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Audio Alumni Finds Success with Esports

Alumni Feature, News

We sat down with Alumni, Peter Nightingales to discuss his career success. He shared some insights on working through the pandemic and what made the biggest difference for him in his Audio Engineering career.

What was your first job after graduating from the Audio Engineering & Production Program?

I decided to go into location sound after enjoying my experience with it at CAT. I decided to move to Vancouver after graduating with my diploma in from CAT to pursue location sound. I worked a little bit, but since I had no industry connections here, my job network wasn’t even remotely developed. So, the only opportunities that I got were volunteering opportunities or student films. It felt impossible for me to just invest 10s of thousands of dollars into gear and only take on volunteer jobs. I, like everyone, needed to make money.  

Networking in Vancouver is probably the most important thing you need to get working. A lot of people who graduate from schools in Vancouver build that network as they study. But, because I was based in Kelowna, and didn’t focus on networking as a student when I came to Vancouver, I was a nobody. 

I worked a little bit but then chose to rethink my overall approach. I started renting out my gear and began working at a casino, using this time to rethink my place in the audio industry. I worked three years at the casino before COVID happened.

What did you learn working through the pandemic?

I was working at the casino when Covid hit, and I was just trying to make money and live in the moment. Prior to COVID, I was looking into different industries, but I didn’t really have a chance to take the time to pursue anything fully. But, when I was laid off due to the pandemic, I had the time to get that exploration done right. Learning how to pivot when things don’t go according to plan is an important lesson.  

In my exploration of the industry, I saw some trash audio setups, that I turned into opportunities. I started offering my assistance and began making connections and finding paying jobs that way too. This exploration helped me finally create my network and made me a trusted person in the industry. Once established, you’ll continue to get work through your connections.

What have you learned since those early days? What have you been working on?

The biggest lesson I learned was how much I shot myself in the foot by ignoring the importance of networking during my time as a CAT student. Early on, after I moved to Vancouver, I wasn’t getting hired for anything notable. My network was non-existent, and since everyone hires their friends, everything I went after was already taken. I was able to get on for a few jobs including some location sound mixing, boom operator, and sound assisting for some Hallmark movies being filmed in Vancouver.   

To support myself financially, I continued working at the casino, but when the pandemic happened, we were laid off. The union I was a part of was permanently suspended until the pandemic was over. So, I was jobless sitting at home, and I thought, hey, what if I just play video games again? I wanted to build a team and play games online. I got good Internet, met up with a bunch of friends online and we made a team. We played Rainbow 6 together and started playing some amateur tournaments just for fun. I started to notice that a lot of tournaments are not run well. They’re run by a bunch of kids. Basically, 17-year-olds who just want to make a tournament, but they don’t really know how to do it properly and they make a lot of mistakes. The quality of the tournaments suffered, and our players’ experience was not good either because they just didn’t know how to run them.  

 So, after this experience, I decided to start something of my own. And that’s how SCS esports started. My friends and I, who were teammates back then, decided to start a tournament together and make it the best tournament. We wanted to make sure we do only the right things and give the community what it wants. We grew very fast because we knew what we were doing, and we had the mentality of working for free so we could put all the money back into this community to ensure good tournaments moving forward. We focused on surrounding ourselves with like-minded individuals and building a network of people not solely focused on profits but making the tournaments amazing.  

What’s that thing that CAT says? Make passion your profession? Yep, that’s what this was for me. Gaming mixed with my knowledge in audio was one of those puzzle pieces for me.  

We grew fast and for my efforts, I was noticed by a company called Faceit. It’s an esports tournament company and I was brought on to run their North American Rainbow 6 Challenger League, which is an actual official circuit event. I was asked to work as a broadcast producer and then I became Lead Producer shortly after; I’ve done that for 15 months now. Throughout this time, I also continued to work some freelance jobs. I continued making money in this way until June of 2022, when I was offered a full-time position at a company called NerdStreet in Philadelphia. I’m still there now, working as a Broadcast Engineer. We’ve now run over a dozen in-house and remote Valorant tournaments. In addition, we run Madden, Apex Legends, and other fun games. Most importantly, NerdStreet produces VCT, Valorant Official Championship Tour, and I get to be responsible for their Women’s League, “Game Changers”. We just finished the $100,000 prize pool for the Counterstrike Tournament which I was assisting production for. So, I work full-time remotely and have a studio in Vancouver that I built myself. 

 If you want to succeed in this industry, you must be prepared for a long-term investment of your time and energy. You will get to where you want to be, for me, it took 5 years. It might be shorter or longer for you, there’s no set timeline for success.   

What’s the best thing about working in the esports industry?

Probably independence. I get to work on a team, but I also get to lead. Also, I get to work with a bigger team now where everyone is passionate about what we’re doing. Other industries attract people to make money, and those people can be the bad apples who don’t really care about their work, but with esports, no one’s there to make money. The path to that is extremely long and sometimes it’s not worth it to people who are solely focused on profits. So, only the people who really love what they’re doing and are passionate about their craft do this. Also, we get to make some cool stuff happen. There are a lot of world tournaments that my friends and I work in now. I even got to fly out to North Carolina and do a broadcast to 300,000 people. That was Rainbow 6 Charlotte Major, an incredible event. I got to work as a replay operator in front of a live crowd and the energy in the venue was ELECTRIC.

What drew you to the Audio Program at CAT?

I was really into music and wanted to know more from a technical perspective because I used to write music for the piano, and I wanted to have an engineering background for it. In terms of what was advertised for the CAT program, I was excited about the studio time and software experience. CAT gave me a good understanding of everything this industry has to offer and let me choose my own direction. I was most interested in learning the technical side of things: how the gear works, how to operate all the equipment etc… I chose CAT because the program is straight to the point. I had issues with other schools requiring me to take electives in other areas I wasn’t interested in. I didn’t want to take social studies or psychology, I wanted to study engineering! I don’t think there are any other programs in BC like CAT’s program that focus specifically on skill development. I also enjoyed the fact that everyone was there because they had a passion, and that sets a good environment in the classroom.   

What’s something you’d like to improve about the esports industry?

Well, the industry is kind of shaky. The issue is that compared to traditional sports, esports is still developing. Compare it to the early NFL, where people considered it a joke, just people throwing balls at each other, but now it’s considered a major industry with multimillion-dollar sponsorships and salaries because there’s a captive audience now. Esports is still an emerging industry, and because of that, it’s still shaky in terms of investments, or lack of, and sometimes you wait a bit to get paid. It’s an industry that hasn’t solidified fully yet. Because it is still developing, and growing rapidly, if you’re good at what you do, you will be recognized and progress quickly. 

What was the top thing you learned at CAT that has been helpful to your career in audio?

Audio processing, and the ability to troubleshoot issues. Troubleshooting is used in pretty much every industry and is an invaluable skill. Also, learning compression, EQ, and audio effects when it comes to voices or processing audio. It is a universal skill and is used in many industries that have audio as a part of it. Knowing how to operate audio and most importantly troubleshooting issues is a great way to progress quickly in your career. Troubleshooting gets you instant respect and people will start to come to you for help and ask questions. If you’re in audio, knowing how to troubleshoot is what’s going to help you the most.  

What advice would you give to current audio students?

Build. A. Network. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. I shot myself in the foot by not building my network while I was a student. At the time I thought networking was a gimmick.  A joke. I just figured, hey, I’m good at what I do, so I don’t need a network because I’m going to get jobs because I’m good. No, that’s not how it works. You can be the most skilled person for a job, but if nobody knows about you, you’re not going to get anything. And, you can’t keep wasting time volunteering to create your network, because once you’re in the real world, you will have debts and bills, like rent. If you’re lucky enough to have family help you financially, that’s great, but you still need to build that network and make those connections.  It’s extremely important to get yourself out there and start establishing those connections. All the jobs I get now, virtually every single one, come through my network. My tip? If you can’t keep track of all these people you meet, start writing lists and notes about these people. But overall, I can’t stress this enough…do NOT shoot yourself in the foot as I did during school by not networking when it matters most. It will cost you years. It’s only now after 5 years of building that I can say I make a good income from my network.  

What are your long-term goals?

I want to continue as a broadcast engineer in a live studio. I’m focused on upgrading my skills and building upon my knowledge because there’s a lot of high-tech gear in this industry that I don’t really know how to fully use yet. Esports is an exciting industry to be in and I have options to branch out if I want to. The same people in esports also run concerts, and other live events because a lot of the same gear is utilized. 

Any parting words for our readers?

I know it is scary going out in the real world, but there’s also nothing wrong with NOT getting a job right out of school. You don’t have to be scared. The reason you go to school is to build the skills, but then again, as mentioned, you need to network. There’s also nothing wrong with working a day job to make money to get by, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that. Fresh graduates are often opposed to working day jobs, but it’s a one-in-a-million chance to get out of school and go right into a job with a good salary. Keep your part-time day job and begin slowly getting out there. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and there’s no reason to be afraid.