In 2017 Interfacio’s very own Jo Hutchins was interviewed by PSN Europe for their Women in Audio article.
Please find below the full interview transcript – you can read the edited version on the PSN website by clicking the link at the foot of this page.
Why were you interested in a career in sound? What sparked it?
Well it all started when I was 14, and I started playing in a band. In short, pretty much the same as everyone in our industry!
You did quite a technical degree – what was that like? Was it very male dominated?
Studying Electronic Engineering is hard work – a full timetable of lectures and labs, with a huge work load of lab reports and work sheets. There were 3 girls out of 70 on the course.
What did you do at Thorn EMI?
I was lucky enough to be sponsored through university by Thorn EMI, so worked there for a year before I started my degree course, returned for a summer placement each year, and had a guaranteed job after I graduated. This included initially 6 months in the company training school (workshop training, machine tooling, pcb layout, project work, presentation skills), and then placements in a variety of departments. I worked on projects such as designing mainsbourne communication systems for an automated house, embedding codes into cd data for copyright protection, designing data acquisition systems for cathode ray tubes, and testing control systems for defense applications. This experience gave me a solid grounding in engineering principles, which was a key ingredient to my success as a project manager later on in my career.
How did the opportunity arise to work as a design engineer for Soundcraft?
3 years after graduating I was looking for an opportunity to combine my electronics knowledge with my passion for audio. I was successful in getting a position as a software engineer at Soundcraft, working as a designer on the first generation of digitally-controlled analogue consoles. The combination of my hard-earnt electronics knowledge, natural aptitude for software engineering, good people management skills, and understanding of user requirements for audio, meant I eventually took on the role of project manager within the R&D department.
Can you tell us about some of your achievements/highlights from your time there? What was it like designing mixing consoles?
I can think of a few highlights from my time there – firstly the opportunity to design the user interface for the first moving-fader automation system for recording applications enabled me to transfer my vision of the most effective creative practices for making music, into products for professional sound engineers to use, secondly providing training for our distributors in how to sell these new products meant that I was getting direct feedback on how these products would impact the working practices of engineers, most importantly it was exciting to be part of a talented team of engineers within a company where every employee had the opportunity to feel the buzz of our industry.
What do you do in your current role with Interfacio?
In order to be a successful recruiter, you need to be recruiting for roles in an area and field where you have first-hand working experience. Therefore I specialise in R&D engineering positions for manufacturers of audio equipment. Even within audio design there is a wide spectrum of skills, so I spend my time interviewing engineers, defining where their specialisms lie, and matching them with my clients’ requirements. It is hugely interesting, usually challenging, but also extremely rewarding.
In general, what have you loved about working in the audio industry and what have been the major challenges?
I love listening to a really good sound system and knowing how much hard work has gone in from so many individuals to make it a reality.
As an engineer the biggest challenges are always technical. I have always been lucky enough to have been working as part of an engineering team, where problems are identified and solved collaboratively. You are only ever as good as the people who work for you.
Have you faced any discrimination or difficulties working in this male dominated area?
Yes, of course. It’s annoying, but if you know where you’re heading and why, then you will work out ways to overcome it. You might just have to shout a little louder to get heard (and I do have a very quiet voice, as sound engineers always point out!).
Other women we have spoken to have described situations where their technical skills have been questioned and doubted. Have you ever experienced anything like that?
The nice thing about engineering is that if you’re right then it works. So as long as you persevere and believe in yourself, you can prove that you are right.
Yes, I have been in situations where my methodology has been questioned. I am a strong believer that men and women have very different ways of thinking, so inevitably they will take different approaches to solving a problem. Perhaps we just need to take a little time to teach the men around us that we might know a few things they don’t.
What do you think needs to be done to encourage more females to pursue a career in the sound industry?
I would turn the question round and say, what stops females from pursuing a career in the sound industry?
And I think the answer is the desire to fit in. Most people are uncomfortable if they feel different. As a race we have an inherent desire to be the same as the people around us.
And as a woman in engineering all I asked was to be treated the same way as my peers. And to be honest, once we all established that we had the same goals, and the same motivation for being there, I was then just another member (or leader) of the team.
What tips/advice would you have for other women looking to get into the industry?
Decide what’s important to you, and don’t let anyone stop you from doing your absolute best to achieve it.
You can read the article on the PSN website here: https://www.psneurope.com/business/women-in-audio-hear-us-roar