Meet Kath Gray (Squires, 2010)
Kath Gray left Ashford School back in 2010, and after studying at Southampton Solent University has gone on to become a Senior Broadcast Engineer for NEP UK Broadcast Services, in 2017 winning the prestigious RTS Young Technologist Award.
We speak to her to find out more about her career, her advice for students wishing to pursue a career in engineering, and her memories of her time at Ashford School.
Tell us about your current job and role.
- I am a Senior Broadcast Engineer for NEP UK Broadcast Serivces. I predominantly work in outside broadcast (OB), which means anything not filmed in a studio, and generally involves 2 types of work. For part of my role, I work on OB trucks, which are basically expandable arctic trucks that effectively become a moveable control room/gallery with all the engineering equipment rigger permanently ready to go. These are typically good for sport or short turnaround events as you can drive in, open the truck and be making TV in a couple of hours allowing 1 truck to film multiple events a week. Football is generally truck based as it’s a full season with 1 client performing the same job week in week out. The 2nd type of job I would work on is a Flyaway/Derig, which is where you build a system in individual bays/flight cases which can travel around the world, and all the cables and configurations are done on site. The majority of these jobs are longer and more major events where client requirements are more unique and either a truck isn’t powerful enough or just can’t be permanently configured in a way that is appropriate. IAAF World Championships in Doha are an example of a flyaway, as it is a once every 4–year event, and is too big for any truck to do. Ultimately, I am the engineer in charge of making sure all technical equipment works and is configured appropriately to enable the production team (BBC, SKY, ITV etc) to create the show they want to.
At what point did you realise you wanted to be an engineer and what steps did you take to get the training and experience you needed?
- I knew from a young age that I would probably end up in a technical job as I was always a hands–on person and the first-person teachers looked to to fix the computer or projectors in class. My first step into engineering was becoming a Sound Engineer for all the School musicals and music concerts. As a musician I was always involved with concerts anyway so getting involved with the technical side was a natural progression. At the point of leaving school and applying for universities, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I enjoyed the Live Event industry and the technical side and thought I might like to work in technical theatre. Eventually I decided to go to university and study ‘Live and Studio Sound’ at Southampton Solent as it would give me a broader look at the Industry and a qualification to fall back on (which made my parents happier!).
What made you choose your current career path?
- The University had a small outside broadcast truck which they took to various concerts, festivals and live events. I was keen to get out and get some real on the job work experience, whether this was working in the sound, vision or camera departments. While working in this truck I entered the world of outside broadcasting and fell in love with the industry, and soon switched my interest from Sound to Vision, and more system design and planning.
What has been your proudest moment?
- My proudest moment believe it or not was when I was when I was for the first time the lead engineer on a job – the live coverage of Love Island S1 2015. That was the moment I knew that I was an engineer and actually believed it for the first time.
What has been your favourite project to work on & why?
- I would say working on the Commonwealth Games Gold Coast 2018 (Athletics, Opening and Closing Ceremonies), this was the first major event I worked on and of a gigantic scale technically of what we were providing and responsible for. Not to mention we were in Australia.
Where has been your favourite place to work & why?
- I would probably have to say Wimbledon, I have worked on the tennis coverage there in multiple different roles over the years. I feel like I have grown with the tournament, since I first visited on sports trips with the school, to now being a Lead MCR engineer responsible for all host broadcast coverage from all courts, and their distribution to all rights holders onsite.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
- The variety of work, one day I could be working on a Premier League football match for SKY in rainy Liverpool and another I could be working in Majorca filming Love Island for ITV2. The requirements of every job is different, the equipment you have access to will vary daily and your location is constantly changing.
Are there any shows that you would like to work on, and why?
- I would say the pinnacle of anyone working in broadcast is to work on either an Olympics or a Royal event, they are the events that don’t come around that often and are viewed globally as massive events. In my career so far, I have worked on World Championships, Commonwealth games, Wimbledon and multiple other high profile sporting, commemorative and reality shows – so the Olympics or a Royal Event would be the next step.
Tell us about your favourite memory at Ashford School.
- Memories of all the concerts I played in and musicals I sound engineered, the happiness and collaborative atmosphere that was fostered and encouraged was a huge part of my time at Ashford and my career and life since then.
Tell us about your favourite teacher at Ashford School during your time at Ashford School, was there a particular moment or person that inspired you and helped you be the person you are today? Who/what and how?
- I don’t think there was a particular teacher as they all influenced me in different ways. Mr Stoddart has to be up there as one of my favourites, as Head of House and teaching me at A level, he was crazy enough to keep me interested in physics which turned out to be useful in my career, which I wouldn’t have known at the time. Miss Tesh (now Mrs Powell)obviously had a big influence in my Music and being involved with the Orchestra, Band, Choir. Both Miss Tesh and Mrs Milberry also actively encouraged my involvement in the technical side of productions, which led to what I choose to do at university and ultimately to the career I am working in now.
If you hadn’t gone to Ashford School, do you think your life might have turned out differently?
- Yes definitely. The access to different experiences and being encouraged to get involved with the sound/ lighting tech, has led to my career that I have no doubt I would not have fallen into at other schools.
If you could go to school again, what would you do differently?
- Probably try and pay more attention in Spanish! At the time I didn’t really see the point of a language, but now I travel all around the world for my job and being able to speak a language would be greatly advantageous.
What advice would you give a young person who might be considering a role in broadcast engineering?
- If you want to be a broadcast engineer go for it, jump in with both feet and don’t be scared of asking questions. You will never know everything. The industry will become your family that you work and collaborate closely with all the time and knowing who to ring is one of the most important things.
What piece of advice given to you by your teachers has had the most impact on you?
- If there is something you want to do, go do it and give it 100%, don’t hold back.