Max Batyrkin

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     MAX BATYRKIN

“The lessons I’ve learned in my career are to never think you are too good for something – it is all valuable experience.”

At the moment I work as a Court Monitor and IT-Sound Support technician at the company that provides recording services to law courts in Melbourne.

I’m originally from Minsk, the capital of Belarus. I graduated from high school in the mid 90’s. I didn’t have career plans, but I needed pocket money, so I started working at a local city market, selling perfume and clothing. I found I was very good at this: I sold my inventory quickly and had to re-stock my stall on daily basis. I was making good money by the standards of the day.

I did that for about 3 years, just having fun and making cash, without thinking much about the future. However, eventually the market conditions worsened and so did my profits.  I knew it was time to get a proper job.

My mother co-owned a small chemical company, and got me a job there. We were designing and producing LCD displays from scratch for big factories and military companies. I worked in the lab, doing all the dirty work like mixing the chemicals and also assisted with quality control. The money was good, but I didn’t really enjoy the job, so after a year and a half  I followed my mum again as she switched jobs and went to work for a food import company.

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There I got a job as a baker.  It was challenging, but I enjoyed that experience. Night shifts were my favorite – my team and I enjoyed listening to our favourite music rather loud while working. However I knew that in order to get ahead in life, I would need higher education. When the company we were working for went bankrupt, I was ready to get back to study.

First, I picked  the university – then I browsed through available courses and spontaneously decided to be a Producer and Events Manager. It sounded like something I’d enjoy. But after my first year, I realized I’ll have no future with these skills in Belarus as even then I was looking for an international career. So I changed my major to sound engineering, audio design and computer music programming – a more practical path. In the year 2000 I got my Bachelor Degree.

I knew that whatever I do, I do it better while listening to my favorite playlist.

I really liked recording, working in a studio environment and mixing tracks. Being a big fan of electronic dance music (still I am), I started writing my own music. Before long, I was DJ-ing, playing my own tracks in nightclubs with my friends.

The word spread and we became pretty well known locally.  We played techno, electro, house. Most gigs were paid, but for us it wasn’t about money, it was about doing what we loved. The money wasn’t enough to survive on, so I started looking for a full time job again.

I was looking for almost a year, until my father heard an ad on his car radio, advertising for a person with my skills to work in that radio station. I went through the application process and got the job.

I started as a DJ, working the graveyard shift. The  program director would compile the playlist and I played it (from CDs!), alternating the songs with jingles and advertisements. I did it for 6 months and loved it. I started at 8 PM and finished shift at about 4 AM. There was not much work after midnight so I was usually reading blogs, chatting with overseas friends online.

My life changed forever when I discovered electronic music and independent art-house movies.

My next big break came when I got transferred to work at the recording studio. Their commercial producer was about to leave, and the management decided to train me in his place. The job was basically making ads: recording the talent, mixing according to the script, approving ads with the client and putting them on air. I learned quickly: within a week or two I could do it all without supervision.

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photo: courtesy Max Batyrkin

Usually the clients would provide a couple of versions of the script and their requirements. We had a base of talent, around 10 professional actors. My job was to direct them in the studio: getting them to read with the right intonation, expression and volume to get the client’s message across.

It was a fantastic job, and a wonderful time in my life. However, after 7 years, I found myself in a bit of a rut, getting bored and complacent.

My family had relatives and friends overseas, and I always wanted to try living in other countries, so I felt that the time was right to explore different horizons. In 2008 my wife and I received skilled professional visa and decided to move to Australia.

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When we ended up in Adelaide we felt like we landed on different planet; a paradise. It was an amazing experience. We spent the first year adjusting and settling in.. My wife found a job and I studied English full time.

At the same time, I was doing freelance work online.

I stayed in touch with all my professional contacts when I moved, so for a year and a half I was working for Belarusian clients from Australia, editing and mixing sound on my laptop and sending audio commercials back over 3G broadband internet! It provided enough income to take care of our bills.

Once I finished language school, I was lucky enough to find a job at Southern Cross Austereo (5MMM and SAFM) in Adelaide. I got an informal interview with an employee who was leaving this job, and they were looking for a replacement.

It was a the stroke of luck, as the job was similar to what I did in Belarus and the fast paced radio environment was exactly what I knew so well.

And even though my English still wasn’t perfect, the man was impressed with my technical skills, and recommended me for the role at a studio called Audio Transfer Carting Operator. The position was ‘full time casual’, about 40 hours a week.

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My job was receiving advertisements from our national and regional managers and distributing them across Australian Radio Network. I was processing up to 100 emails and jobs a day. Austereo is the busiest radio network in Australia, with 2 different radio stations in every state.

In Belarus, I used to work with 20-30 ads; here I had hundreds.

It was a great challenge and in a year and a half of working there, I drastically increased my skills and experience. Funny enough, being an employee of a number of radio stations and media agencies, I’ve never listened to Radio for pleasure.

When we received our permanent residency,  we decided to visit our parents in Belarus, so I took a long leave of 5 weeks. When I came back after the holiday, my manager emailed me saying that they hired somebody else to share my job with me, 50/50.

I suppose they just wanted to be more secure, as it was a casual position and they wanted 2 employees to cover it, just in case. Unfortunately, that didn’t leave enough work for me.. In a way, that was the push that made us decide to move to Melbourne in early 2011.

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photo: courtesy Max Batyrkin

 

It was a big step: again we were moving to a brand new place, again without any job prospects. But it had always been our dream to live by the ocean. We got the tiniest, cheapest apartment available in Elwood, but it seemed like a dream none the less. It was a few seconds walk to the beach!

We started looking for jobs.

There weren’t many jobs in audio editing, which got me thinking, “How can I transform my skills into something that’s more in demand?”

I had some previous experience with filming and editing video, so I e-mailed all video production studios in Melbourne with my resume and a video showreel which I quickly put together for the purpose.

One studio replied within a week. It was a small video production studio. They were doing weddings on weekends and producing educational DVDs on the weekdays. We created slides and synchronized them with audio to produce language learning materials for language schools in 15 different languages.

It was a casual position, and allowed me to work from office or home. After working there for 10 months, I became more confident with video.

I registered as a sole trader and created a website with my portfolio.

Then I started searching for other jobs as a video editor, and ended up at a wedding video company. They taught me a lot about how the wedding video industry works and its rules. The hours were long and dealing with brides wasn’t always easy. But I really enjoyed the filming, editing, doing color correction, adding music and effects, and then producing the DVD or Blu-Ray.

Editing and producing are a really time-consuming process.

You have to process a lot of data, sometimes there are delays with approvals and such, so it can take weeks, even months. We had a few couples divorced before their video was even ready!

After a while working at that studio I set up my account on freelancer.com and on elance.com and I submitted lots of proposals. It’s hard in the beginning, when you don’t have enough references or jobs under your belt. But I lowered my price to get those first clients, and eventually, as I completed more jobs and got good reviews it got easier.

I did most media: audio, video editing, slideshows, edited recordings, trainings videos. It wasn’t a full time income, but it helped with the bills while I searched for full time work.

I feel that today most businesses are biased toward extroverts, which makes job hunting process and working in team environments overwhelming for introverts like me.

While I was looking for full time work within my specialization, I had to take a temporary job as an energy consultant/customer service representative for a company called Green Home, Green Planet, dealing with energy-efficient products. I did it because it paid a good salary plus commissions, and we needed the income.

Basically, I was a door-to-door representative offering to install free energy-saving products under the government scheme.

I actually found that I liked it: I enjoyed meeting and communicating with random people and seeing how they lived. To me it was an important part of getting to know Australia and Melbourne.

Eventually, I got my current job through Seek.  It’s actually a combination of two roles, one being an IT Sound Support Technician, and the second a Court Monitor. I also coordinate one of the projects involving transcription services for National Library of Australia.

My job is to maintain the technical part of audio and video streaming from courts to the office, where our typists type out remotely, almost in the real time, what’s being said in court. They’re fast! Because the courts require the transcripts the same day, it’s vital that the connection is perfect in real-time.

My job is to ensure perfect streaming quality, and providing IT support to the office and its 50 employees.

Another part of my job as a court monitor is to create logs for typists to distinguish who is speaking, and what’s exactly happening in court. There is a lot of legal stuff involved so it’s very different from all my previous jobs. I’m in a very serious business!

For now, it’s really nice working in the city, in a funky new office with shops and cafes to explore at lunchtime. I enjoy dealing with my two teams of typists and monitors, supporting and coordinating them.

I’ve gained a lot of experience and personal development at this job. I’m enjoy working here, however I’m open to new possibilities that may present themselves on the horizon.

The lessons I’ve learned in my career are to never think you are too good for something – it is all valuable experience. And never give up. I’m happy with all my experiences and appreciate every single challenge, every job good and bad. I feel everything I’ve done so far has added value to my life and personality.