Amplify Women Audio Engineers: Jordan Duffy, Cinthia Pimentel & Andrea Kristinsdottir
Without great audio engineers, your favorite podcasts would sound very different. Audio engineers are experts in recording equipment, editing, and truly instrumental in the production of a podcast.
We chatted with Cinthia Pimentel, Audio Engineer at Wonder Media Network, and Jordan Duffy and Andrea Kristinsdottir, audio engineers at Stitcher. They shared how they got into audio engineering and how they face working in a male dominated profession.
How did you first get into audio?
Jordan Duffy: After College, I was extremely lost. I had a vocal performing degree, but was having trouble finding jobs in my field, making money at a place I didn’t loath, and on top of that I really wanted to record an album all by myself, but I didn’t have the skills or tools to do so. I took some time to evaluate what in my life made me truly the happiest where I could still perform music. I realized that not only did I love to sing, but I also loved just being in a recording studio and was fascinated with how the engineers and producers did their actual jobs. On a whim I googled Audio Engineer Career and it brought me to an online school where I could stay near my family, be able to work, and take classes at my local recording studio, where I eventually worked after graduating. Jump years later, I packed up all my belongings, moved to California with a dream, and within a few months I landed a job at Earwolf/Stitcher.
Cinthia Pimentel: I started working with audio when I was in college. I learn how to use Audacity to mix music for my dance team. It was fun and simple work. When I graduated from college, I didn’t think that mixing music would be a useful skill at the time. My first job out of college was actually being a college counselor. Even though I love working with high school students, I missed creating. I started my own podcast with my close friend, Lina. Then I applied for a podcast fellowship and it was history after that.
Andrea Kristinsdottir: I grew up in a very musical family so I’ve always carried a reverence for the relationship between sound and silence, but I think I became fascinated with audio specifically while living in Pakistan as a child. During that time, most of my families correspondences were being monitored and so the sound of wiretapping at each phone call was as familiar as the flick of a lightswitch. In an effort to make sense of that I began carrying a tape recorder with me and capturing conversations, and the sounds of different neighborhoods and environments as a way to recalibrate and understand that experience for myself.
An audio engineer can mean a lot of different things. How do you describe the work of an audio engineer?
Jordan: If you google the definition of ‘Audio Engineer’ you get statements such as: “helps to produce a recording…balancing and adjusting sound sources…” I agree with this statement. Of course audio engineering has its technical moments such as being in the studio and troubleshooting why you can hear someone on mic 3, but can’t hear their guest on mic 4, or why in a tape sync there’s an echo coming through on their end and not yours. But, if you truly stand back and look at it, Audio Engineer simply means to be helpful. You are helping to create someone’s vision, someone’s dream, someone’s reality. Being helpful is one of the most powerful things you can do.
How did you learn the skills you needed to become an audio engineer?
Jordan: I learned quite a bit of my engineering skills at the school I attended: Recording Connection Audio Institute, and from my mentor Dr. Barry Johnson. Once I started at Earwolf I learned a significant amount more from my boss Brett Morris and my co-workers Sam Kieffer, Ryan Connor, Devon Bryant and Brendan Brynes, who taught me more about specific PlugIns and loads of Earwolf Recording format.
Cinthia: Patience and practice! It is so important to take the time to learn. I usually schedule a weekly 20 minutes meeting with myself to just play around with audio. I challenge myself to see what I can creatively make in the next 20 minutes without any pressure of a deadline.
Andrea: By making a lot of mistakes, having a good attitude, and being lucky enough to find an incredible mentor, and friend in Jared O’Connell who is one of the Production Manager’s here at Stitcher.
The industry is very male-dominated; do you ever have to cope with sexism?
Jordan: Ha! My whole life. Within the last few years of working as a professional audio engineer from time to time, yes I do have to cope with sexism. I personally feel I have to work twice as hard as males. I have had a lot of people give me the double look and say “oh, you are the engineer?” To this day I still get a “Thanks Doll” or “Thanks sweetheart” and I know for a fact those words are not being said to a male engineer. On the plus side, Earwolf has made big strides in making sure I always feel comfortable and all Earwolf employees are treated as equals regardless of their gender or how they identify.
Cinthia: My favorite motto is “fake it till you make it and then fake it to you become it”. I always live by that motto and it has helped me so much with anxiety and imposter syndrome. Especially being a black woman, people question your place in the field. Self-care is so important. Having a support group is also so important. They have helped me and guided me especially when I have to make tough decisions.
Andrea: Absolutely. It’s strange to say in this day and age, but I’ve had bosses and coworkers tell me things like, as a woman I wasn’t qualified to touch technology, or that it’d be better optics for the company if there were a man behind the board. There are many layers and levels to this, but thankfully, this is evolving and I feel very lucky to work in such a supportive environment today.
Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong in the space?
Jordan: To be really honest, I feel it everyday. I definitely deal with imposter syndrome, but that has never made my work suffer; if anything it has pushed me harder to make sure I am doing things correctly, wanting to learn more and as much as I can, always ahead of schedule, and my projects are as close to perfection as they can be. I do have moments where I receive praise on my work and it reminds me that I am where I am meant to be and I am honored to be able to say that I am an audio engineer and proud of my shows and where I work.
Andrea: I’ve been told many times that I don’t, but I guess I haven’t paid too much attention to that.
Who are some other women and nonbinary folks in the field who you love working with?
Andrea: I would love to use this opportunity to shout out some of the women I work with most closely here at Stitcher. That’s Nora Richie, Tomeka Weatherspoon, Stephanie Kariuki, Jackie Sojicko, Kristen Torres, and of course Jordan Duffy as well. I’m constantly impressed and inspired by them, and it’s a privilege to work with such a thoughtful and dynamic group. I’d also love to give a huge shout out to Liz Smith and Jenny Kaplan at WMN who I’ve had the great pleasure of working with on a number of shows.
Jordan: First and foremost my sister, Kara Duffy, who is the host and creator of our podcast called The Powerful Ladies Podcast. The female producers I personally work with at Earwolf: Codi Fischer, Kimmie Lucas, and Dana Wickens. The female podcast host that I personally work with at Earwolf: Raiza Licea, Sasheer Zamata, Nicole Byer, Tawny Newsome, Danielle Schnieder, Casey Wilson, and Cameron Esposito. And there’s an enormous list of additional amazing powerful ladies I work alongside with as well!
Cinthia: I had the pleasure and the honor to work with so many different folks in the audio space! First, I want to give a special shout-out to my team at Wonder Media Network: Liz Smith, Maddy Foley, Grace Lynch, Luisa Garbowit, Edie Allard, Jenny Kaplan and everyone at WMN for their amazing support! Shoutout to my amazing co-host/co-producer on our podcast, Bag Ladiez, Rafaela “Lina” Uribe. For the producers who have challenged me and inspired me: Ann Heppermann, Claire Tighe, Ariana Martinez, and Christina Djossa. And working with folks who have shown me liberation through the audio work: Queen & J from Tea with Queen & J, Money & Nikeeta from QueerWoc, Diamond, Mia & Zee from Marsha’s Plate: Black Trans Podcast, and Sam, Akua, Rob, Rebecca from Inner Hoe Uprising.