Josh Martin, Take 1 product manager, explains what it’s like to volunteer at the Rise Up Academy
My first taste of the media and entertainment industry almost came too late. I was only 17 years old when I spent a week doing work experience at a media services company, but I’d already been convinced to pursue a career in journalism even though I found writing difficult and suspected that I was actually quite dreadful at it. A few years and a hard-won degree later, I was scouring the local job ads when I discovered that the same media services provider was recruiting. That was almost ten years ago, and the company was Take 1 - where I now work as a product manager, helping production and technical teams integrate through technology. But had it not been for that week of work experience and a chance sighting of a well-timed job opportunity, I may never have discovered my love for this industry – that’s why I volunteered to work with Rise Up.
Introducing Rise and the Rise Up Academy
Up until about a year ago I hadn’t had much exposure to Rise. I was aware that the organisation advocates for gender diversity in the media technology sector because both Take 1 CEO, Louise Tapia, and COO, Stephen Stewart, are involved in their mentorship programmes in the US and the UK, but as a relative newcomer to the industry I didn’t feel qualified to volunteer as a mentor, and I definitely didn’t meet the criteria to enlist as a mentee! However, when Stephen told me that Rise had launched an outreach programme to inspire and educate children about engineering and technology opportunities in the broadcast, media and entertainment industries, and that they were looking for volunteers, I signed up straight away. Then the fear hit – what was I getting myself into?
What volunteering for Rise Up Academy actually involved
My initial panic about volunteering was partly due to a fear of the unknown and partly concern that I had bitten off more than I could chew – not only in terms of my expertise but in terms of the commitment that would be required. But I needn’t have worried.
The Rise team kicked things off with a training day at Ravensbourne University, where an eclectic group of thirty-five volunteers (ranging from experienced engineers to Solent University students, full time employees and freelancers and, importantly, men and women!) were familiarised with the programme and what would be expected of us. We were assigned areas of responsibility that aligned with our skills: technical leads for disciplines like sound, graphics and vision mixing and roles like the class leader for the less technically inclined – and then we were off to school!
This first ‘semester’ of Rise Up workshops reached 411 students through 16 workshops in Hull, Portsmouth and East London and volunteers could choose to participate in anything from one day to a whole week of events. With Take 1’s support, I was able to spend a week with the Rise Up Academy in Portsmouth, facilitating two workshops per day, and describing these sessions as jam-packed is probably an understatement.
In each three-and-a-half-hour programme students were introduced to the industry and the science behind it, taught how to read installation diagrams and then tasked with building a TV studio and shooting a multicam quiz show - starring their teacher and crewed entirely by the learners. Finally, we’d contextualise their experience with a presentation showcasing studio installations in the industry and round up the session with Q&As. It was one of the most exhausting weeks of my professional career, and possibly also the most rewarding. Seeing the students’ transformation from reluctant observers to enthusiastic participants in those few, busy, hours was absolutely astounding and confirmed just how critical practical work experience is to help young people make informed decisions about their career paths.
While our education system may provide students with a wealth of knowledge, many young people have a very limited understanding of how their studies might actually be applied in the real world of work. If they’re never exposed to different professions, how can we expect them to choose jobs that they’re going to enjoy and excel in? And, if the brightest young people don’t know that the media and entertainment industry isn’t exclusively geared towards creative types, and that it also provides fantastic opportunities in disciplines like engineering and technology, then our entire sector will suffer from talent shortages and stunted growth. There’s no question that it’s in all our best interests to support any initiative that helps tackle this problem.
Rise Up is now looking for support to deliver the next batch of workshops scheduled for Spring 2022. I’d encourage everyone to get involved in any way you can, and feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIn to find out more about what’s involved from a volunteer’s perspective.
Josh Martin is product manager at Take 1.