Mersive’s Director of Product Marketing and Training, Erica Carroll, is on the move. Not only is she the 2019 recipient of Dealerscope’s 40 Under 40 Award, but she was named 40 Under 40 by Commercial Integrator in 2023 and is nominated for 2023 AV Magazine AV Pro of the Year.
Her commitment to education in the Pro AV market is evidenced by her role at Mersive and her efforts to inspire future generations of AV leaders through the innovative collaboration she forged between Rosie Riveters and the AV industry. Erica is not only breaking barriers but also shaping futures. We sat down with Erica to chat with her about everything from her background in technology to her work on the AVIXA Women’s Council and Rosie Riveters to co-hosting AV Nation’s Women in AV podcast.
What was it like for you growing up, and how did that shape where your career has taken you?
Both sets of grandparents immigrated from Cuba in the sixties. My mom was five and my aunt was 10 days old. They had one suitcase for the entire family. They landed in Florida and eventually moved to Atlanta where a community of Cubans came together to build new lives while maintaining their culture and traditions. Growing up, my mom, brother, and I lived with my grandparents in a traditional Cuban household. When my mom met my stepdad, I was introduced to new American traditions, cuisine, and his work in technology. There were still a lot of American experiences that I did not have until I left home.
Were you always interested in technology?
As a kid, I was always interested in taking things apart. I would take apart radios or CD players …and I wouldn’t always put them back together! I had an interest in technology and computers, and I’ve always had an interest in math. I have that analytical brain.
In high school, I worked at Media Play. When it shut down, I went to work at Best Buy. l started in the computer department, then moved into cameras and then digital, and eventually became a personal shopper. People would schedule a time with me to shop the entire store.
Aside from that, I was also a theater kid in high school on the technical side of things. I did lighting, sound, set building…all of that. My teacher in high school was the resident lighting designer at Dad’s Garage Theater Company in Atlanta. When I graduated, she asked me to come to work for her during the summer, hanging lights in the theater. I ended up working my way up, doing shows and working as a lighting designer.
What happened after high school? Did you continue on the path of technology?
I went to art school for a bit learning graphic design at what is now called the Miami Ad School. I couldn’t afford the second half of the program, so I didn’t finish.
I love helping people and I was always the person my mom and her friends would call for help with their computer or camera. Everyone has that favorite niece that takes care of everything. I was that girl.
So I took what I knew of graphic design at school and my love of helping people with technology to start a business called “Right Hand Ma’am,” where I did executive assistance and graphic design from 2008-2012. I loved it, but it didn’t have medical benefits.
At the time, I was also working with a staffing agency who gave me part-time hours here and there, doing random things. For example, I was a secret shopper at grocery stores and gas stations for underage tobacco and alcohol sales. One day, a position came up that required someone who was bilingual to help plan a trip to Costa Rica. It ended up being a rep event for Digital Projection, Inc. and was supposed to be a temporary hire.
I interviewed with Mike Levi at the time, who looked at my resume and offered me a different job in applications engineering. Applications engineers have to see all of the pieces in a system and understand how they work together. I came on temporarily and was able to help on the Costa Rica trip as I’m Cuban bilingual, but I fell in love with the pro AV industry right away and took the job.
Was the immersion into a fully technical manufacturing company in the AV space difficult?
It was intense. Like I said, I went to school for art, and I wasn’t actually a great student. I didn’t do well in science, but in math I was okay. For Digital Projection, we started designing 4K caves for NASA before 4K chips ever existed.
People always talk about how calculating throw distance is so easy, but not when you’re projecting onto a pyramid. You have ever-changing calculations and you need a single lens that fits the whole application. The key for me was being honest and when challenged saying “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
While I was in Applications Engineering at DPI, I started helping out with classes and the training program. I loved teaching; it reminded me of helping my mom and family with technology. That little bit of teaching was pretty rewarding. I got the opportunity to run training at DPI, did that for a year as the training manager for the Americas, before moving to Atlona in 2015, where I was part of a more robust training team. We won SCN’s Stellar Service Award for Best Use of an Afternoon Award for our online training in 2017, and I also received Dealerscope’s 40 Under 40 Award in 2019 while I was there. It was a great time in my career.
Atlona is where you met your husband, Joel, correct? It’s hard to tell your story without mentioning him.
He’s definitely part of my story. When I started at Atlona, Joel and I met up for lunch and stayed for two hours, just talking. He became a really good friend at work, helping me to understand all the different technologies, because I had gone from learning just projection to now signal distribution. The learning curve was steep. We started dating in the summer of 2015, got engaged in September, and were married in March. He moved to WolfVision and then Mersive where a co-worker of ours from Atlona had also landed. When the need for training at Mersive opened up, she reached out to me and I was instantly drawn to the simplicity of their collaboration technology. It’s just a bonus that I got another chance to work with my husband.
When did your work with the AVIXA Women’s Council happen?
From 2018 to 2022. I have been on AVIXA’s Content and Learning Committee since 2019 and am currently in my second year of a three-year commitment as committee chairperson. While I was at Atlona there were rumblings of local women’s councils for AVIXA. It used to be called Women of InfoComm, but by the time I joined Atlona, it became a more formalized group.
I signed up to be a local leader in Atlanta, which entails doing a minimum of one event per quarter for your local area. For example, we helped local Atlanta-area women build their own 30-second commercial for personal and professional development. We wanted to empower women in our industry whether they were in finance or human resources or any other role. We had events locally at places like Cyviz, NanoLumens, WolfVision and we did an event at Barco, who hosted one of the first packing parties we had for Rosie Riveters Explores Pro AV.
On that note, tell us about Rosie Riveters Explores Pro AV.
The goal of Rosie Riveters Explores Pro AV is to build girls’ confidence and STEM skills at an elementary age and introduce them to career options in the AV industry, while helping to close the gender gap for the next generation of AV. Jennifer Goodyer is the co-creator of the Rosie Riveters Explores Pro AV initiative. The two of us hooked up because I needed a new local co-leader at the time in Atlanta for AVIXA Women’s Council. We both agreed that while the networking aspect of the council was great, we wanted to make more of a difference.
In one of the local leader meetings, Penny Sitler at Draper mentioned Rosie Riveters. Jen scheduled a meeting with Rosie Riveters Executive Director Brittany Greer and it all exploded from there. In 2022, we led a fundraising initiative, exclusively in the AV industry, ultimately raising over $35,000 for Rosie Riveters with headlining sponsor Bradford Benn at Advisist Group funding all of our initial goal of $5,000. Tim Ablright, President of AVNation Media, then challenged us to an audacious goal of $30,000, which we also surpassed.
2023 is the second of many years to come to continue these efforts to re-engage with students, and continue to build momentum for the cause. With 4-5 projects, we can even submit for an “AV” Girl Scout Badge!
How do people get involved in Rosie Riveters Explores Pro AV?
There are a lot of options on AVgives.com. You can make an individual contribution. You can buy a T-shirt. You can share it on your social media, etc. For corporations, there are different giving tiers. You can even host an event and open up the movement to your own local community. This is a movement, and the more people get involved the better. It’s not tied to any one person, like me or Jen, nor is it tied to any one manufacturer or geographical location.
Speaking of education, you have a website, ProAVCourses.com. Why did you start that?
As someone who values education in all its forms, I wanted to create a resource for AV Pros to find courses and earn CTS RUs. There are so many offerings, but there was no central place to find what was available with a link that sends you straight to the training. The site is still growing with more classes added frequently. People have told me it’s a valuable resource when they’re looking for RUs or referring someone new to the industry who wants to learn more. Those with courses or training programs they’d like to add can submit through the “Add Course” form on the website.
Tell us a little about the work you are doing at Mersive.
I took on product marketing because there was a void at the time. This is the first time that I’ve worked in training where it falls under marketing, which I think is the right place for it. The way I approach training has evolved because of that. Now, I think of it as not just teaching somebody something, but getting them to grasp an idea and why it matters. It’s been a productive struggle, a term we use in Rosie Riveters, because I am learning new things every day. But I’m also still seeing the benefits of what comes of it—all the work that we put into it and all this messaging that we’re rewriting. We’re having many aha! moments at Mersive that I absolutely love from a training perspective.
How do you translate some of the more technical aspects of Mersive’s products?
I ask a lot of questions, then reformulate those questions to ask the same thing in a different way if I still don’t understand. Translating complex ideas has always been my superpower. I consider myself a lifetime learner and invest in continued education every year. This year I’ve spent a lot of time learning about business and marketing. All of it helps me in my role at Mersive, but also in the work we are doing for Rosie and AVIXA. I want to impact my audience and build communities.
How do you do it all, both your philanthropic work that has you nominated for honors like AV Pro of the Year with AV Magazine in the UK and Commercial Integrator’s 40 Under 40 honor plus your day job?
Calendar blocking! I have to automate my schedule as much as possible and keep appointments with myself for things that are important to me. For example, on AV Nation’s Women in AV podcast, I spend two hours on it a month—one planning and one recording. The same thing goes for my work on AVIXA’s Content and Learning Committee. I have to plan my time. It’s a balancing act, but when something is important to you, it doesn’t feel like work.