BABE #189: ABBY SCHNEIDER; Broadcast Engineer, Game Creek Video
Abby works as a broadcast engineer for Game Creek Video, a TV production company where she helps build and maintain mobile television trucks that are used for live sporting and entertainment events around the nation. With an average of 10- to 18-hour workdays and around 250 days annually spent on the road for events like the Men’s Golf US Open, NASCAR and the NFL’s Thursday Night Football, Abby seamlessly exemplifies a hustlin’ babe as a woman who is crushing it in a strongly male-dominated role — and industry, for that matter.
Hometown: Litchfield, Illinois
Current city: Litchfield, Illinois
Alma mater: Columbia College Chicago
Degree: B.A., Television/Post-Production
Very first job: Working at my dad’s flower shop
Hustle: Broadcast Engineer, Game Creek Video
Babe you admire and why?
There are so many women to admire in our society right now, but mine is more of a group. The women of the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements inspire me everyday. The strength and bravery they have to really bring this issue to light is humbling. I don’t know if I would have the strength to do what they’re doing for women all across the country and the world.
How do you spend your free time?
With friends and family. Family is so important, and since I travel so much I try to enjoy every moment I can with them.
Favorite fictional female character?
Kara Danvers, AKA Supergirl from the current CW series “Supergirl.” I think that show finally gives nerdy girls and women like me a female superhero who is actually representative of a strong independent woman. I would have loved to have a show like that when I was growing up.
Go-to power anthem?
“Whole Lotta Woman,” by Kelly Clarkson.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
My grandmother’s spaghetti.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Such a tough question. Right now, though, I would love to have a conversation with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is amazing, and I would love to know more about her take on the world right now.
Tell us about your hustle.
My official job title at Game Creek Video is broadcast engineer. This incorporates so many things. We build and maintain mobile television trucks that are used for live sporting and entertainment events all over the country. I’ve worked on many events like NBC's NASCAR, NFL Network's Thursday Night Football and even the 2017 presidential inauguration. My job is to show up with the truck on-site, set it up and make sure everything in it is working properly. This includes powering the truck up, working on equipment like cameras and audio gear and also networking and IT equipment. When the show is over I’m responsible for tearing it all down, closing up the truck and making sure it gets to the next show on time.
What does your typical workday look like?
This is a tough question. A typical workday for me all depends on the type of show or sporting event I’m working at. Typically, though, I work anywhere from a 10- to 18-hour day on a show like the Men’s Golf US Open. I could work like that every day for two weeks. I deal with inventory, troubleshooting gear, creative problem solving and even act as therapist to crew members when they need a break. Being a broadcast engineer means you need to be ready for just about anything, and be able to fix it with the items you happen to have in the truck in front of you. It can be a very physical job on some shows, and then on others where there are no major issues, I sit in front of a computer waiting for something to go wrong.
What led you to TV production?
“Saturday Night Live.” I grew up watching SNL with my dad. From that moment on I knew I needed to be in live TV. I went to Columbia College Chicago, which happened to have its own TV truck and engineering department. At the time I wanted to be an editor, but I quickly learned that was not for me. I spent time in the truck and department learning. Before I graduated, I met a man named Bryan Rule (my current boss) who told me about this company called Game Creek Video. I knew it was a perfect fit for me, and joined their apprenticeship program after college.
Describe the company culture at Game Creek.
The culture at Game Creek is very family-oriented. The company was founded 25 years ago by a man named Pat Sullivan. He’s still the sole owner and all three of his sons work for the company in one way or another. I have always felt that if I had a major issue, I could pick up the phone and call Pat directly and he would answer. This is an incredible feeling when you work at a rather large company that has around 160 employees and is constantly growing.
How do you balance your various responsibilities while traveling for work?
This is one of the most challenging parts of my job. I spend anywhere from 240 to 250 days on the road every year. It can be difficult to juggle issues you have at home while you travel so much. It also helps that I have an amazing mother who helps me deal with things at my house while I’m traveling. She is the best. For me, it is really about finding a balance. The time I spend at home I try and use every moment to its fullest. I enjoy some downtime, my family and working on projects around my house. You have to pull yourself away from work a little bit, otherwise it can overtake your life.
Of all the events you’ve covered and/or been a part of, which one has been your favorite?
The Invictus Games, an event created by Prince Harry. It’s basically the Olympics but for wounded soldiers from all across the globe. I was part of the 2016 broadcast in Orlando, Fla. It was so rewarding to be a part of the team that helped tell these soldiers’ inspiring stories and honor them.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
Recently I was offered the opportunity to EIC (Engineer in Charge) my own truck with Game Creek. The truck’s name is Victory. For me, the coolest part of this opportunity is that my fellow engineer on the truck is also a woman—Roxanne Joseph. We’re pretty sure this is the first time two women have run a truck in our industry.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
The biggest issue I face is that when I work with a new crew, they don't expect a woman. I constantly get asked if I am the engineer or I am mistaken for a graphics operator, as that position is predominantly female. I don’t look at that as discrimination. To me it’s just literally that they are not expecting a female engineer. As soon as I tell them it’s me, we move right along with work, no problem. I do feel like I have to work a little harder to prove myself, especially when it comes to the physical parts of my job. Overall though, I’m lucky enough to say that I work at a company surrounded by good guys. As far as I know, they see me as a fellow engineer and not “the girl.”
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry?
For crews overall, I would say the ratio is probably 70 percent male and 30 percent female. Specifically on the engineering side of things, I only know of a handful of female engineers in the mobile engineering field. It’s definitely evolving, though. I think the biggest issue is women out there don’t even realize this is a job they can do. I didn’t know it existed until I went to college. It’s just going to take female engineers spreading the word. I was led into this role by two women. One who got me into it in college (Kim Leukaufe) and one who worked at Game Creek prior to me getting hired (MeiLing Loo). I’m very grateful to these women for giving me examples of what a badass female engineer looks like.
What’s the skill you most need to improve?
Trusting my gut. Sometimes I get in my own head and don’t want to say something to coworkers because I am not confident in it. Usually I am right in my head, I just don’t say anything out of fear of being wrong.
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
Listen to the people who have come before you. This is not a job you can go to school for. You have to learn. The only way to do that is to listen to the people who have been doing this for years. They have seen it all, and in my experience they are willing to share that knowledge. You have to work hard to get noticed. If you get turned down once, try again. Try to work for local companies as a utility or runner. Show interest and a willingness to learn. Those things will take you far.
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
I am a big fan of television in general. My favorite thing is to find a new really good show or rewatch an old favorite. This really helps me get out of my own head for 30 minutes at a time and take a break. I also love spending time on my jet ski and just being out on the water alone. It’s very relaxing.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Life is too short. Enjoy the little moments of everything you do. I lost my dad when I was 18. It made me realize that life is too short to be stressed out about stuff. I don’t always follow my own advice, but I try to every day. Just be who you want to be and don’t worry about what others think. When you stop caring about that stuff and do things because you want to make yourself better, life seems easier.
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