My love for radio has been a constant in my life since my childhood in Mexico City and later in Santa Barbara. My father's work as a DJ ignited my passion for music, but radio held a special place in my heart. It was a source of solace during times when I lacked friends. The radio hosts felt like lifelong friends, speaking to me as if they'd known me forever. Their friendly voices made me feel welcomed, and I cherished that connection.
At the age of 15, I received a significant opportunity when I started creating mixes for the newly-launched station, Mega 97.1, in Santa Maria in 2007-2008. This was my initial big break, sparking a profound passion for radio that I could not have predicted.
In 2013, I secured a job at WiLD 106, where I crafted mixes for their "5 O'clock Traffic Jam" and also DJed at a local nightclub on Wednesday nights. At just 20 years old, it felt like I was living a dream. I was young and carefree, and my primary objective was to leverage radio to promote my DJing career.
However, life took an unexpected turn when I was let go from my full-time job at the age of 22, right before our radio cluster was sold. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't settle for a job that didn't bring me joy.
Thankfully, the new owners welcomed me, and my role in radio evolved as I began assisting in commercial production, promotions, and hosting a weekend show on WiLD 106. In time, my role expanded, eventually leading me to voice-tracking opportunities on other stations within our cluster.
In 2017, the launch of ALT 100.9 presented a new challenge. With limited programming guidance, I was entrusted with the responsibility of shaping the station's identity. It proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my radio career, allowing me to engage with listeners, break new music, and support local artists.
As the years went by, I started feeling the weight of burnout in late 2019, exacerbated by the challenges posed by understaffing and high demand from clients. I felt the need to breathe new life into my content and delivery, but the radio industry faced mass layoffs, even in larger markets, creating a cloud of uncertainty about its future. The pressure was mounting on me and my colleagues.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 brought about unexpected changes. Radio professionals were deemed essential workers, necessitating some of us to continue working on-site while many others transitioned to remote work. I was fortunate not to fall ill during my time in the office, and the altered workload seemed more manageable during the pandemic.
It was during the pandemic that I realized the critical role I played in keeping the station going. If I were to be let go, they'd need to find multiple people to handle all the responsibilities I shouldered.
We persevered through the pandemic, and when restrictions began to ease, I was slowly getting back into the groove. However, by mid-2022, I found myself once again grappling with burnout. The feeling of being trapped and reaching the pinnacle of my radio career was becoming overwhelming. While I had job security, the prospect of potential future COVID-19 shutdowns was a lingering concern.
After some introspection and therapy, I managed to mitigate my burnout by setting clear boundaries. With my workload lightened, I began to contemplate my career's direction. I had spent nearly a decade at WiLD 106, living with my parents, and enduring a lengthy commute. While I could request a raise, I recognized that many radio professionals were experiencing similar challenges, especially amid layoffs at larger radio companies.
The predominant factor deterring me from exploring alternative career opportunities was my profound affection for radio. It had been a constant presence in my life, accompanying me through challenging times. The thought of leaving behind a career I had worked hard to build was heart-wrenching. Nevertheless, burnout had reached a breaking point, compelling me to contemplate fresh employment opportunities.
The most significant hurdle was identifying a suitable career path outside of radio after dedicating a decade to the industry. I lacked a college degree, which was a requirement in many job postings. However, observing fellow radio professionals successfully transition to other fields inspired me to take a leap of faith. I applied for a position as a bilingual Public Information Specialist at Allan Hancock College and compiled a digital media portfolio showcasing my work with our radio cluster.
Surprisingly, I secured the job, despite feeling like an underqualified candidate compared to others with more extensive qualifications. I lacked a degree, a cover letter, or an extensive resume, but my determination and portfolio were enough to secure the opportunity.
This new chapter marked a turning point in my career. Leaving radio was bittersweet, but the position at Allan Hancock College offered a fresh start. I felt the need to be honest and transparent with my former employer, expressing gratitude and explaining my reasons for leaving. I held no grudges; I was simply ready for a change. Yet, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of sadness as I bid farewell to my radio programming duties, especially my work with X-TRA 104.7 and my afternoon shift on WiLD 106.
Upon delivering my two weeks' notice and ensuring a smooth transition of my responsibilities, I received an unexpected proposition. My former employer suggested that I continue my on-air work with WiLD 106 and continue programming X-TRA 104.7. The reason behind this offer was the success of WiLD 106, consistently ranking at the top, and the launch of a brand new Spanish CHR station, X-TRA 104.7, in a different market, which was generating substantial revenue.
This was an ideal scenario. I could continue doing what I loved in radio, even tracking my show from home, while simultaneously pursuing a new career path. It was a win-win situation. The team retained a valuable member, and I could work towards a more secure financial future in Public Relations at Allan Hancock College.
To my surprise, when I started at Allan Hancock College, I discovered that I could apply many of the skills I honed in radio to my new role. I was tasked with helping relaunch the college's podcast and providing Spanish voiceovers for community outreach.
I wanted to share my journey to convey that your future is not set in stone. You have the power to shape your destiny. While the radio industry faces challenges and layoffs, opportunities are emerging in other areas, such as podcasting and social media. These platforms offer new avenues for content creators to reach a broader audience.
If you find yourself at a crossroads after dedicating many years to radio, remember that your skills and passion are valuable assets that can open doors in unexpected places. Embrace change, and know that you can control your own destiny, one step at a time. As for the future of radio, I hope it thrives, but I am living proof that there are new beginnings beyond the airwaves.