Ethan Ward

“My time at Calrec and the experience has really changed my perspective on the industry. Although I am very interested in computer science and software engineering I have never really considered where my interests could take me within the industry and didn’t even consider something such as the audio or broadcasting industry.”

Ethan Ward

Ethan Ward is a year 11 student from North Halifax Grammar school who has spent a week’s work experience across a number of Calrec departments. Here’s how he got on…

At my school we all do work experience and are given the task of finding somewhere to go for a week to experience something new and exciting which will hopefully help us in later life – either through the practical skills we receive from it or simply just to put on our CVs!

A friend got me in touch with someone in Calrec Audio. I’ll be honest I had not heard of them before but after some research realised they were a very well-respected company in the live broadcasting industry, making mixing desks for big names such as the BBC. For me this was perfect; I have always been passionate about computer science and had been searching for a place that will allow me to experience a job involving both programming and engineering.

On the first day I was given a full tour of the building as soon as I came in, which was very exciting, I had been hoping that I would get to experience all parts of the company and get a general idea of how everything works and this was a great way to start! I was even more excited when I was given a timetable of what I was doing this week and realised the versatility of the company I was working in.

For the rest of the day I worked in the software department on the backend software for the mixing desks. I was shown the full process of how bugs are assigned to different software engineers, how to replicate them to check if they are bugs, solving them and then checking the issue has been resolved afterwards. This was very interesting as I have a lot of interest in the software side of computer science and did not know there were so many steps involved in finding and fixing bugs. I also got to learn a bit about C++ which is a language I have never used before, although I did understand it from using C sharp before which is similar in many ways.

On Tuesday I was in the mechanical design department and using a piece of software called solid works which is what is used to design the actual desks. This was something completely new for me as I had never used any design software before and honestly, had no idea how it worked. This was rectified with a great tutorial from people working in the department and by the end of the day I had learned how to properly use the software and greatly enjoyed doing something I hadn’t done before.

On Wednesday I probably had the greatest range of experiences working in the assembly department. Everything seemed very specialised for the mixing desks made here so naturally everything was completely new for me.

I started off in Stores by doing some kitting; a list of different parts come in that need to go into a kit and I was given the task of searching for these certain parts. I then did something I didn’t expect in the assembly department which was engraving buttons. It was a complete surprise to me that the parts for these desks are so unique they had to be made on-site in Hebden Bridge. The buttons were very easy to engrave as they were put into a little machine, seven at a time, and the machine engraved anything you want onto the – in this case it was CUT as these buttons are used to cut the sound on certain faders on a mixing desk. I learnt the process for painting the buttons which was also surprisingly simple. All the buttons are painted by hand, the paint goes into the engravings and then the excess is wiped off.

I also got the opportunity to do testing on some small PCBs that were given to me, which involved plugging them into a small machine and pressing various buttons to see if the corresponding LED light on the PCB would light up. This is done so that when the desks are assembled everything will work, instead of there being a problem and nobody knowing what caused it. Finally I had the opportunity to put part of a mixing desk panel together and was given the task of fitting faders into a Brio mixing desk, one of Calrec’s smaller desks.

Thursday however was probably the greatest surprise I had this week as I got to learn how to use a Brio desk, something I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to do. Under the guidance of people in the testing department and using Calrec’s online tutorial I was given a simple yet in depth tutorial of how to use the Brio and by the end of the day felt surprisingly confident I could use one to a decent standard, despite the fact I had never really used one before!

On Friday I spent the morning in software again, but it was completely different as I was looking at the graphical user interface and the front end of the programming that goes behind these mixing desks. This is where the programmers really consider what a user will see, what their needs could be and how to tailor the experience to something both practical yet pleasant to use.

I was again surprised by the number of steps involved to solve bugs and then make sure they are properly checked by others before the new code is released; all code is checked by at least one other person to make sure it is to the standard the company upholds. I also got to learn a bit about Javascript, another programming language I have never used before and I have never used anything similar to, so it was interesting to learn why it is used for the programming done here and other possible use cases it may have. I then spent the afternoon in marketing, learning about different techniques used and how the team tailors Calrec’s marketing for the industries that use their products.

Overall I have really enjoyed my time at Calrec and the experience has really changed my perspective on the industry as a whole. Although I am very interested in computer science and software engineering I have never really considered where my interests could take me within the industry and didn’t even consider something such as the audio or broadcasting industry.

I have come away very confident that I have learnt a lot of new things that I didn’t even know I’d have the opportunity to learn, and I also have a lot to put on my CV for any future employers. The general overview of the company I received was very interesting; before I came I thought I may end up doing the same boring thing every day. I didn’t expect the people here to be so kind and welcoming and I certainly didn’t think would have such a range of experiences to come away with afterwards.

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