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Career of the Month

Broadcast Engineer Kenny Elcock

Kenny Elcock at NESN’s Technical Operations Center, with computer servers that manage file-based content for NESN’s five regional markets.
Kenny Elcock at NESN’s Technical Operations Center, with computer servers that manage file-based content for NESN’s five regional markets.

Broadcast engineers install and operate electronic equipment that is used to transmit radio, television, and cable programs. They also produce film soundtracks, operate sound systems for live events, and work with artists to record music in recording studios. Broadcast engineers need to understand audio engineering, computer engineering and radio frequency engineering. Kenny Elcock is a broadcast engineer who serves as vice president of engineering at New England Sports Network (NESN), a regional sports television network in Watertown, Massachusetts. .

Work Overview

I develop engineering plans and strategies to maintain NESN’s broadcast production equipment, uplink transmitters, broadcast information technology networks, antennas, and other equipment. I am like the captain of a large ship, providing daily direction to his crew, including the lead engineers who are responsible for confirming that NESN’s broadcast systems—in Fenway Park, TD Garden, and NESN’s technical operations center in Watertown—meet operational and regulatory standards.

Each day is filled with communicating and collaborating with other departments to produce a quality live sports show. Other responsibilities include providing operations and customer support for the portfolio of applications and products used for file-based digital workflows, including video editing, transcoding, digital file delivery, and live streaming.

A broadcast facility has a lot of systems, and it is not always possible to purchase one off the shelf without compromising one of my four pillars (intelligibility, reliability, flexibility, and operational simplification). When the compromise is too great, I work with my engineers to design a solution that best works for our operation. For example, at one of my previous jobs at a television station in Hawaii, we designed the multi-use uplink and downlink transmission facility several miles from the television station, using dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) technology. At the time, this use of this technology was unusual; now it is an industry standard.

Being a leader brings me to work each day. I believe that being a serving leader is an honor and a privilege. Building up others is hard, but I lead by creating a culture of trust, which opens the door for transparency and commitment from my team. It also holds me accountable for my actions, which is not always easy. But at the end of the day, it keeps me honest and pushing for the next developmental opportunity.

My competitive spirit is challenged when I don’t meet design expectations. As engineers, we take pride in our ability to recognize the simplest of details, but Murphy’s law states that if anything can go wrong, it will. At times some of my most time-intensive plans haven’t worked as designed.

Career Highlights

Encouraging others to advance in their engineering careers is my most memorable career highlight. I have helped other minority engineers, just as I myself was helped. I have been blessed to see other minority engineers I’ve hired and mentored continue their careers paths in this industry.

Career Path

I started my journey in audio-visual clubs in middle and high school in the U.S. Virgin Islands. That experience enabled me to get a job as a production engineer at the local access channel, preparing and repairing production equipment for daily educational and civic shows. Because of the mentorship of senior engineers who took the time to teach and share with me, I expanded my skills to become a field engineer, installing, repairing and maintaining residential cabling services for the local cable company for a part-time job I held as a teenager. In my spare time outside of work and school, I created games for the Commodore 64 computer. I enjoyed connecting electronic pieces and determining the outcome.

My youthful objective was to learn more about converting visual images and sound into electrical signals for transmission and distribution into a television and radio system that people can enjoy, as my mother did each day watching her soap opera. Over the years, I achieved my dream while designing, constructing, and operating radio and TV stations in Indianapolis, Hawaii, Atlanta, Florida, and now Boston.

Knowledge, Skills and Training Needed

Just as the industry and culture evolved from black and white to color processing in the 1960s, digital signals revolutionized the industry with the adoption of HDTV (high definition television). My engineering skillset and knowledge of specific systems and products had to evolve as well to stay relevant. Digitalization is now fundamentally changing production processes and content distribution. Current broadcast systems are converting to IP infrastructure, which is becoming the standard for TV and video. Fast fiber-optic networks and 5G enable more flexible and mobile consumption of media content, allowing viewers to see their favorite program anywhere and at any time. The industry has changed, therefore, the skillset required to succeed has changed. You must continue to adapt, to stay relevant and competitive in an ever-changing marketplace. I highly recommend that engineers exploring opportunities in today’s media industry focus on learning about network technologies and cloud computing.

Additionally, 90 percent of my daily activities use my soft skills (such as communication, problem solving, leadership, and negotiation) versus my engineering capabilities. In this complex environment, communication is a skill that is taken for granted and rarely appreciated, but it is necessary to reduce technical errors and human operational discrepancies.

Advice for Students

Pursue your passion. If engineering is your passion, embrace the journey. Don’t ever pursue engineering for a financial gain, because then you will not maintain longevity. Look for opportunities to be mentored, and don’t fear following pre-employment training curriculums.

Elcock’s Education: BS in electrical, electronics and communications engineering, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis

On the Web: http://sbe.org

Related Careers: manager of digital operations, transmission/network engineer, media operations manager, director of technology, engineering manager of intranet solutions

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