How the Signal to Noise Podcast Mentorship Program Works

How the Signal to Noise Podcast Mentorship Program Works

Kyle Chirnside, my co-host on the ProSoundWeb Signal to Noise podcast, started an informal mentorship program on our Facebook group some months ago. Since then, the program has grown tremendously, so much so that Chris put together some snazzy artwork and our friend Sam made us a great Google Form that interested parties can fill out to join.

As the list of signups surpassed 100, we have been getting more questions about the program: What is it? How does it work? What am I supposed to do? What is the expected time committment?

The first rule of the Signal to Noise Podcast Mentorship Program (and as I type this, I’m wishing we had picked a more creative name that would result in a more satisfying initialism than StNPMP. Maybe SitoNoPoMePro?) is that there are no rules.

Basically, the program is all about enabling lines of communication. We want to connect you with a professional with experience in your areas of interest, so you can start to develop a relationship, ask questions, and learn things.

There are no specific requirements in terms of time or engagement for the program – all that is required is that you’re interested in talking about audio and sharing your experiences.

If you join as a mentor, your role is simply to be a trusted guide and resource for your mentee – someone they can feel comfortable asking questions to and seeking advice – anything from “do you think the snare is too high in this mix” to “how do you handle when the house tech is being a dick?”

If you join as a mentee, just tell us where your interests lie, what topics you’d like to learn more about, and we’ll pair you with someone who has expressed an interest in sharing and teaching their knowledge and experiences in those areas. Want to get on tour? We’ll pair you with a touring engineer. Want to be a Broadway sound mixer? We know some of those, and we’ll get you in touch. Want to get into system engineering? You’re stuck with me. (Just kidding…we have a few system engineer mentors signed up. So you might be stuck with me.) How the two of you choose to move forward is completely up to you.

So – there’s no wrong way to go about this (or eat a Reese’s). By way of illustration, I’ll describe the interactions I have with my mentees to give an idea of how things might be approached. Out of respect for the privacy of my mentees, I’ve changed their names here (except Wes. Y’all know Wes).

Wes and I have a set meeting time, once a week, for an hour. Usually we meet on Zoom. Sometimes it’s a phone call if one of us is traveling. Sometimes, someone has a gig, and we just agree to meet the following week. Wes decided to dive into system engineering. Sometimes we take a look at his MAPP predictions for an upcoming event, and discuss the best way to drive the system or approach the alignment process. We talk a lot about how to make changes on the fly due to limitations with the venue’s rigging or sightlines that don’t allow the optimal placement.

We also talk a lot about some considerations for him to keep in mind when his company is bidding on projects, how he deals with his coworkers at the company who don’t understand why he might be asking for the system to be specified or deployed a certain way. We talk about what his time is worth, how much to charge for his work, when to be firm, when to cut the client a break on pricing. Now that we have been working on his system engineering skills for almost a year, his company is starting to see the value of his skillset and offer his services to other clients, so we talk about how to approach getting paid for freelance gigs, and what is a fair amount to charge. We talk not only about the technical aspects of the job, but the personal, professional, and financial as well – whatever is on Wes’s mind that week.

Sara is a psychology professional from Latin America. She speaks English as a second language, so sometimes needs help understanding the terminology and phrases that we use to describe our equipment, concepts and methods. She does a lot of independent reading of articles on ProSoundWeb and will take note of any terms that she’s not familiar with, and we discuss them. She is also not a musician, which can make it more difficult for her to understand references to specific musical terms or parts of instruments, so we talk about those, and I suggest YouTube videos so she can see instruments being played and connect the sight with the sound, which helps her listen for those instruments in the context of a mix.

Jason is a college student who volunteers as the audio operator at his church in Chicago. He has been learning how to operate a freeware audio analyzer to take measurements to diagnose and optimize his system. We talk about how to set up the console to make the livestream sound more like the room, how to make the best use of the church’s limited budget when they are ready to upgrade, and how to better correlate what he is hearing to what he is seeing on screen (not just using the analyzer but also using his analyEARzer). As he has learned and developed his skills, he has been approached by other churches to come in and work on their systems as well.

With these three, we meet regularly, usually an hour one a week, or every other week. With a few other mentees, we have no set schedule, but they will reach out to me via email whenever they have questions, or shoot me a quick text or call. Sometimes we will schedule a time to talk in advance.

As you can see, each mentor/mentee relationship is different, which is the point! Once you are connected, we hope you’ll simply have a conversation about what works for both of you, whether that’s simply the ability to email or text over a question, or setting up a more regular time to talk.

If you’re interested in getting involved, simply fill out the form here. You can also swing by our Discord server and connect with us that way.

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