Four graduates who defied the odds and landed their dream jobs during the pandemic share their experiences and advice.
Making the leap from student to professional is both exciting and daunting; a feeling that has been magnified by the uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic. Though the last 12 months have been incredibly challenging, we've seen no shortage of positivity in the opportunities that are available.
With many students approaching the end of their studies, and many others weighing up whether university is the right choice right now, we wanted to showcase four unique stories of dBs graduates that have landed amazing positions in spite of the challenges in their way.
Sarah Worthington (Eventide Audio)
Sarah graduated from the BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering in the summer of 2020. First joining dBs Sound & Music Institute on our BTEC Music Production diploma, she quickly discovered a passion for mastering, which she pursued into higher education, resulting in her achieving a first-class honours. Now approaching the end of her first year with Eventide, she's been able to develop a new bank of skills while utilising her engineering experience along the way.
Tell us a little about your role at Eventide and how it all came together…
"Initially, I was brought on as an intern to join their marketing team, which is a completely different field to what I already knew. It's been a complete change of scene, but exactly the same, if that makes sense. I know about all this stuff; I know about their plugins, I know how they work, which ones should be used for which task. Given that I come from that background, it's actually been quite easy to understand how am I going to market this. I know how people are going to use this so I can use that to my advantage."
How did you find out about the job?
"I saw it on the dBs job board. I didn't really know that much about that sort of side of the industry, but it was a remote position and I thought I might as well apply. I got a response instantly and spoke with Managing Director Tony Agnello the following day who explained what Eventide do and that they'd be happy to have me!"
Was it hard finding your feet in a marketing role?
"I had to learn how to do it as I went, but it's not dissimilar to stuff that I know already. There's a lot of graphic design elements in there and I knew all that previously, I have an A-Level in photography, so I know that kind of stuff. I've also got strong writing skills, which really helped me ease into the role, so I've really just been utilising all my previous experience and channelling that into the role."
Have you still been able to utilise your expertise in sound engineering within the role?
"I have actually! We recently had a sale on Newfangled Audio plugins and my first task at Eventide was to check out that bundle, master something with it and then ask about it so I could really understand what we were selling. It's a really open atmosphere, so if you have a question, just ask it, and they will come back to you with the most intricate detailed answer. It's awesome.
"I also got the chance to do a mastering project which was really cool. I was approached by one of the content creators there and he said, 'I've been told that you're into mastering. We're releasing this whole plugin bundle and we're releasing an album alongside that, do you want to work on it?', and I jumped at the opportunity."
How did this transform from being an internship into a permanent position?
"It was always meant to be a short-term position, but they keep giving me massive projects to work on. It's really sweet and we all enjoy working together. They've been so supportive in the time that I've been there and have helped accommodate the fact I'm in a different time zone and have said that they'll work as hard as they can to ensure that we can keep the remote thing working."
Even though you got the position shortly after graduating, you were finishing your final year when the COVID-19 pandemic really hit. What was your outlook like in the run-up to completing your degree?
"It wasn't so great, because what can you do? You couldn't apply to a studio as they're weren't open. I was just looking at the job board and the internship board, and I found the role at Eventide through that. But I've also been in contact with Shawn [Joseph] at Optimum Mastering here in Bristol. We've been working together in a sort of mentorship kind of thing, which has been awesome and has kept me connected to mastering."
What advice would you give to students who are approaching graduation or those in years one and two who want to get a head start on finding a job in the industry?
"Do what I did – look at the job board. There's such a broad range of opportunities on there. There are also so many studios around in Bristol and I'm sure they're always open to chat with students and graduates.
"I'm the type of person who is extremely organised and I really benefited from getting assignments handed in early so I could focus on looking for jobs when others were still working on projects. If you can manage your time really well, that will be a huge help."
Orion Phillips (Supermassive Games)
Orion graduated from our game audio degree back in June 2020. An accomplished pianist and sound designer, Orion has spent the last year continuing to expand his portfolio on a number of freelance projects while looking for a job. At the time of writing, he is now in his second week at UK games studio Supermassive; best known for the PS4 exclusive 'Until Dawn' and the Dark Anthology series.
First of all, a huge well done on joining the team at Supermassive. You must be so happy!
"Totally! I have to admit, when I found out I was so excited and then everything hit me and I was like, 'Oh, no, I'm not ready for this,' [laughs]. That kind of imposter syndrome is pretty normal, but I wasn't expecting to land a role like this for another four years or so."
Could you tell us a little more about what your role is and how you got it?
"I'm joining the team as a junior sound designer. It's quite a mad story and it all just came around on Discord. I was just in the right place at the right time. Someone in the server said, 'They [Supermassive] have a place open for a junior sound designer and I can pass on your CV'. It ended up that he was too busy to do that, so he just gave me the audio director's email. So I reached out with a well-prepared pitch and was asked to come to an interview and that was it."
You'd been working a full-time job as well as freelancing for various clients for almost a year while looking for a job. How did you manage to balance everything?
"It was pretty mad balancing everything. As well as my job and the freelance projects, I was trying to learn and use the software regularly so I didn't get rusty and forget it. It was really hard and if I'm honest, I didn't really have a good balance. I was having to get up super early for work and getting back really late, so I used to spend most of the weekend catching up on the freelance work. It was really tough doing that, but you have to work hard to get these opportunities."
Where were you finding the freelance projects?
"Mainly on r/gameDevClassifieds on Reddit. I was introduced to it in my second year by a friend on the course. It's just such a good place to pick up work. A lot of it is for indie projects where people are looking for help which is often unpaid, but then sometimes you'll have the odd project that will be from someone really serious about creating a prototype and they have a budget to pay for the sound. I was taking every opportunity I could find. Ironically, the first real paid contract I got was just before being offered the role at Supermassive so I had to part ways with that one, which was a shame."
It's still very early days at Supermassive, but how are you finding it?
"I love it! It's really good. I can't really say much because I've not been there that long, but I feel like I'm home. It's been really good to be part of a team with the same goal and to talk about game audio on the same level every single day. More importantly, it's an amazing opportunity for me to learn and develop - way more than I could ever achieve just working by myself on my own projects."
You graduated at the height of the pandemic. How were you feeling about your prospects after leaving dBs?
"Not great to be honest. I moved back to Bristol in September 2020 and it took three months just to find a full-time job, and that wasn't related to music, it was just something to support me. With the freelance work, I was actually quite lucky in what I managed to find online.
"There's a good side and a bad side to the pandemic. Most of the audio work I've done has been remote, so as long as it hasn't affected the company, there's no problem of you being hired because it doesn't require you to be there in person. That said, I will be moving to Guildford soon so I can join the team in person.
"I would say don't worry about COVID. I know some people will disagree with me, but for game audio, the pandemic hasn't affected the opportunities or your chances of getting work all that much."
What's your best piece of advice for new graduates as well as current students who are worried about finding work in the audio industry?
"The best advice I can give is to just to continue working on developing your skillset and then practice those skills on other projects. For game audio, this could be by getting involved in a game jam or taking on a freelance project. You can test your time management skills, see how well you can communicate and collaborate with a team and at the end of it you've got something else for your portfolio."
Ross Smith (Time+Space)
Ross has been studying at our Plymouth centre for the past three years, across the FdA Music & Technology degree and the top-up year. A complete novice in music production when he joined dBs, Ross has gone from strength to strength and will soon be joining software storefront Time+Space to create a range of promotional materials and video tutorials.
Could you tell us a little about your new role at Time+Space and how you landed the role?
"The official role hasn't actually been decided yet because I'll be doing quite a few different things. A lot of it will be marketing for social media, news stories and blog posts, but I'll also be creating product testing videos and tutorials.
"I found the role while I was looking through the dBs job board. It said they were looking for a graduate to join the team, and even though I didn't have any formal marketing experience I felt I had the knowledge about what Time+Space provide as well as production and just went for it.
"When they interviewed me it was really chilled and informal, and they said the marketing stuff could be taught, they were more interested in knowing my skills and what I was like as a person and how I'd fit in with the wider team."
Having worked in retail for over ten years, how did it feel when you were accepted for the role at Time+Space?
"So my dad was downstairs watching TV and I ran down there like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the golden ticket saying, 'I got the job!' It was a really good feeling and I think that's important, you know? It's going to be a good job for you if you get that excited about starting."
Though you're yet to start officially, you've been working on some small projects for them. What kind of things have you been producing?
"I'm doing freelance work at the moment until I start. I get set a task each day, Monday to Friday, and it just puts me a little bit ahead so that when I do start I'm already acquainted with what's going to be expected of me.
"Jack [Hale, former dBs graduate who also works at Time+Space] is going to be teaching me a little bit as well, so it just makes it easier for him to teach me the more technical side of things.
"One of my recent tasks was to create a video tutorial for Audiomodern's Chordjam, which is a new chord progression tool that they've come up with. I learned a lot using it and it spurred me on to do a bit more, so I've been using it in personal projects and really getting to grips with it. To have that as my job and to get paid to do that at the same time, what more could you ask for?"
How did you feel about your prospects of finding work amidst the pandemic?
"I didn't feel all that positive about it if I'm honest. My outlook was to just do as well as I could in my third year, and then I might have to carry on working at Lidl for a bit longer and wait to see what opportunities came up as things returned to normal. I feel extremely lucky that it didn't end up like that."
What were you doing to try and maximise your chances of finding a job?
"I just used the job board every week and applied for anything. That might sound a bit chaotic, but I didn't have a set career in mind. I knew I wanted to keep music at the heart of things and I wanted to see what would stick and I got really lucky with Time+Space. I think that's what you got to do; just apply for anything you can because you could be perfect for a role that previously you would have disregarded."
What's the best advice you would give to a graduate or student trying to find work in the audio industry?
"You've got to keep learning. Whatever you're interested in doing professionally, just do everything you can to level up your skills in that area so you're the best candidate for the role. If you keep on learning, then you're in a better place than most people because you're willing to learn, you can show employers that you're willing to learn. And don't give up! Don't think it's not going to happen even if you've got to work at Lidl for a bit. Everyone's path into the industry is different, but if you want it bad enough you will get it."
Máté Moldován (Cloud Imperium Games)
Máté recently completed his third and final year in game audio at dBs Bristol. A passionate and incredibly skilled composer, sound designer and game audio implementer, Máté has been laying the groundworks for a career in game audio since his second year and is now about to reap the rewards of his hard work and dedication.
Congratulations on your new role at Cloud Imperium Games. Tell us a little about your role…
"I'm joining the team as a junior sound designer. There are currently 18 members of the audio team, with another two to be hired and if I'm remembering correctly it's going to be the largest audio team in the world for a game company. I'll be working on Star Citizen, which is a huge online game. The best way to describe it is like the OASIS in Ready Player One."
How did you find out about the role?
"I believe it was through Tugkan's job board, though I can't be sure. I'd been using the job board since November 2020 as a starting point in my day, spending 1-2 hours to see what roles were out there. A Sound Effect has a jobs newsletter that you can sign up to, but the positions are so broad and it can quickly become overwhelming seeing it taking up your inbox. That's why something like the job board was great, because it was much easier to see what was out there and make progress with applications."
Though you were actively looking from November last year, you actually started really thinking about your career a couple of years ago. When did you start?
"We had the portfolio module in first year, and this was where I had the chance to look out for the future jobs that I was aiming to land after finishing uni, but that was in first year. The kind of jobs that I was aiming for wanted a candidate who had worked on one or two games, and if possible, for those games to have been shipped.
"I asked myself, 'how would I do that in uni?', so I set myself the goal that by the end of my second year, I needed to have an indie game to work on, no matter if it's unpaid or a favour, it's something that I can put on my portfolio. This is exactly what happened with Project Boost last year. I was very actively looking for a job to join; I wasn't offering my services for free, but I didn't ask anything in return at the beginning, I accepted a percentage-based contract.
"Sometimes you need to accept that you may not earn any money from a position, but it will give you the experience and be a great addition to your portfolio for when you're actively looking for paid work. It's why university is the best time to work for free. Landing a job straight out of uni sounds like a miracle, but it was a very strategically planned thing since the first year."
At the time of writing, you're now in your fourth week at the company. How has it been?
"It's very exciting. And it's huge! The average audio team is usually between 3-7 members; this one has 18-20, so it's big and it's constantly growing."
Were there any particularly trying times, especially due to the pandemic, where you felt overwhelmed by trying to find a job?
"I might be alone in this opinion, but Coronavirus almost had no disadvantages for me as a student and someone looking to find a role in the industry. With so much of life on hold, there was even more time to dedicate to getting my experience and portfolio to where it needed to be.
"I did really struggle in January of this year, but that wasn't because of the pandemic, it was because of the amount of pressure I put on myself in finding a job. Despite getting lots of positive feedback from my tutors and being invited to share my perspectives for features through dBs Insider, I didn't know if I was on the right track.
"My focus on finding a job and not feeling safe after university, which is a fear that everyone has towards the end of uni, really grew in me and it was very difficult. I didn't know I was doing the right thing until the moment I was hired!"
What advice would you give to students approaching graduation or still studying and hoping to increase their chances of finding work when they complete their studies?
"For game audio, keep your portfolio updated but don't get rid of your older showreels. My current director told me it was really useful that I kept the old showreels on my website because he could see the improvement between the two and he had an idea of the minimum improvement he could expect from me.
"My biggest regret was not immediately appreciating how broad my learning was at dBs. I didn't know why we had to know about multiple game engines and middleware programmes; why couldn't we just learn what's most widely used in AAA video games? That fundamental knowledge and understanding of different tools has been a huge benefit to me professionally, so don't take it for granted - regardless of what course you're studying.
"Finally, just take uni seriously. You have nothing else to do during that time so use it to learn, to study, to research and broaden your understanding. If you take university seriously, you're going to nail finding a job."
FIND OUT MORE
"This industry isn't going anywhere" - Meet the students training to work in live sound in the middle of the pandemic
Furthering Careers and Fostering Community – Meet Tugkan our Employability and Engagement Officer
Are you ready to start your journey into the world of sound? Discover the range of courses and opportunities we have at dBs.