As hectic jobs go, Assistant Production Manager at Yellow Technology must be right up there with the busiest, but on International Women’s Day 2019 I thought it was high time we dragged Vikki Liverpool away from an installation to tell everyone about her career to-date….
Tell us about your path into the audio industry?
I loved Music Tech at A-Level and did a lot of live sound work for school performances and shows so I thought I’d ultimately end up in that side of the industry. I studied Music Technology at Hertfordshire University and continued to think I’d be going into live sound - I recorded a live album for my final project. But as soon as I finished uni, I just happened to get a job at a studio!! The studio had a small staff so I was pretty much straight in engineering sessions ranging from rock bands to hypnotherapy! It was cool, but I realised what I liked the most was when things went wrong!! I loved solving the various problems; I began to fix cables and then I began making the studio cables in-house.
As a woman, did you face any particular struggles starting out?
Right through my time as a sound engineer, I was constantly having to justify my experience which became frustrating… Clients would ask me about my background, my qualifications. In one sense that was fine, and I was able to tell them, but it was a bit awkward as I’ve never heard it asked of other (male) engineers.
So then you moved to Yellow Technology?
I saw a job advertised and thought it ticked all the boxes of the things I’d most enjoyed about working in a studio. I got a job as a trainee consultant and began working my way up.
You’re Assistant Production Manager at Yellow now… What do you actually do?!
I manage a lot of our projects - all shapes and sizes. So there’s a lot of planning, installation work, configuration, wiring, and post-installation support. I’m split between our workshop and working on-site in studios over the course of most weeks. Some jobs are tiny - done in the day; some jobs span weeks and none are the same!
I love how varied the job is and enjoy working in a small close-knit team - everyone’s got each other's back! I still especially like audio wiring too… It’s therapeutic and so satisfying when done to a really high quality.
You mentioned earlier about about the awkward questioning in the studio… Is there anything like that now you’re in the more technical side of the industry?
Yes, sadly, quite similar! People still regularly ask to “speak to a tech guy” when I answer the phone.
Just a couple of weeks ago I was managing an installation where we needed to rig some speakers at height. So I went on a training course to get an access tower qualification… As the only woman, I was the only person to whom the course director asked “Why are you here?”.
As you infer, the industry is still so short of women in technical positions… What do you think is wrong?
Because women are still in the minority in our industry they’re not always given a fair chance. People still just aren’t used to seeing women in technical positions in music and as a result make the mistake of inferring we’re not capable.
I think that lots of people in the industry do actually want more women, and do want to help women get into the industry. But they need more women to look to get in; more women to give them a choice to make. At university, there were around 4 women on a course of 30 or 40 people, so it’s easy to see how we appear invisible!
What can be done to change things for the better?
Things like this! Being visible is important.
I think a lot of younger women think they won’t be able to get a job in this area, purely because they don’t hear about women working in it. They think “what’s the point?”. But it’s inspiring to see more and more other women in the industry being interviewed and speaking about their experiences and achievements. I was recently reading one with Kirsty Whalley, who I’ve recently been finishing some wiring for.
What 3 tips would you give to women looking to enter the audio industry today?
Try and think about what you want to do as early as you can - like Year 8 or Year 9. Looking back, I’d have liked to have studied to be a Tonmeister but I simply didn’t know about it early enough so didn’t have the Physics A-Level I needed.
Apply for things. The industry can seem daunting - the job description for this company seemed daunting! And there can be a lack of female role models, but just apply - give yourself the opportunity and give others the choice to make.
Be confident if you can… You might be the only woman in the room, but don’t let that put you off, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Think of yourself as equal, because you are!