Photo by Taylor Bodway
By Taylor Bodway
Jack Keefer, dressed in all black, heads to Cal Poly to take on an exciting shift of a big event taking place on campus.
He meets with his coworkers to help unload soundboards and various tech equipment, and begins assisting the AV team for the EDM-pop duo “The Chainsmokers”. It is incredible opportunities like this that make his Tech II position at the ASI department of Cal Poly a positive experience.
Keefer, 21, started as an AV (audio visual) technician June of 2015, and he deals with all audio visual needs in the college.
“It’s kind of an art form to do this type of stuff. It’s puzzle-solving, it’s fun,” Keefer says. “I work more for this job than I would any other job, because I enjoy it enough.”
Keefer shares that the shifts do “vary dramatically”. Some days you’re called into a 7 hour shift even though your only job is to set up the microphones and then wait to tear down, a total of maybe 20 minutes of work. Those shifts are also juxtaposed with the big events thrown by sororities, various college clubs, or hired entertainment, which don’t always go over smoothly.
These events require Keefer to work with event coordinators to first see what kind of tech equipment is needed. Typically all equipment is provided by the college, rarely does Keefer end up having to make arrangements to rent things like speakers or lights.
They then create a quick outline of what they what want the audio and visuals to look like for their event, and Keefer and the event coordinator will go through a couple run-throughs together.
Keefer had recently been promoted to a Tech II position at the end of the 2017 spring semester, even though the Tech II position didn’t exist when he first started. The positions were either a Tech I, or a student manager, although the workload for a student manager became too much to hold, and the position of Tech II was created. Keefer was promoted 6 months after the position opened.
When it comes to building a skill set for life after college, Keefer believes this is an incredible opportunity for any college student. Now that ASI has created a Tech II position, there is even more room for mobility and a unique leadership experience you can’t get in some common part-time college student jobs.
“I am in a form of a managerial position. When I’m on shift, I’m in leadership…which is different than any kind of leadership club in high school,” Keefer explains. “When you’re constantly teaching others and responsible for failure, it’s different.”
Typically, the events ASI works for at Cal Poly are either run by students or faculty, although they do get the occasional bigger names. Keefer shared how his friend that works the same job at San Jose State got to meet Hillary Clinton, but also emphasized the importance of working with integrity no matter the event.
“To you it’s just a Wednesday afternoon, where you’re getting through your shift so that you can go study for your midterms. But to them, it could be the highlight of their quarter; they’ve been working on this and planning this event for a while,” Keefer said.
Just like any kind of job for college students, it’s not always easy. You have to balance life, work, and school, and sometimes work is stressful.
“When there is equipment failure and you need to fix it without disrupting anything, that gets tough,” Keefer said. “It has to be very quick transitions. It can be stressful.”
It’s especially crazy during times like WOW week, when freshmen are welcomed to the campus. ASI is full of artistic people according to Keefer. He personally had several years of shadowing in the audio visual world before applying as a Tech I for Cal Poly, and his love of music opened the door to learning more and more about how the technical side of things worked.
Almost everyone he has worked with has a background in theatre, film, or music. Keefer plans on holding down his AV technician job until he graduates Cal Poly, but doesn’t see himself wanting to be promoted to student manager.
“That’s way too much work,” he laughs. “I’ve never met a student manager who graduated on time.” The ASI department is one he would recommend to anyone, as it provides many benefits like starting $2 above minimum wage, flexible hours where you can pick up your own shifts, and getting opportunities to meet people and excel in problem-solving abilities.
Advice Keefer had for any curious students is to “know your stuff” beforehand as much as you can. ASI does offer apprenticeships which are paid job-shadowing opportunities to help new workers get the hang of the equipment, but to be considered for the job, it’s best to have a basic knowledge of the audio visual world.
Keefer says he wouldn’t change a thing about joining ASI almost 3 years ago. As a student, he believed the job gave him a “perfect balance” in his life.
“It has been one of the best parts of my college career, and the best job I’ve had,” Keefer said.