In late April, Crosstown Concourse and AVI-SPL played host to “Moving Memphis Forward with Technology,” a panel discussion featuring CIOs and tech executives from businesses including FedEx, IMC Companies, and Sedgwick.
Jordan Myers, regional general manager of AVI-SPL’s Memphis branch, spoke with Inside Memphis Business about current and future technology trends in Shelby County, how companies are attracting younger workers, and what Memphis is doing to be recognized as a technology hub.
Inside Memphis Business: Can you give me an overview of what your company does in the Memphis area?
Jordan Myers: We’re an audio-visual integrator, so that means we design, install, and support audio-visual solutions in conference rooms, classrooms, auditoriums, hospitals, you name it. So, everything from televisions, microphones, cameras, to allow people to connect.
IMB: How has your day-to-day changed since Interactive Solutions merged with AVI-SPL?
JM: It’s still the same work that we have always been doing, it’s just with a new name and a new logo. Obviously, going from working for a small mom-and-pop shop, around nearly $20 million with about 50 employees, to being part of a billion-dollar company with 2,400 employees definitely has changed the size and scope of the organization we’re a part of and the team we have behind us.
IMB: Is your company using technology or any other strategies to attract younger millennial workers?
JM: Yes, absolutely. I was part of the focus for doing that. We have been focused on the AV side of things and do a lot of work with businesses across the city of Memphis and the Tennessee region. A lot of what we do is helping them have technology solutions that enable them to do their business, so we see a lot of the trends that are being implemented in different digital workplaces. We allowed some of the technical folks that we know in technical leadership roles to share what they’re seeing in the marketplace. A lot of that is built around tools that help them do their job to things that they can use to attract young talent.
IMB: Can you give a few examples of what you or other companies are doing?
JM: There’s a big push for open concept offices. A lot of people have mixed feelings about working in a space where you don’t have your traditional walls or cubicles. This layout can provide a lot of opportunities for collaboration, but also a lot of challenges. We’re seeing a lot of huddle spaces, which are smaller rooms, and are maybe called a phone room or something like that. They have a single display in there, a small TV, and something for two to three people to be able to have a quick call, and it encourages people to still connect. But at the same time it doesn’t take as much floor space as a large conference room or boardroom would.
We also are seeing a lot of the same thing like the open concept or an open office called hot-desking, where instead of assigning a desk or a cube to someone, you show up for the day and you grab a desk. You basically check out a desk and you can be assigned one through an automated system. If someone is looking for you they can go to a directory and actually find where you are located in the office. Obviously, we’re seeing a lot of companies video-conferencing more. It’s something that they normally used for executives and for board members. Now, it’s becoming a natural part of daily communications for groups. Everyone is connecting for video or audio.
They’re doing it from wherever they may be, so obviously that helps with recruiting. You’re not down to the same barriers of having someone in a certain city or a certain location to do their job. They can be located anywhere, in any time zone, wherever that might be. I think, certainly, the big emphasis was not just having technology just for technology’s sake.
Successful businesses want and really emphasize the need for technologies that enable them to better do their jobs and have their team be more efficient. You need to be tech forward and have those tools and resources internally to attain and attract that kind of talent.
IMB: Does your branch of AVI-SPL have many employees working from home or remotely?
JM: A lot of our folks will do a mixture of working from the office and working from home. We have folks either at our Memphis office as well as in Nashville, and folks that remotely work in East Tennessee. We try to make that part of the offerings we have and a part of our brand, that we certainly offer that flexibility for folks if and when they need to work remotely. We obviously have the tools and technology to set it up for countless other entities to do that, so, it’s not an uncommon thing.
I actually just got off a call a few minutes ago between our office, our accounting team in Tampa, and one of our operations managers. It was a very important call, but he happened to have a vacation already scheduled. So, he just called in from the beach from his phone over video. It was HD, the whole time he was reviewing Excel documents, but thankfully it was a quick call. We were appreciative that he was willing to carve out some time on his vacation. It doesn’t hinder him from taking his vacation. It doesn’t require him to come back early from that and at the same time we’re able to keep work moving forward.
IMB: Since AVI-SPL installs forms of communication for other businesses, what is your approach to cyber-security both within your company and other businesses?
JM: Obviously, in the broader IT strategy that a lot of the companies are approaching, security is the first question that comes up, whether it’s data infrastructure, to confluence infrastructure, to their software development as well. So even for the equipment we provide on the audio-visual side of it, it used to be something that was separate from the network side. It was viewed separately from all the other technical aspects because it didn’t really tie in.
Well, nowadays, the work that we do and the technology we provide ties into a lot of the same networks as the corporate networks. So, we have to take the same care when it comes to security as any other computer or device you’re bringing onto the computer network. You have to be aware of the vulnerabilities that are out there. It’s not just a video conferencing unit or a wireless sharing unit; it’s also a network enabled device that can get out to the internet and can connect to your device as well.
It’s something that AVI-SPL takes very seriously. I know with our customers, it comes up pretty frequently about making sure the audio and video communications going from outside their offices are encrypted and don’t have any security vulnerabilities. We do a lot of work, not only in corporate, but also in healthcare. With healthcare technology we have to be extremely careful with the licenses we put on our network. There’s a lot of scrutiny that it goes through just like any other system. It’s definitely the forethought of every IT leader’s strategy when it came to a project they were pursuing.
IMB: You have to always be paying attention to what the next evolution will be in the technology world. Are there any things you’re looking at to embrace going forward? How do you stay ahead of the curve?
JM: I know something that comes up to us a lot is some of these NextGen technologies like AI, blockchain, and things like that. We are seeing more and more customers looking for options when it comes to asset tracking of devices. So, they not only want to have the ability to walk in a conference room and be able to start something with one button, they also want the rooms to be aware when someone is in the room, whether it’s through occupancy sensors that track movement to Bluetooth that can recognize their phone and then start the meeting based on the fact that it knows “Jordan Myers” has entered the room and he has a call scheduled at two o’clock. I’m going to call into the address he has in his Outlook and start the meeting for him in this room.
A lot of our video conferencing tools have the ability to transcribe. So, if you’re having a meeting the system itself can create a transcript of the conversations that were had. We’re continuing to see more folks that are using that. The blockchain thing is coming up as we’re certainly looking at different payment methods and things like that for how our technologies will be consumed. A lot more people are doing things on a monthly basis paying for it, so as they do that more and more they’re looking for more secure ways to do it. That’s the high-level things that we’re seeing more of.
IMB: You see companies like Indigo Ag coming to town. Do you think Memphis is an appealing place for tech companies, or is at least moving in the right direction to become a technology hub?
JM: There are a lot of resources and people here trying to encourage the development of both technology and technical talent. Things like Tech901 and other programming boot camps are really valuable. I know we actually recruited a couple of employees from Tech901.
Our “Moving Memphis Forward” event had three panelists, and one of them was CIO of Sedgwick, which was a large project we recently completed at their headquarters. It’s the old Thomas & Betts Building in East Memphis; It’s 11,000 employees, four floors, 150 different spaces of technology throughout the building. It was a pretty massive project. One of our main audio programmers on that was actually a young woman we recruited out of Tech901, Elise Wenzel. Prior to that, she was a music major as an undergrad.
She had worked for a marketing company for a while before deciding to take some programming classes. We actually recruited her from out of a Tech901 class. One of the things that we liked was, not only did she have the coding experience, but she had a music background as well. To be an audio engineer you have to have a great ear. That’s something that you can’t teach to someone. For us, it was a really great combination. Again, it’s the way that people are developing and finding talent here.