Keeping the Faith

Jeff Rocha, president of EAW, says that his career seems to have come out of a storybook, “except if you read about it in a book,” he insists, “you’d say, ‘That couldn’t happen in real life.’
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Jeff Rocha, President, EAW

Jeff Rocha, president of EAW, says that his career seems to have come out of a storybook, “except if you read about it in a book,” he insists, “you’d say, ‘That couldn’t happen in real life.’ In my entire career, I’ve worked for exactly one pro audio company, EAW, and I plan on working here until I retire.”

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Rocha studied at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and was on his way to a more traditional electrical engineering career, when he took an audio engineering class offered by Professor Dick Campbell. “He thought that I had a natural aptitude for acoustics,” Rocha recalls, “and suggested that I consider a career in audio. He even offered to send my resumé to some of his friends in the industry with a cover letter from him. One of his friends was EAW co-founder Kenton Forsythe.”

Rocha joined EAW right out of WPI in 1994 as a design engineer. He then became senior design engineer, then engineering director, then vice president/general manager. Today, he is the company’s president. “Kenton reports to me now,” Rocha reveals. “Do you have any idea how weird that is?”

He adds, “I can’t tell you how much I love my job. Engineers aren’t prone to hyperbole, but it truly feels like some kind of special honor—or even duty—to lead this brand. Counter- intuitively, it’s deeply humbling.”

Rocha relates that the way people feel about EAW “borders on the religious, and that goes for employees even more than customers. We absolutely love what we do, and we love what our customers do. Our work brings us in touch with every kind of sports and entertainment, amazing architecture, special and even historic events, and great achievements in the arts. Human civilization...it’s a pretty interesting business to be in.”

In addition to being an electrical engineer, two other pursuits in his life impact Rocha’s work at the company by giving him, as he puts it, “realworld insight into the places where our loudspeaker systems are used.”

Like many of the people who work at EAW, Rocha is a musician (mostly a singer, front man). He taught himself how to play the guitar so he would have something to do on stage other than just sing. “My grounding in vocals couldn’t mean more to me now,” he points out, “because EAW puts so much emphasis on being able to layer the vocals over the top of whatever else is in the mix. From an output perspective, vocal intelligibility is the overriding priority in the design approach.”

Because Rocha has performed in rock bands, he understands what it’s like to drag a lot of amps around and set up PAs. “Product weight, handle placement and the ergonomics of transport or installation—these aren’t abstract ideas for me,” he says. “It’s my teens and early 20s.”

Rocha also explains that he is very serious about his religious faith. He sings and plays guitar at his church. He comments, “A good number of EAW installations are in houses of worship. Obviously, this gives me insight into that market, too. I have a very clear understanding of, for example, the financial challenges these institutions face, and I appreciate the sacrifice made to get a top-quality sound system. But I also know that the sound system is a key component in the communication between a pastor and a congregation and well worth the investment.”

Loud Technologies, EAW’s parent company, recently reorganized to return significant control and responsibility to EAW, and Rocha is excited about where the company can go with this level of autonomy. Engineering, application support, product management, manufacturing, marketing and sales all report to EAW now. The core administrative functions are shared among the Loud business units, but EAW is charting its own course again.

One immediate benefit is that EAW once again manufactures all of the JF and KF Series products, all of the core installation products and all of the custom-engineered products at the home facility in Whitinsville, MA. “Let me tell you,” Rocha proudly states, “there’s no better feeling than creating a bunch of manufacturing jobs in the northeast U.S.”

In addition, EAW has reinvigorated its Application Support Group with ASG director Jerrold Stevens expanding the global support group to include training and education, helping users understand the basic acoustics at work in their given situation. “The more our customers understand acoustics,” Rocha says, “the more they’ll appreciate what our loudspeaker systems can do for them.”

The vast majority of EAW’s workforce is based in Whitinsville, and almost all of the offsite personnel work in sales and support. Globally, the company has four regional sales resources managing independent sales representatives in the U.S.; a distributor in Canada; distribution partners in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA); and Asia- Pacific region (APAC) distribution as well.

Rocha relates, “Our new ad campaign uses the theme, ‘Sound is my life. EAW is my voice.’ We tried to capture this sense of longing for connection between performer and audience and the critical role that pro audio—and pro audio people—play in creating that connection. We don’t judge what’s the better cultural expression— an opera or a ‘screamo’ band. If it’s important to them, then it’s important to us.”

He continues, “This culture is throughout the company, from top to bottom. It’s not uncommon for the folks on the factory floor to get choked up when they’re building loudspeakers for, say, the Olympics or Congress or the White House. Every major sports team in our area plays in a venue with EAW loudspeaker systems. Think there’s some pride there?”

Rocha explains that his time is divided among all the parts of the company. “I have a great team of directors in the various divisions, so I’m able to look at the bigger picture and integrate what they’re doing. Again, having all our core and custom manufacturing here in Whitinsville makes that a whole lot easier. And, of course, I travel all over the world, helping to build the relationships that are the key to this industry.”

The Asia-Pacific region is the company’s highest growth market by far. “We have excellent partners across the whole region,” Rocha says, “where the number of new building openings is staggering. We’ve just hired a dedicated general manager for our China operations.” He also points out that Latin and South America also represent a big opportunity. “There’s a lot of new construction and great passion for music and fun. We’re strengthening our sales presence in this region and hope to make strong and lasting connections.”

When asked if there are any initiatives on the horizon, Rocha replies, “Yes, very many, but I can’t talk about any of them. I can say this— our new CEO Mark Graham has zealously directed me to aggressively pursue our most revolutionary product concepts.

“‘Zealously directed to aggressively pursue’—that’s just music to my ears (not to be punny). Here’s my situation: I’m a lifelong musician/design engineer leading a brand that’s legendary for developing breakthrough products and I’m being required by ownership to invest in R&D of our most revolutionary ideas. I’m living the dream, man, living the dream.”

Company:
Eastern Acoustic Works
One Main Street
Whitinsville, MA 01588
Tel: 508-234-6158 or 800-992-5013
Fax: 508-234-8251 or 800-322-8251
Web: eaw.com