1/18/2023 – Britt Yenser, CTS, the Director of Event Technology at Moravian University manages the audio-visual workflow of more than 450 campus events per academic year, and, thanks to COVID, has spent much of her time in AV perfecting hybrid events. The rare events pro who holds a CTS certificate, Britt is the HETMA Communications Chair, and in 2023, and was one of Commercial Integrator’s 40 Influencers Under 40 and Higher Ed AV Media’s AV Professional of the Year! Thanks to her regular contributions to HETMA’s Higher Ed AV website and hosting the “brAVe” podcast, she’s managed a career worth giving back to AV, and it’s still in the early stages.
Yenser’s path to a career in AV will sound familiar to many in the industry: “I was a first-generation college student at Moravian University and needed a job to pay for everything,” she says, “My car was held together with bubblegum and duct tape, so if I didn’t have to drive, that’d be good! I saw the Media Services table and asked what they do. I did video projects in high school, I knew how to edit, and they said, “You’re hired!””
Yenser studied English and Secondary Education. After graduation, she spent two years in Teach for America and was ready to return to the Lehigh Valley. Moravian’s Craig Underwood had managed Britt as a student and reached out about a potential job on campus. He became the University’s Director of AV Engineering, while Britt signed on as Assistant Director of Media Services. Her strengths rapidly led her to take the lead on live events.
Britt’s aware that luck and coincidence are hardly the best way to get more young people into AV. “People still don’t recognize AV as a career,” she states firmly, adding, “We need to get more into elementary and high schools. That would be helpful for us. More formal courses of study for the AV industry; people think of us as a trade people fall into. Let’s make it look more like a career with a set of knowledge you should know. People need to understand that somebody had to make it work!”
Rapidly gaining experience managing student workers at Moravian, a common practice in Higher Ed, Britt wanted to share her hard-won knowledge. She approached HETMA‘s Joe Way about “writing a limited series on student recruiting, hiring, and onboarding.” She credits Way with seeing “leadership and management” she didn’t recognize in herself when he suggested she keep writing for Higher Ed AV beyond the scope of the initial pitch.
In a roundabout way, that lead to the “brAVe” podcast, “a space for the AV industry to have hard conversations and to invest in personal and professional growth.” Yenser pitched an event about women who work in technology as part of Moravian’s Women’s History Month programming. After reaching out to colleagues in IT and AV and putting together a panel, Britt had “over 80 participants in that webinar who were colleagues in the AV industry” clear that they “want part two.” Britt didn’t think another panel was the answer, or, as she puts it, “I thought we could do panels until we’re blue in the face. What if we do this w/ a different model, a podcast.”
When asked what she found most surprising about creating a podcast, Yenser quickly responded, “How supportive people have been, both of content and the guests. Gina Sansivero, of course, gets a lot of listeners, but people are listening to the lesser-known folks, too.” She says the “biggest challenge honestly is keeping the content fresh but letting hosts address what they want.” “BrAVe” and its guests have covered wage gaps and transparency, imposter syndrome, seizing opportunities and work-life balance, and toxic masculinity to more uncomfortable situations such as sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
“I’d like to see more diversity in AV. More ability to have a work-life balance, especially for people working in a live event capacity. There are so few people to carry that load; you’re on all the time,” observes Yenser, adding, “We need more people in the pool to work. We need to ‘right size’ our expectations to manage client expectations. We need to give more ownership to the technicians in terms of what their service catalogs are and what they can accomplish with the resources they have. Even in HigherEd, people ask for resources we don’t have!”
Britt’s voice turns thoughtful when asked about AV Professional of the Year and 40 Influencers Under 40, “It’s stuff that I honestly struggle with. I’m so grateful for it. People think this highly of me? That’s part of why I ask about imposter syndrome in my podcast. Many of us struggle with it; I don’t want us to suffer in silence. I want folks talking about it, and I want to get advice from people who I think are much smarter than me!!!”
Yenser found completing the CTS certificate helped “make it feel more like a career to me, and a lot more confident in calling myself an AV professional.” The HETMA Prism Scholarship paired Yenser with a mentor for the CTS exam and paid for the test at InfoComm. “Next on my radar,” says Britt, “Is project management. Studying and potentially getting my PMP. Interested in exploring that space.”
“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” Britt says, “By and large, we’re a very kind industry. Join HETMA!” She has high praise for James King’s HigherED AV Slack channel as another great resource.
Britt adds, “Have a growth mindset! A fixed mindset means the skills you have now are the only skills you’ll ever have. A growth mindset is the idea you can cultivate new skills. That lends itself really well to the AV industry. Tech continues to evolve; if you believe you can continue growing and learning, that will serve you well.” Good advice! We look forward to Britt sharing more in the years to come.