Jane Cushion Reflects on Multimedia, Motherhood and Women in Tech
Jane Cushion heads our multimedia department. From video walls to complex command-and-control centers, she ensures that our AV installations are completed with precision and distinction.
As a child, I always thought I’d become a pharmacist. My dad was a chemist and when I was around him, science came alive. He would explain compounds and formulas, and it all made sense…until I went to college. After scoring an ignominious D more times than I dare confess, I got the blunt message that pharmaceuticals was not for me.
At the time in the 1970s, women, if they were in the workforce, were mostly in the liberal arts. Several of my friends went to teaching college. I decided to go into business administration because I am a natural manager (in other words, bossy!) In business school, I was often the only female in the class. The professor once posed a particularly difficult statistics problem – which I was able to answer correctly. After that, all the other guys in class avoided me like a plague. I was too intimidating. Except for one guy who made a point of sitting near the smart girl. I later discovered that he was a dad with a couple kids, and he was determined to get through college successfully – and what better way than to sit near the student who knew the answers!
After graduating, I became a manager in a Montgomery Ward retail store and for many of my staff, I was their first female manager. Retail is an intense workplace, and during peak seasons I would be clocking 80 hours a week. Once baby #2 came along, I scaled back to part-time, but after baby #3, it was simply too much to juggle. I love kids and I loved being a mom. I had friends who were in the same position as me, trying to juggle children and work. So, I decided to run a daycare from my home. I did this for 10 years and had a blast. I’m truly grateful I was involved in my children’s early childhood.
When women return to the workforce after a break, they could feel that the world has moved ahead without them. This is especially true in the technology field. During my time at home, home computers started becoming commonplace. Not to be left out, I purchased a computer for our home, read “Windows for Dummies” and taught myself computer literacy. My stubbornness and curiosity prevented me from becoming a technology dinosaur.
My first job in the audio-visual world was as a conference bridge operator for Compunetix. I walked in on my first day and was told I would find “the bridge” in the adjoining room so I (half) expected to see a giant bridge parked inside the room! When subjects arise that I don’t understand, my response is always to ask questions and find answers. Ironically, I don’t have a deep comprehension of technology, but I am able to successfully navigate the field because I’m unfazed and persistent.
My next position was purchasing for RoData, a multimedia integrator , which led to other positions over the years and culminate as Inside Sales Manager. In 2014 the company dissolved, and a core team shifted over to Dagostino, where we merged into the current multimedia department. I am co-manager of the department and am intensely proud of the team we’ve cultivated. We are constantly looking for new solutions and creative ways to meet our clients’ needs. Multimedia is about designing immersive experiences and involves a blend of technology integration as well as listening keenly to the customer and tapping into their vision.
My experience as a woman and mother has positively impacted my career. By choice or not, I’ve had to multitask and nurture my family. As a manager, my goal is to nurture and bring out the best in the team and when they succeed, so does the company. Bob Dagostino, the company CEO, is a fabulous inspiration. He is so enthusiastic about innovation and invested in the people, it gives us the tools to do our job well.
Looking around, I’m struck how girls growing up in today’s world are exposed to a completely different landscape. They are surrounded by female role models in STEM fields. We have women serving in direct combat units in the military and even women astronauts – they certainly won’t be the only female student sitting in a math class. Back when I was in Junior High, boys took the mechanical drawing elective while girls took sewing. We didn’t have a choice. But guess what? Sewing is my lifelong hobby! Put me in front of a sewing machine and I’m in my happy place.