We had the pleasure of interviewing Charmaine Torruella, Global Services Manager at Verrex, and Chairperson of the AVIXA Diversity Council. Learn more about how she got involved with the Council and the exciting growth that has come of it.
About Charmaine Torruella
I have been an AV Sales Rep for about 10 years. I came from the Telecom and IT world. I provided soft applications like WebEx, Adobe Pro, MS Lync, UC solutions, etc. I stumbled into the AV world around 2008 because of the growing necessity of video rooms for collaboration in order to minimize travel costs. On the personal side, I am into karaoke, belly dancing, pool, and a lot of other hobbies. I take the Jack Sparrow approach to life.
How did you get involved with AVIXA and become the Chairperson of the AVIXA Diversity Council?
I got involved because I was asked if I would like to volunteer for AVIXA. My daughter is an adult and on her own, and I said, “Sure”. The next discussion was then with AVIXA asking if I would consider chairing the newly established AVIXA Diversity council. I was immediately excited because there was finally a chance to allow my Jamaican-Cuban, middle-aged, female, single-mother, voice to be heard and to amplify other diverse murmurings in the AV background. And, it only took 10 years.
What to you is the importance of diversity and opportunity for all?
So many clients that I worked with for my 18 years in the technology industry ask, “Why do I always see the same old white guys all the time?” I laugh my heart out every time because those questions mostly come from white male and female clients. They are used to working with a diverse pool of staff in their work environment. Through earnest efforts and established best practices, diversity has become part of their work culture and afforded them skills to engage and adapt in various business situations. Diversity trains and enhances your business acumen. Also clients thirst for diversity and look for fresh new viewpoints and approaches to solving their AV problems. Feeding that thirst stimulates a deeper client/vendor relationship.
What is the biggest impact or outcome you’ve seen thus far?
I’ll say the best outcome (not the biggest because I believe the biggest is yet to come) is that the Diversity council members ability to come together for different backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities to work on our agendas and bring them to fruition. The way they collaborate is the template of what we are striving to achieve in the AV industry.
What negative feedback or experiences have you and the council experienced?
My council members and I have experienced some amped up resistance towards our work with the council whether it be from certain individuals within the industry, people who approach us with Trojan horse-like veneers to later malign/sabotage us or the council’s work, and/or people who discount and marginalize me or the Diversity council members by shutting down or ideas or viewpoints or simply shutting us out of events.
How do you handle negative feedback?
I have to remember what my Jamaican aunt would always tell me, “You know better, then do better.” Basically, if you realize that you are dealing with unsavory characters and behavior, know and understand that you were taught the right way of behaving, therefore, you should not succumb to the wrong. Sounds so much more interesting in Patois (smile).
What do you and the council take away from negative feedback?
The Diversity council and I have had our fair share of battles in the AV industry, so our mental and intellectual armor has been bent, hammered, punched, and tested in order to temper the negativity and levy a strategic approach. We essentially take away the understanding that no matter how negative and uncomfortable the feedback or experience, we must confront it. We have to keep exposing negativity whether conscious or unconscious and educate the AV industry and each other.
How can companies and professionals embrace and support diversity in their everyday lives?
Companies and professionals can reach out more to minority colleagues by having lunch and social engagements around cultural holidays besides the usual Christmas, St Patrick’s Day, Christopher Columbus Day, Easter, etc. HR can obtain data of the diversity that exists within its staff through surveys or can simply engage with diverse workers.
Planning social events around pop culture themes that the preponderance of employees can relate to is huge. For example: My HR manager, Jessica Tychinski, and I are Game of Thrones & The Walking Dead junkies – We seriously binge on new episodes as they air. Our connection through our mutual interests always gives me an extra oomph when Monday morning comes around. That healthy engagement makes all employees feel like they are regarded and brings about a positive difference in their attitude and feelings towards their work and colleagues, and it radiates!
How to get involved with the council & anything else you would like to share.
To get involved with the council go to the AVIXA Diversity Council page and sign up: www.avixa.org/about-avixa/membership/committees-councils/diversity-council . If you want to contribute but do not want to be a member then call me. We have a few people who have worked with us on some initiatives and events who are not part of the council, and that is wonderfully just as good! We love the fact that people want to help in any way.