“If you always have a positive attitude, you’ll go far,” – Paula Steger

As part of Women’s History Month, MONDO-DR shines a light on members of the International Laser Display Association, telling the story of their career in the laser industry. In the second of a series of interviews, Paula Steger discusses her career in lasers.

What was your entrance point into the laser industry, where and when did you start?

I started Artistic Laser Productions with my husband in 1999. We bought our first laser projector in November 1998 and operated under our mentor’s Variance until we obtained our Variance in April of 1999 (which is why we list 1999 as our starting year). We have always been based in north San Diego County, CA.

What are the difficulties that women face in the laser industry?

Thankfully, there aren’t that many. I guess the number one issue is still the fact that some potential clients prefer to talk to a man as the owner of the company. My husband usually manages to gently set them straight by saying: “Let me have you talk to my wife – she handles that end of the business and will be better able to answer your questions.”

What has been the secret of your success?

Integrity. Marc and I both set high standards for ourselves and adhere to them at all times. We pride ourselves in giving the client more than they contract us for and giving them the best price, we can for our services. And if anything ever goes awry at a gig (rarely, because we firmly believe in redundancy and backup systems), we bend over backward to make things right with the client.

What is your advice to women who want to succeed in the laser industry?

Don’t think of entertainment production as “a man’s world”. More and more women are entering our industry (and are being welcomed by our male counterparts). Remember that as women, we tend to be more detail-oriented than most men, which is a vital part of creating and running laser shows. And, as my mother-in-law always said and practiced, “kill them with kindness.” If you always have a positive attitude, let people around you know that you are competent and ready to lend a hand, and do your job well, you’ll go far.

How important is it to you that an association such as the ILDA exists?

Our mentor told us to join ILDA (we actually couldn’t afford the dues for the first two or three years). Since joining, we have made valuable contacts for buying laser songs, helping with technical issues, and referrals. It has also been a great source of current information on what the CDRH expects of us, where and how to report, etc. And lastly, I feel being a member has lent us a bit more credibility with potential clients. Even though most of them haven’t heard of ILDA, I’ve often mentioned the Code of Ethics we’re sworn to uphold. That one statement alone has put many a client at ease, assuring them they are working with professionals.