Our very own Bardy Hayes recently caught up with Pro AVL Central Editor Ledetta Asfa-Wossen to talk about the challenges and trends of searching and hiring the best audio and lighting talent across the APAC region.
Where are you seeing the greatest talents gaps in the pro audio industry?
This varies by region but it is no secret that there is a shift in the level and type of technical requirements for sales and support professionals. The demands and understanding required to effectively market, promote, sell etc have definitely shifted towards digitally controlled and networked products. The easy answer is just looking for IT guys to fill those roles, however the sweet spot and where the highest demand I see are for IT savvy individuals combined with the traditional understandings of audio/video/display/control. Understanding acoustics, production best practices, hands-on real-time skills are still in high demand.
And what about in APAC more specifically?
Well, any gap in technological understanding and experience that may have existed between Asia and the west has disappeared. However, while the excellent standardization and certification work that organizations like Avixa have done is growing quickly in Asia, there seems to be a shortage of CTS certified technical/sales and management people.
Which countries in Asia are you seeing recruitment drives in?
From what we see the hot spots for recruiting are central SE Asia (Singapore specifically) Mainland China and Japan.
What does your typical pro AVL client look like? In terms of scale, region, sub-sector (audio, video, lighting) etc. Are they mainly manufacturers looking to recruit? Distributors or engineering companies?
Our relatively recent emphasis on Asia so far is showing higher engagement form large audio and broadcast tech companies, but lighting is also growing. Since our history has been more audio oriented, we haven’t seen as much interest from the video side, but we are confident of that changing. Again because of our historical focus we haven’t pursued SI/production companies to the same degree as manufacturers.
Are most pro AVL companies recruiting in-house or through external agencies like yourself? What are the pros and cons of taking either route?
Interfacio is pretty unique in that we focus on the pro-AVL niche. All our consultants have significant expertise and success in this industry and bring an understanding that is hard for the generalist recruiting firms, or even internal HR departments, to match. There are however some excellent non-specialist firms in Asia and also some very sharp internal HR executives that are experiencing success particularly in less specific roles.
Some manufacturers don’t seem to use outside recruiters – or maybe they just don’t use us! And as I mentioned above, it seems the larger firms, even though they have significant reach and contact network, are far more open and even eager to engage us than smaller-sized companies. I believe that part of this is that effective and successful recruiting is not just a bunch of names – but the process of properly mapping the market segments and potential candidate base through the identification, qualification and presentation phases, and then negotiations towards successful long-lasting hires. Our industry insight combined with a well-honed methodology have allowed success that cannot be overemphasized.
You focus on audio, music, broadcast and film technology sectors. Which sub-sectors are you especially seeing the most spend on recruiting fresh talent? E.g. pro sound reinforcement/live sound, consumer audio, broadcast etc.
Well, my perspective is definitely skewed. Probably because of my background and contact base I am definitely seeing more activity in the SR side – both portable / touring and install and lighting. But my perception is the biggest spend is going on the control / processing side of the integration sectors.
You used to work for a systems integration company and worked with industry-leading brands both domestically and in export markets and have practical experience with sound system design, operation, installation and live sound mixing. Can you please tell me more about your career to date and the roles you held and some of the companies you worked at more specifically?
Haha! In my early years doing more hands-on design / installation and commissioning work, it would be a stretch to call that “integration”. With analogue audio, voltage-based control, and the early days of DMX, very little of the gear actually “spoke” to other bits… the only integration was that we “integrated” all the equipment into one truck to deliver to the job site! That being said, I continue to be engaged with side projects and have kept my understanding current, not only through the selling and marketing of evolving technologies but also doing these side projects for friends, etc. That bit is my “hobby” and I still enjoy dusting off my solder gun and getting my hands dirty. If I had been smarter maybe I could have pursued the engineering side instead!
How do you think pro-audio job roles in sound systems design / installation / live music and operation have changed over the last five years with pro audio tech increasingly merging with IT?
Others could probably provide a more satisfying response, but the way I see it, the laws of physics haven’t changed. How sound waves behave in a given space is still the same, how our brain interprets those sounds hasn’t changed either. How to compose and place elements in a piece of art hasn’t improved since the Renaissance, and our colour blending isn’t transcending Van Gogh’s? What is constantly changing is scale, power and resolution. So, the tools have changed, but the overall objectives have not. We want experiences that sound and look pleasing and we want to be able to understand what is being communicated. I think that to be successful in the AVL field you still need to start with the fundamentals, but embrace and immerse oneself into the amazing, incredible array of tools at our disposal today. And to always embrace change. One thing that is beyond dispute: today’s audio / lighting and video tools will become obsolete during our time. Get ready.
Particularly in the areas of pro audio, sales, management and marketing – much of the career movements or new appointments look to be increasingly by word of mouth. Would you agree that it is quite a close-knit sector with some of the same names moving around the top companies? And, is this something exclusive to the field of Pro-audio, as opposed to the lighting and video sector?
There is disagreement on where the borders lie that encompass our market segment, but even including commercial video, architectural lighting and the overlap into consumer audio, we work in a small, and some may say, incestuous sector. I regularly end up sitting on a plane beside someone who works for a company that is larger than our entire industry!
I think your question involves 2 major factors – how a company continues to innovate and grow, combined with the theory that an executive needs to regularly change companies to progress her/his career. Lots of evidence on both sides of that discussion!
New blood, fresh perspectives and evolution are healthy for our industry. And you can see that many times a change of company can open up paths for a promotion that may have been unavailable to a person in their current space. Too much change and disruption, of course, can be harmful, but even that concept has been famously disputed!
This migration seems to be spread across all of our sub-sectors – and perhaps across all progressive industries. I believe that generally, it is healthy.
Another healthy thing though is mixing up the gene pool. Interfacio is always looking to identify and bring less visible or non-AVL industry people to our clients. Bringing the basic skill sets, of course, this infusion adds to innovation and progress we believe. I think this point of how we do a lot more than just recycle existing known names is critical. It is the main rationale behind what we do.
What desirable skills, experience or requirements are you seeing commonly sought by pro audio companies in APAC?
As our industry continues to mature from its heady rock and roll heritage, I see companies steering away from the “shoot from the hip” past – real science is supplementing and even replacing intuition and trial and error in acoustic and electronic design. Plus, certification and best practices are a welcome change to some of the messy and sometimes even dangerous practices some of us grew up with. I am very happy that no “around the back” photos of my original touring racks survived! I would hate for them to be compared to some of the amazing (can I say even beautiful?) racks I see today. Companies today are looking for candidates with better and better schooling – true understanding and fluency of physics on the audio side, and certification and standardization on the installation and commission side. Candidates that want the best AV jobs need to always improve their real world and certifiable skills and knowledge. This process should never end.
What are some of the challenges of hiring and recruiting for a pro-AVL role in the APAC region from an employer perspective?
In my experience the biggest challenge for multinational corporations is culture. As Asia continues to grow in prosperity, status and influence, the days of local markets needing to adapt to western styles are on the wane and there is an increasing push back against companies that insist on behaving and doing business the way they do in the west. Now I am not referring to basic processes and best practices, nor of course ethics. I am speaking about good old human interaction. If an organization wants to maximize its success in Asia, they should consider adapting and even be assimilated into the ways of interacting, communicating, relating and doing business locally. Better understanding, more respect and being quick to listen are some of the areas we should aim to improve – a constant challenge for me. And maybe we could even try to bring some of that home?
What’s the one role you find the most difficult to recruit for? Or, that takes the longest to secure the ideal candidate for?
The difficult bit is not the type of role, but the scope of any regional role. “Asian culture” really isn’t a thing. The countries are very different from each other. I would venture to say that the differences between most countries throughout Asia are far more pronounced than between European countries. So, to find candidates that are experienced, comfortable and connected in, let’s say Indonesia, and Japan, and China and New Zealand is tough! Even just Korea and Japan – 2 countries so close geographically but SO different socially and in world view.
In your view, what’s the average time spent in one particular pro audio job? For example, is there a higher turnover in sales roles and less in R&D? Also, what is the average amount of years spent in one role with one manufacturer?
To be honest I can’t speak to this question specifically as I haven’t studied any hard data. Anecdotally though it does seem that engineering/R&D guys are less mobile and less inclined to risk a change. The change they enjoy is in the technology! While salespeople seem to have more appetite for change in their own situations.
Which pro-AVL sub-sectors, in your view, seem to currently offer the most exciting prospects for global career progression, training and personal development?
My advice to any person that will listen (and there aren’t many!) is that integration technology is not only very progressive and challenging but is growing both vertically in size and horizontally in scope across other industries. Embrace IT, networking, control, and you will never have trouble finding a position in the sector you are passionate about. And if you don’t have passion, maybe you should consider another industry? We may love you, but we don’t need you 😉
If you are currently looking to strengthen your business team in APAC or North America or are considering your own career progression and potential opportunities for development and would like to have a discussion with Bardy, you can use his contact details below or follow the links to get in touch with us.