The U.S. radio broadcast industry has long embraced the sagacity of engineering elders and treasured their technical advice and memories. But it also often laments a lack of younger blood. According to common wisdom, radio engineering heads are mostly gray; and when those retire, who will keep the industry humming?
Alex Brewster, Comtek Service. “One of the most important and interesting trends is the integration of IP-based equipment over the last several years.” Radio World has begun a series of articles about engineers under 40 who are helping to answer that question.
Name: Alex Brewster, 27
Company/title: Broadcast technician, Comtek Service Inc.
City: Olympia, Wash.
Certifications/memberships: SBE member, Amateur Radio Operator, Comtrain Tower Climbing and Rescue certification
How did you get into radio/broadcast engineering?
Alex Brewster: My grandfather is a broadcast engineer. I grew up helping him with projects and going out with him to take field strength measurements. When I was 17, the transmitter building at one of his AM stations burned to the ground. I spent the following summer helping rebuild. I got experience in building ATUs and wiring components together, and installing transmitters, feedlines and ground systems. I ended up helping the tower company that was contracted to install the new feedlines and repair the ground system. After helping them on that job, I was offered a full-time position with them, building towers and antenna systems.
What do you see as the most important industry trend affecting broadcast engineering?
Brewster: I think that one of the most important and interesting trends is the integration of IP-based equipment over the last several years. It requires the engineer to understand and learn the skills that were previously confined to the computer industry. Although it is another skillset to learn, it provides flexibly in how one is able to access, control and monitor equipment and sites. It also allows for muti-platform broadcasting. You can now access your station’s content from any number of devices.
What would you say to other aspiring engineers?
Brewster: The advice I would give to young engineers is never settle for the knowledge you have. There are always people that will know more about a particular piece of equipment, or technique. Always be looking for the next thing to learn, or the person that can teach you.
What’s an important thing you’ve learned from an industry mentor?
Brewster: One of the most important lessons I have learned, you are never too young or too old to solve a problem in a new way. My grandfather, who is in his 70s, is still coming up with new ideas, and better ways of dealing with old problems, it is exciting to watch and listen to the concepts and ideas that his mind creates. Likewise it is fun for me to look at a problem and think of a different way to find a solution.
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