Brian Wiebe is the Radio Arts and Entertainment Assistant Instructor at British Columbia Institute of Technology and Operations Manager for radio station Evolution 107.9 FM, with years of experience in the radio and entertainment industry. Having an interest in media since childhood, Brian graduated from the BCIT Broadcast Radio program in 2002, and has since hosted radio shows, podcasts, and even worked as a play-by-play hockey announcer. We sat down with Brian to learn more about his career story, and how he pursued his interest and passion in radio and the entertainment industry.
What’s a unique aspect about your career story?
Originally as a kid, I wanted to do weather—I don’t know what kind of kid aspires to be a weatherman, but that’s what I wanted to do – on TV. When I went through high school, I was very interested in drama and performance arts, and I had an outgoing personality. So, when I was in grade 12, I looked at BCIT and somehow came across the Broadcast Radio Program, and I knew this program would be something I was interested in. My mom gave me a cheque for $60 to apply to the program—but I never did. In fact, I still have the cheque she wrote that day. I never actually applied, and I realize it was because I was afraid and scared I wouldn’t be making the right choice.
At 18, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I ended up working a restaurant job until my mid-20’s, but when I hit 24 or 25 years old, I really acknowledged that I didn’t want to manage a restaurant forever, and I revisited the radio and music path again. I actually had spoken with Nardwuar the Human Serviette a couple times, and he said to me, ‘If I can have a radio show, then YOU can have a radio show. You just need to come out to UBC, and pay a yearly
membership, and they’ll train you. If there’s a spot, you can have your own radio show.’ Around this time I was talking with Nardwuar, I grabbed a BCIT pamphlet again and revisited the Broadcast Radio Program. I followed his advice and got a show at CITR, and put in an application for BCIT. I got in, and graduated in 2002.
How have you incorporated your strongest interests and values into your career?
It’s funny because it took working in music and radio to know that I had these values. It was the value of community. The first position I got at a radio station was in a community of about 8,000 people. I saw immediately the impact of the things I said and did, and how I could affect the community. There was a huge impact from the work I did, whether it was getting out for various causes, or even just warning the community of traffic accidents. The industry really taught me that I valued community.
As for my interests, my main interest was in performing, and also music. So, being in media, whether it’s in front of a microphone, or a camera, fits my interests very well. Being in media seemed like a perfect fit for me, because I’m producing something for an audience to see or hear; that’s performing, and that’s music. This industry is everything I love, and it really fits with my interests perfectly.
What advice would you give to a student trying to break into the radio/media business?
Take chances, take risks. If you think you can’t do it, at least try it. We’re in a day and age where anyone can have a vlog on YouTube. Anyone can do a podcast and post it on SoundCloud. Anyone can start a blog. Every smartphone is a recording device. You don’t have to wait until you take a media course to start.
At your media course in high school or a program at BCIT, you’ll learn the skills to be a professional at creating media, but there’s nothing stopping you from doing it in the first place. At BCIT, we get a lot of students who are really interested in sports media—but if you wanted to do a play-by-play, there’s nothing stopping you from going to any sporting event, anywhere, and doing a play by play on your phone. If that’s something that you really want to do, just do it! The best advice I can give is, if there’s anything you want to do, just do it! And if you do it and think it’s a viable career for you, you can take the steps to get educated, and become a professional.
What’s the biggest hurdle you had to overcome to get started on your career?
Confidence. In the first job I had after graduating, I was offered a promotion six months into the job. I turned it down, because I didn’t think I was ready. It was a promotion to a management role, and I was just six months in the job, and six months out of BCIT; I felt like I wasn’t ready for that! I talked to the people around me, and they said, ‘Are you crazy? They’re offering you this management position, and if they didn’t think you could do it, they wouldn’t offer it to you!’ But, I just didn’t have the confidence in my own ability. The company had confidence in me, but I didn’t have confidence in myself. That was my biggest hurdle, overcoming the lack of confidence that I had. It was a hurdle I placed in front of myself.
What impact did your education have on your career?
A hundred percent, everything. It was the biggest impact. Media is one of those fields where you have to be adaptable and willing to change, because the industry moves so fast. Many of the skills I learned years ago are still relevant today, but I’ve had to keep learning more about radio and media even after my diploma, and that’s something BCIT taught me. There’s no way I would be here today without the education that I got.
What advice would you give to students trying to find their path?
Don’t be married to one idea. If you’re 17 and you want to be an accountant, and you find you don’t want to after two years, that’s okay! You can change and do something else. As long as you’re on a forward path, you can always change your mind if you’re not right for that career, and you will still be okay. Chances are, if you’re In the middle of that path, you won’t know it’s the right one until you’re at your destination. When you hit a fork on your path, weigh your decisions, and just keep advancing. I think you should sleep well at night knowing that you’re moving forward.
If you’re interested in learning more about the radio and entertainment industry, you can read more about Brian’s Evolution 107.9 station, or check out BCIT’s Radio Arts and Entertainment program where Brian teaches. To reach him directly, or to find out more about Brian, check out his LinkedIn profile here.
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