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If Youíre a Professional, Look Sharp, Be Sharp
by Mark Persons
Radio World Article
April 25, 2018

If your goal is to be paid better for your work as a broadcast engineer, then look the part.  As an employee or contractor, you wish to be perceived as part of the management team of the business thatís paying the bills.  I worked at this and it paid off at my successful contracting business for over 40 years.

Youíve seen them ó engineers with long unmanaged beards, uncombed hair and untied shoes. Managers tolerate them but often do not fully appreciate them or compensate them for their technical skill.  These engineers degrade themselves and their trade through a lack of professionalism.  If you have a beard, keep it short and neatly trimmed. 

Clients hired me because I looked and acted like them. I bathe daily, cut my hair and dress in clean clothes. When on the job, I never wore the same clothes two days in a row and never put on shirts or hats with advertising or written statements. I didnít give a customer a reason to think of me as anything but a professional. (I do have a tie showing 1930s vacuum tubes, as well as a Nautel T-shirt with a Smith chart, worn to SBE gatherings.)

My wife Paulaís advice is, ďTuck in your shirt, pull up your pants, polish your shoes and tie your shoestrings.Ē Women and managers notice things like that.  As a contractor, I was not salaried; repeat business relied on happy clients. The proof was in the pudding. I was called to do work again and again because clients appreciated my previous work.

Some of these lessons I learned while serving with the U.S. Army in Vietnam in the late 1960s. My job was to run an aircraft avionics repair shop, to ďkeep íem flying.Ē We were winning when I left!  Your job as a broadcast engineer is to keep íem broadcasting.

Sweep the engineering area of your studios regularly. The same applies to transmitter sites. Keep workbenches tidy and ready for the next repair job. Itís not demeaning to be a maintenance person. A messy office or shop sends a message to management that you are a disorganized person; thatís bad for your reputation. The same goes for your car. It doesnít need to be fancy or expensive, but it should be clean inside and out. 

Do the best work you can and be sure to document that work so the next engineer doesnít speak poorly of you. Funny how those things can come back to bite you.

The author on the job.

Managers typically know little of what you do; donít give them a reason to doubt that youíre doing what is best. Put the job first. Always show up on time for appointments. Being late wastes peopleís time and is a chink in your armor.

Good friend and broadcast engineer Shane Toven once told me, ďDonít say anything if you canít say something good,Ē a a great philosophy. Be a good listener. Do more listening than talking, even if it is not in your nature. You might even learn something.

Donít wear dark glasses when communicating with others, even outdoors. Eye contact is so important; lack of it will cause distrust. You can put the sunglasses back on after the meeting.

Donít mumble; speak clearly and distinctly. Donít use slang or swear. Use real, everyday words to relate your thoughts effectively.

Donít use technical mumbo jumbo that makes a clientís eyes glaze over. Jump past ohms and volts to tell the client how you are working on a difficult problem to make the station whole again. Give technical details only if asked. He or she wants to hear that you are making best use of the resources available.

Avoid talk about politics. You are sure to disagree with someone. Political discussions are divisive and can be bad for relations even if the other person is of your political persuasion. Politics is a personal philosophy, not a business agenda.

Donít chew tobacco or smoke while conversing with a client. Donít take calls or text messages during a meeting. Give your full attention to what is going on in front of you at that moment.

Even as a retired person, I keep paper in my shirt pocket with a pen to write things down, so I donít forget important information.  That same piece of paper contained reminders for me to update the boss on projects and ask questions on how to proceed. I didnít have to go back later to say, ďI forgot to ask you ÖĒ Remember, you do yourself a disfavor by ignoring good business professionalism.

When your employer/client suggests a date for a job, you might say you were
planning on attending an SBE meeting to update your skills on that day.
That person might be impressed that you actually care about your profession.


When sending emails or other correspondence, avoid starting sentences with the word I. Best to use a few words ahead of ďIĒ so you donít bill yourself as the center of the universe. Professional writers redo executive dispatches to avoid mistakes like that.

Use your first and last name in the ďfromĒ field on all emails. There might be four Jims known to the person you are conversing with. Avoid confusion by being specific.  Your signature line should include a title like Broadcast Engineer. An SBE certification logo can go here, too.

If your email has an icon photo, make it a good one, not some abstract, jerky thing.  Do not type in all upper case. It makes you look like you are shouting.  Be clear and concise, keeping word count to a minimum. Detailed discussions are for communicating with other engineers, not management.

Be careful what you say on a website, blog and Facebook, etc. The whole world is watching. Best not to do or say something stupid that youíll regret. Bad humor can ruin you.

No one is perfect, but do what you can to win respect from others. Respect canít be demanded but is earned by your actions.

Sorry if some of this sounds negative. I am just trying to help you have a professional stance for best success in your job.

The Rotary service organization has a wonderful four-way test:

1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Present yourself well for the best outcome. It makes perfect sense.


May 1, 2018: 
Hello Mark:  A Dale Carnegie toned article from YOU !!!  Your extrapolation of what the military used to call ' character ' and then ' leadership techniques ' and now in the PC world, 'inter-personal relationship skills and self projection,'  was excellent.  Another giant from your pen ... a true classic ...keep up the great work ... Best, Charles "Buc" Fitch in Avon CT

May 1, 2018: Hi Mark:  Just a quick email to say that I enjoyed your recent Radio World article.  All the best, John Whyte, Nautel

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Mark Persons, W0MH, is a Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer and has more than 40 years experience. His website is
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