“It is very important to take risks. I think that research is very important, but in the end you have to work from your instinct and feeling and take those risks and be fearless.” – Anna Wintour
I am a female live sound engineer. I work in an industry dominated by men, with a handful of badass women who are slowly equalizing the playing field.
I started doing this when I was 15. I emailed a regional music venue asking for job. The catch? I didn’t know anything. Most embarrassing moment for fifteen-year-old me? Being asked to turn off a sub-woofer, but not knowing what that looked like. Yes, me badass female live sound engineer had no idea what a sub-woofer looked like.
I started shadowing the engineers at the venue I worked at. I was there three nights a week as an unpaid intern. Not exactly what my Mom pictured as my first real “job,” but I was happy. I found a place I fit in.
I later was in charge of open mic nights. I knew the regulars. I knew the trouble frequencies. I was getting comfortable. I then started working regular shows and got comfortable doing that too.
To progress and be fearless, I think it is important to gradually step outside of your comfort zone and to surround yourself with people who know way more than you. Find the people that will take you under their wing and teach you. Sometimes by engaging in conversation, by observation, or through active listening.
Instead of boring you, with a long description of every single time I stepped outside of my comfort zone, let’s talk about a recent example.
Recently, as of today actually, I was working an event in an event space that I have worked in a lot. I am comfortable in the room and was going in with the expectation that it would be an easy and comfortable gig. Comfortable meaning it was just a different event, but I was just going through the motions.
It was 6:00 AM when my shift started. I walked into the office to pick up keys and the tech sheet for the day. The tech sheet stated there were going to be extra inputs for this event.
Background: This event space runs off a Crestron panel on the wall with preset inputs built into it. If there are any extra ones, you have to use input panels on the walls which are wired into this control panel.
Thus, these extra inputs would need to be using the wall panels. I needed XLR cables, quarter-inch cables, and a DI box. No big deal right. I am a badass engineer who can handle that, right?
There was a sense of fear in me. I never used those panels before. I know how they work. I know what you need to do to make them work. But since I had never used them before, there was this part of me that was doubting myself. “What if your understanding is wrong? (It wasn’t, but it was the irrational fear talking.)” “What if it doesn’t work randomly and you look like a fool in front of the client? (That event space has random issues sometimes.)”
I get to the event space and get turn everything turned on and set up. Then I got everything set-up with the musicians, Even though they changed a few things signal flow wise, that is irrelevant to the point of this post.
The point being, nothing went wrong. The signal didn’t not come through the system like I feared. Everything went to plan.
I feel more comfortable because I put myself out there. In a seemingly routine event, I became more comfortable in my skillset and my knowledge.
There is going to be fear. Each and every time you do something, you will grow more comfortable. But in order to grow more comfortable and grow in your skill-set, you have to put yourself in situations where you are uncomfortable.
In order to be fearless, you must put yourself in seemingly uncomfortable situations. And in doing so, you will grow.