales processes, which only reinforced my growing capability in customer service. A role was then created to take technical training to the dealers and end users, which then resulted in the formation of the Jands Technical Resource Group which I became a member of.

Decade Two - So what's this thing called System Integration?

10 years or so had passed, and I'd been mentored, trained and developed into an audio person. It was the year 2000, the Olympics were in my home town and we were all wary of what would happen to our clocks, computer systems and the like when the date ticked over to the new Millenium. 

It was time to get a real job. This audio stuff has been fun, but it's not a legitimate career, right?

My past University endeavours never completed (hey don't judge me, I had a job in rock n roll), it was time to go back and get qualified, and I enrolled in a Computer Science degree, part time. And I left my audio job without another job to go to, and I was to head straight into the IT field. After all, that is a legitimate career choice, right?

Big Innovative Audio makes me smile...
Sydney Coliseum featuring L'Acoustic L-ISA

By a strange turn of fate, I ended up in a conversation with one of my customers, and rather than pivoting to IT, I ended up working for an AV Systems Integrator, Rutledge Engineering (who is now One Diversified). Rutledge were expanding regionally, and they needed someone with local Sydney knowledge.

Never to let the facts stand in the way of a good story, I convinced them that I was the right person, and I started my next chapter.

I had to learn all about video, control and all that comes with the world of systems integration, but I had a solid audio background at this point, and I picked it up, again with the help of a lot of great mentors. So I did a number of roles at Rutledge, culminating with the State Manager's role for NSW. All the while, I toiled away I completed my Computer Science degree some 9 years after I started.

NSW Rural Fire Service Control Centre

During that time, it dawned upon me - I have a real career. And not only that, my combined experiential learning coupled with great mentors and formal training had created a niche that was well positioned - one with specialist skills in AV, but also a deep understanding of IT. Coupling this with the learnings being involved in the mechanisms of different, well run businesses, I was set to take on the world, and we did. Rutledge expanded into all Australian territories and became one of Australia's powerhouse AV houses.

In 2011, now with a wife, kids and a mortgage, personal circumstances led me to my next career move, I left my comfort zone, and joined Fredon to help start their AV business. At this time Fredon was a strong electrical and mechanical business, and were on a growth path diversifying horizontally into complementary services trades - Security and AV.

CommBank Stadium during Construction

This was a whole new chapter for me, moving out of the niche of AV and into a wider services business. Again, I was fortunate to find a great home with great culture and mentoring, and this move has assisted me greatly in honing my skills in relation to business acumen, strategy and people management.

Decade Three - Business Skills and Paying it Forward

And so, another 10 years on, I am a Director of a national AV systems integrator with a large talented pool of like minded people doing great things in the converged world of AV and IT.  All from humble beginnings with a passion for audio and technology, a fire in my belly, and making the most of great opportunities that came my way.

There was a time where I thought that AV would be engulfed in the IT world. But the more experience I gained, I learned that there is a niche set of skills that are not readily available to an IT graduate or professional.

LED Wall @ Sydney Modern Art Gallery

As a modern AV professional, you bridge the gap between the physical world of meeting rooms, education facilities, performing arts arenas, stadiums and the like and the logical world of IT.  You need a solid knowledge of IT, but you also need to implement that in the physical world in which we live. And if you have knowledge and stills in both of these worlds, then that is a very powerful asset. 

In many ways, I'm still have the fire and passion for the industry I love that I had as a wide eyed 17 year old embarking on a new career. I still love the technology, and as a business manager, I look for projects to work on which allow my team to be innovative and ground breaking, whilst also tempering this with standard run of the mill projects that keep the doors open and everyone employed.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra with
Acoustic Enhancement System

But what drives me know is not just the technology, but also the satisfaction of developing and nurturing the talent of tomorrow. If that sounds like you, then drop me a message here.

And so why become an AV professional you may ask? Because it's never boring, its constantly innovating and expanding, and it is a real career that is unlike many others. 

Here's a couple of links to recent and interesting projects I've been fortunate to be a part of:

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Go to the profile of Jonathan Seller, CAE
11 months ago

What an awesome gig. Great story Nick, thanks for sharing.

Go to the profile of Monisha Devaiah
11 months ago

Thank you for sharing our AV career journey with us @Nick Orsatti. Indeed very inspiring!