International Women's Day

3/8/2020
Overview

 

In honor of International Women's Day we're taking the time to celebrate some amazing women from around the company. From Account Executives to VP's -- we are proud to have so many passionate women in diverse roles. 

Scroll to meet some amazing women from PRG and VER.

Susan Eisner, Senior VP, Business and Legal Affairs
Armonk, NY – PRG 

How did you get your start in the industry? PRG was my first job in this industry! As far as my legal career, my prior experience was as an assistant district attorney in Queens, NY. In that job, I was not only prosecuting criminals, I was also allowed to give people who made a mistake a second chance. I loved having an impact on the world and have worked at also trying to make a difference in my job at PRG. I was fortunate to have so many people from all corners of the company who helped me learn our business.

What advice do you have for women beginning their careers? Listen to the stories from the old timers, observe how people act, never compromise who you are and speak up when you have something to say. Keep learning. Don’t be afraid – go for the money, the title, the whole package.

What has your greatest achievement been to date? I have raised two very different, but equally amazing children who are now awesome adults.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your professional or personal life? I look at my history as a series of roadblocks and smooth paths. I left a great career to raise children, then got divorced had to figure out how to be a mom to two young kids and restart a career. Divorce was the roadblock, getting a job at PRG was my good fortune. Then I got breast cancer, then breast cancer again. A bit of a roadblock, but again, PRG was my great fortune.

How are you creating positive changes or opportunities in the workplace? I say good morning and good night. I am here to listen, to give advice, to teach. I hope all those that know me know this and use my experience as a springboard to further their success. I try to be a champion of others.

Do you have a role model? Not quite the on-point answer, but I will say that my parents are the original #girldad and #supermom. They set me and my two sisters up with a solid foundation of confidence, integrity and respect for others. They encourage us to have our own voices, with no limits on us at all. It never occurred to me, or to them, that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted.

What still needs to change, in terms of progress for gender equality? Women need to stop feeling like they are imposters. We need to believe that our successes are deserved because we are smart and good at what we do. Women need to find their own our voices and speak up. In the end, what is the worst thing that could happen if you speak up?

 

Alexis La Broi, Director of Sales
Washington, DC – VER


How did you get your start in the industry? I worked in the AV department for my work- study job at the student union building at Northwestern University. It paid more than working anywhere else, and I couldn’t believe I could get paid doing this type of work. After college, I started working at PSAV at the Renaissance Hotel in Chicago as a technician.


What advice do you have for women beginning their careers?
Take a serious look at every opportunity that comes your way and don’t be afraid to try something new.

How are you creating positive changes or opportunities in the workplace? The only way to develop a workforce that attracts women, young people, and/ or people of color is to make sure that they know about our industry. I talk with them about opportunities in technology because I believe representation matters. If they “see me” then they can “be me.”

Do you have a role model? My parents, Alan and Jackie Bryant, are my role models. They both sold electronics for Montgomery Ward and brought home all the latest tech gadgets of the time. My favorite was my Commodore VIC-20 computer with the cassette tape “hard drive” circa 1982. LOL

 

Andrea Vestrand, TV/Film/Broadcast Account Executive 
Albuquerque, NM – PRG

How did you get your start in the industry? I started out as a set PA and camera assistant many moons ago, earned a bachelor’s degree in cinematography and then worked my way up into coordinating, production managing, and producing. After several years as a loyal client, I was offered an opportunity to join the PRG team, moving out of production and into the vendor side of things by building our newest location in New Mexico. 


What advice do you have for women beginning their careers? Be willing to state clearly what you want and what your goals are. Never shy away from a tenacious persistence and a desire to learn and grow. A solid work ethic will get your foot in the door but the ability to maintain a sense of calm in the midst of a storm will set you apart and allow for a lengthy and fulfilling career.

How are you creating positive changes or opportunities in the workplace? I make it a point to have those working with me feel like they are in a safe space to learn anything about the industry. I encourage exploration of thought. I facilitate leadership by allowing everyone to have a voice, an opinion and the ability to own their work and their positions. This makes the entire team stronger.

What is the most defining moment or trend in gender equality that you’ve witnessed during your career? When women started owning their differences rather than hiding them. We now regularly see women DPs or women directors out there on set, working as hard as everyone else, fully pregnant and proud of it, posting pictures on their social media and beyond. The women's movement is about equality in the workplace and never about hiding what makes us women. To see this change in such a male-centric field warms my heart and gives me hope that women really can do it all.

What still needs to change, in terms of progress for gender equality? The Oscars and the perception that women's artistic endeavors aren't as valuable or are judged more harshly. I look forward to a day when we can stop fighting to get more women recognized on the highest award platforms, and instead, can honor and appreciate the stories we all have to tell in a way where gender really doesn't matter.

 

Issy Stadler, Automation Technician
New Windsor, NY – PRG


How did you get your start in the industry? I hold a diploma of Costume for Performance as well as a bachelor’s degree in Dramatic Art-Production (from the National Institute of Dramatic Art) and both of these qualifications gave me access to industry professionals. While at Uni I worked as a stagehand in many of Sydney’s theatre and this eventually gave way to my first job on a main stage musical/ touring show. In 2014 I was hired as a third carpenter on the Australian Tour of “Dirty Dancing” which was brilliant to me being pretty much straight out of Uni and in a male dominated department.

What advice do you have for women beginning their careers? Don’t quit. Be kind. Work hard. Be open. Ask questions. Learn. Drink Wine. Run. Get an Accountant. Learn to Kickbox. Give people the benefit of the doubt because the language directed at you isn’t always sexist, sometimes it is, sometimes people are just monkeys in fancy shoes. But if you focus on this bias it will follow you around like a rain cloud, don’t let it negatively influence everything you do. You have the power to choose how to respond and move forward. If you’re having a tough time, reach out, we’ll catch you. You’re never alone.


How are you creating positive changes or opportunities in the workplace? I do my best to support every new member of our team and create opportunities for them to learn and succeed. Change can also be achieved on a one to one basis. Gradually changing people’s perception; earning your peer’s respect by demonstrating an excellent work ethic and doing our jobs to the best of our abilities.


Lauren O’Keefe Hendricks, SVP Business Development
Brooklyn, NY – PRG


What advice do you have for women beginning their careers? Find a mentor who can help you navigate the professional level you are currently at while also helping you get to the next level. Learn how to negotiate for yourself. I am passionate about helping other women with things I have had to learn the hard way, but I am a quick study and have applied new tactics with each step I’ve taken in my career.

What has your greatest achievement been to date? Having my two little girls, Frankie & Drew. I am so in awe of them and feel so proud to be their mom!

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your professional or personal life? 
Learning that it’s okay to be who you are, it’s okay to be a working mom. The feminine traits that you bring to the table are valuable to any organization. 

 

Bari Provost, Regional Vice President of Sales
Dallas, TX – VER


What has your greatest achievement been to date? I was promoted to Director of Sales at a small hotel that hadn’t performed very well historically. The hotel had a reputation for being in a “bad location” because it wasn’t in close proximity to the International Airport or any convention venues. My sales team and I got creative with our business development efforts and eventually our hard work paid off and a few years we received the highest sales award given by our company. Then I overhead someone comment that our success was due to the fact that our hotel was “in a great location.” So, I guess my greatest achievement to date is that I was able to make a hotel change location! Success doesn’t happen by accident. The best location, the best sales tools, or even the best product, don’t guarantee success. Hard work, dedication and consistency trump all.

What is the most defining moment or trend in gender equality that you’ve witnessed during your career? This is really going to reveal my age, but it is true: when I first started in hotels back in the early 90’s women were not allowed to wear pant suits and pantyhose were required.

What still needs to change, in terms of progress for gender equality? Equal pay. Also, equal is equal and should not be limited to just gender equality.

Sara Ohlson, Project Coordinator
Phoenix, AZ – VER


What has your greatest achievement been to date? The birth of my two daughters is my greatest personal achievement. They have both grown to be kind, caring and beautiful human beings and have carved their own niche in the world. I am very proud. In terms of my career, I am so glad that I took a leap of faith and answered that vague “help wanted” ad so many years ago, which led me to the A/V industry. Truly it has been an amazing career for me, both the ups and the downs.

What is the most defining moment or trend in gender equality that you’ve witnessed during your career? Well apart from being on this planet to witness same-sex marriage legalized in the U.S., the most defining trend I’ve seen is the number of women that are now working in the A/V industry. When I first started out, most had clerical roles. Now women are realizing that careers can be made in this industry. They are running audio, lighting, cameras, setting stages, and truss. It’s created a strong, diverse workforce for us. That has been a good thing to witness over the past 25 years.

Norah Blumberg, Director of Sales Operations
Los Angeles, CA – PRG


How did you get your start in the industry? My career in this industry started as a creative! I was in a band in my younger years called ‘Jazmin’. Our band had spent some time in India studying music with Ravi Shankar, and he named our band after one of his albums released in 1980 called “Jazzmine” where he explored the intersection between East and West, Jazz and Indian Classical.

As I got a bit older, I realized I really resonated much more deeply with the ‘production’ side of the business and I was wired for the business part of the experience. Both myself and the same group of musicians started a non-profit foundation and began producing a multi-cultural concert series called The Eclectic Collective. Soon after that, I got my opportunity at PRG and have been with the company ever since.

What advice do you have for women beginning their careers? I have two major pieces of advice for women beginning their careers:
One, have a vision - if you can clearly dictate what you want it will be easier for your leadership to create a path for you to achieve your goals. If you don’t feel like your aspirations are being taken seriously, leave your company and find one who does. But if you don’t self-advocate, you may find yourself a bit stuck. Don’t be afraid to clearly communicate what you want for yourself. Don’t be afraid of upsetting the leadership. Two, work like you want it. Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Go the extra mile, do the extra thing, take on the extra project, be that person. Some people say ‘dress for the job you want’ I say work for the job you want.

How are you creating positive changes or opportunities in the workplace? My number one focus is people. When you have happy people working with you, you have productivity. You have growth. You have movement. We try and foster a family environment here at PRG. People to need to be heard and feel like they matter. In the Los Angeles facility alone, we have some of the most passionate, well versed and motivated production people on planet Earth. My goal is to tap into that vast expense of knowledge to create positive workflows and make business decisions that serve both the company, and the people alike. Marrying logic, old school production and institutional knowledge.

What still needs to change, in terms of progress for gender equality? A lot of gender inequality starts in the media. Advertisement and celebrity can be extremely fundamental in perpetuating a subconscious narrative amongst a population. I can’t say this enough – REPRESENTATION. We have to SEE ourselves in the media depicted as successful, motivated leaders. The more women are valued according to their physical attributes in the media as opposed to their accomplishments, the more it shapes the culture for our young girls. Women have to continuously rage against the propaganda of female worthiness. 


Kathaleen Hervey, Senior National Account Executive
Dallas, TX – VER


What advice do you have for women beginning their careers? Find something you love. Know that you can have a family and be successful in a man’s environment. Be true to yourself, because your voice is just as important as anyone else’s. Set good examples for the woman that follow you, and make sure you have a hobby - work shouldn’t be everything!

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your professional or personal life? I have taken criticism for being a woman in a man’s field and wasn’t always given the same opportunities as my male counterparts. Despite this, I love my career and have stayed in the business for 35 years!

 

Erica Bell, TV/Film/Broadcast Account Executive
Los Angeles, CA – PRG


How did you get your start in the industry? I started in Television Production in 1995, working as a producer and production manager on several series, and then moved over to equipment rentals in 2006.

What has your greatest achievement been to date? Keeping the same clients and repeat business while working at multiple vendors. I’ve had some of the same clients for 14 years now.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your professional or personal life? The decision to get off the road and leave my production career for a new career in equipment rentals was the biggest obstacle I have overcome. Learning to shift from the typical short-term, freelance nature of production to a staff position was daunting. It took about two years to adjust and learn new ways of working and communicating. Staying positive, working hard and learning from my colleagues gave me the tools to ultimately succeed.

How are you creating positive changes or opportunities in the workplace? I love teamwork and try to always show gratitude and appreciation for others' contributions. I enjoy mentoring younger and new employees, especially young women just getting into the business. I've also recently updated our workspace to make it more pleasant and creative!

Do you have a role model? Kristen Stabile is an Executive Producer, a friend, and one of my best clients. She has shown great loyalty for decades to her crew, staff, and vendors. Her loyalty, along with her ability to manage and lead is inspiring.

What still needs to change, in terms of progress for gender equality? We need to see an increase of women in tech across the board. There's absolutely no reason why women can’t learn technical trades, work behind the camera or become successful in any STEM field. We need to support our girls at a young age and encourage them to pursue their passions while giving them opportunities to do so.

 

Eileen Valois, Senior Vice President of Sports & Fan Engagement
Boston, MA – PRG


How did you get your start in the industry? 
I started in the hospitality industry a very long time ago. I have formal culinary training as well as a hospitality education and I started in the kitchen as a chef garde manger and station chef. It was very difficult for women in culinary at that time, as there were really no celebrity chefs or even the Food Network. I put up with a lot, so I didn’t get to enjoy the actual art of cooking. Because of this, I switched to the front of house when I had the opportunity. I worked in nearly every department across hotels and event venues in operations from front office to food and beverage and even housekeeping – which was my least favorite – until I became a GM. Ultimately, live events are what I am most passionate about and where I really found my niche. 


What advice do you have for women beginning their careers? Work outside your job description. Soak up everything that’s going on around you and don’t feel like any job is too small or too big. Be agile and let your experiences take you in different directions - it’s all part of your development. Find a mentor and then be a mentor to those coming behind you.

What still needs to change, in terms of progress for gender equality? For the record, I don’t feel like I’ve been held back in my career because of my gender. I’ve always worked in a field dominated by men regardless of the sector I’ve served in - this is certainly true in my current role in sports as well - but I’ve been able to have a “seat at the table” throughout my career and advance to a senior level of leadership. Having said that, I still do feel that I have to be more mindful of what I say and how I say it at times and that I have to overcome perceptions that people may initially have of me. Overall, so much progress has been made since I first started in the industry and even more will be made for the next generation. In the meantime, I don’t really give it too much thought and instead I let my work speak for itself.

 

April Lanci, Regional Account Executive
Philadelphia, PA – VER


How did you get your start in the industry? I got my start in the industry working as a PA in Los Angeles working on a show called “Just Shoot Me” – and I was a terrible PA. They had me driving a box truck, and when I took the top off the truck because I didn’t understand height restrictions, they put me with the camera team. That decision changed my life.


What advice do you have for women beginning their careers? Be honest, know your worth, learn everything you can about your field, work harder & smarter than your competition. Fight like a woman and make no apologies for it.

What is the most defining moment or trend in gender equality that you’ve witnessed during your career? Watching women blow the glass ceiling off the foundation! When I first started in this industry, I was one of the very first women to join the Local 600 International Cinematographers Union. Now I’m watching women win awards for their craft: best director, producer, pioneers, inventors, educators. There is an entire generation of young women growing up without restrictions. It gives me hope for my daughter.

What still needs to change, in terms of progress for gender equality? The change I’d like to see in my career lifetime is more women in charge. I’d like to see more women in the board room. More women in leadership roles. More women making decisions. More women who’s paychecks mirror that of their male counterparts. More women in politics, especially the White House. I want my daughter to grow up without limitations. I want her to never doubt herself because of her gender. My hope is to live in a world where she is truly equal and afforded every opportunity she deserves.


Christine Selig, SHRM-CP, HR Business Partner
Chicago, IL – PRG


What advice do you have for women beginning their careers? Embrace the challenges and engage in all areas of the production world, don’t just stick to one aspect, knowledge is power! This industry is always changing and growing, and it never gets dull.

What has your greatest achievement been to date? Embracing the challenges of this crazy world of production and growing as a person during the past 12 years.

How are you creating positive changes or opportunities in the workplace? I strive to uplift and support other women in this industry as often as I can.

Debby Hudanish, Rental Agent
Las Vegas, NV – VER


What advice do you have for women beginning their careers? My advice is you can do and be anything you set your mind to. I started in a male dominated field and believe me; I had my struggles, but I kept going and made it.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your professional or personal life? Working in an industry that was predominately male and being able to gain the respect and position I now have.

Do you have a role model? My role model is my mother, she was a single mother at a very young age and worked her way to a very respectable position. Later in life, she completely changed fields and owned her own business until retiring 5 years ago in her late 70s. Now that she’s retired, you need to make an appointment to see her because she keeps so busy!

 

Brandie Walters, Regional Account Executive
Orlando, FL – VER


How did you get your start in the industry? I started out in an administrative position with little experience in the industry. Hard work and determination has helped me to understand the ins and outs of this business and I am proud to represent this company 7 years later.

What advice do you have for women beginning their careers?
Challenges will inevitably come your way but, never discredit the value of a positive attitude. “Nothing worth having comes easy” Theodore Roosevelt

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