Jess McCloughan is a fun, bubbly Sydney based Audio Engineer, RF Tech and Project Manager who is passionate about her work and helping others to achieve their goals.
You’ll know if Jess is on the job if you see some rope lighting around her work area in mic land! Jess is strongly career-focused, but understands the importance of having a sustainable work/life balance which includes prioritising family and friends, and making sure she commits to attending personal events.
Whether she is on tour or at home, if she has some free time she enjoys exploring nearby waterfalls, a day out at the beach, having a glass of red with friends, and snorkelling is always a favourite pastime.
Jess first discovered a love of audio in high school as part of a local youth group. From the age of 14 Jess started to volunteer in a variety of production areas for the youth group including running monitors with an 11-12 piece church band on stage, as well as teching various other events.
The gear they used, and the experienced techs who assisted, helped develop a solid foundation of knowledge for Jess. They had a good sized PA for the 500+ seat basement venue and used a Soundcraft SM12 for monitors and a Soundcraft MH4 for FOH.
The experience gained there opened the door to the possibility of pursuing this as a career for Jess. There were a couple of local engineers who would volunteer to come in to mix the shows and help the kids learn more about audio and lighting.
Julius Grafton was one of those volunteers and was there on the night Jess had her first experience as the FOH tech. He was so impressed with what he saw, he wrote an article about her for CX in 2006.
Jess was keen and wanted to learn more, so she went on to do the Cert III in Live Production, Theatre and Events (Technical Operations) at Julius Events College, at the tender age of 15!
The experience she built at youth group laid the foundations for a career in sound and put her in a solid position to join her school’s sound and lighting team. When school finished, Jess moved into the AV field starting in an admin role, with the promise of technical work in between.
Two years later Jess moved on from this and eventually found a great culture fit at Haycom which gave her enough work to kick-start her freelance career. Her biggest event to date was as an assistant production manager – Audio for Jack Morton Worldwide at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Jess has some great advice for beginners, saying that to achieve your goal of becoming a sound engineer full time a great place to start is being open to learning, ask lots of questions and never stop networking.
Having your own toolkit is essential saying “this sets you apart and shows you are prepared for the job. During my earlier years, my tool kit consisted of a drill, spanners and screwdrivers.
“These days I find myself doing more and more roles around RF and Mic management and this has changed my kit quite a bit. I have a WinRadio and a few other RF handy items, and the newest addition is that I’ve made up my own theatre kit”.
In the near future Jess is hoping to add RF Venue’s RF Explorer Pro Audio Edition to her kit. Jess says the different kits she has are important so she doesn’t have to waste time wandering around looking for the right tool for the job.
Jess jokingly says that perhaps her most requested item when she gets a job is to “bring my rope lighting, I’m famous for my mic land setups”.
As a tech in the industry she says she’s been received pretty well by artists and other crew and has built a solid reputation that is trustworthy, knowledgeable and reliable.
But it hasn’t come without its struggles. One experience was so out of the ordinary, it sent Jess into a bad space for a while but with positive support and help, Jess has fully recovered.
Jess says she has been passed over for leadership roles saying “I have been annoyed on a few occasions for being dismissed in leadership roles just because I am a female, but you learn how to respond and navigate those situations a lot better as you get older. I think that’s a cultural mindset that needs to change rather than it being personal discrimination”.
The Tech Sisters
Jess has a positive outlook on life and as with all things, she doesn’t like to dwell on some of the more negative aspects and situations that can happen when working in the industry.
Jess says she would rather focus her energy on creating positive outcomes from negative experiences.
Toward the end of 2018 Jess started to develop ideas on what it would take to create a stronger and more resilient events industry for crew like herself, where people felt supported and encouraged rather than feeling trapped and alone.
This would later lead her to create The Tech Sisters in January 2019 with the mission being to develop a place where others like her could feel supported and empowered to develop their career in any department of the industry, but also to be supported mentally and personally which was very important to her.
Since the beginning, the Tech Sisters have collaborated with organisations like CrewCare and Support Act to create a stronger, resilient and more inclusive industry.
While Jess has always been quite authentic in her approach to her career, she had, and still has, connections with amazing mentors she can call on. She now mentors and helps others along with her team from the Tech Sisters community.
The Tech Sisters is committed to always having a supportive network culture to lift up members and empower them when they aren’t feeling 100%.
The Tech Sisters has grown into a place that offers encouragement and resources to empower and equip the members to expand their career as much as they want to. Their vision statement says it all:
“Our vision is to give every Tech Sister working in the events industry around the world the opportunity to feel encouraged, empowered and equipped through support, training, and networking. Creating regular discussions towards RUOK, latest equipment, software, sharing general tips as well as offering career opportunities along the way. We are focused on helping everyone at every stage move towards their goals on a personal and career level”.
The Tech Sisters can be found on:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/thetechsisters
Instagram – www.instagram.com/thetechsisters/?hl=en
LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/company/the-tech-sisters
Website – www.thetechsisters.com
To become a member, join the Facebook Group today.
Jess would like you to know that this is a rewarding and fulfilling career choice. If you’re interested in getting into this she says, “No matter what your background is or your grades are at school, you can do anything you put your mind to.
“With hard work, great networking and remembering to look after your mental health, you will do great things in this industry”.
To contact Jess directly she can be reached at Jess@thetechsisters.com
CX Magazine – September 2020
LIGHTING | AUDIO | VIDEO | STAGING | INTEGRATION
Entertainment technology news and issues for Australia and New Zealand
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