A very different kind of success story

Dec 08, 2013

Greetings all!

I was encouraged to share a story with everyone here, and thought it would be a good idea, so here goes:

I have a wonderful colleague who's an Articulate design wizard. I say colleague in that, even though I couldn't design an eLearning course to save my life (and believe me, I once downloaded a "trial" bit of eLearning design software and VERY quickly decided to just keep doing what I'm actually good at), I do "say words" pretty well. As such, this colleague and I have had several terrific opportunities to work together in the past year or more on quite a few eLearning projects that were great fun (because this designer is just that good at his job.)

And what great experiences they've been for me!

Several months ago, this colleague approached me for a very different kind of role in one of his projects. He needed an "audio project coordinator" and asked me to find several voices--both male and female--to help him "cast" a project, manage the voice work side, the audio editing to make sure things leveled out, that kind of thing. In spite of the fact that I do all of these things rather routinely (without even realizing it) this wasn't my usual kind of gig, but I like a challenge, and I enjoy working with him so much that I set out to find him some voices. I presented him with a variety of voice talent and waited for his reply.

When all was said and done, his client decided to use, almost exclusively, female voices. They liked two of those that I initially presented, and were especially enthusiastic about one of them in particular who became the primary voice for the lion's share of the presentation.

Unbeknown (at the time) to my colleague, and to my immense joy and surprise, that "primary" voice turned out to belong to my 19-year-old daughter who is currently working her way through college.

Understand: I never once told my colleague during the initial vetting of the casting process "who" was "who". I presented a "blank slate" of voices and let HIS client choose. In fact, it was only after the second module that I felt compelled to "confess" my relationship with the project's primary narrator. He was wonderfully enthusiastic about it. But...I digress.

As it is, she's been providing me with her voice since she was probably 4-years-old for many presentations including radio commercials, online greeting cards, and even telephone-on-hold shows. And during the years she's been great. And sometimes quite challenging to work with (ah, those pesky mid-teenage years!) But really, they were just quick one-off jobs that meant she had to say a few words, or a paragraph or two at best.

But during this particular project, which has required quite literally hours of recording time, she's conducted herself with the highest level of professionalism, taken an active interest in self-critique, and cultivated a very real understanding of what it takes to create a meaningful interpretation of the script at hand, and a general interest in the craft of Voice Over as a whole.

Where it used to be "I need you to say a few words for me..." It became "are you really interested in doing a very lengthy presentation? Are you up for this level of challenge?" She responded with an enthusiastic and very confident "Sure. I can do this..."

I didn't think she had a clue what she was actually in for.


She has shown an incredible maturity for the recording process and an almost intuitive ability to know when to “start over”, when to do an on the fly pick-up, and accepts that it's more than acceptable for a client to say “no, let's try it this way instead", or "My client wants to change the script, so please say this instead." She has never once balked, complained, or batted an eyelash. I've been amazed.

Frankly, I was a bit apprehensive for her to take on a project of this magnitude for what, effectively, has been her “real” first time out. But she's been a complete professional for the entire process. I've been impressed. And that, my friends, is saying something. I don't care WHO you are: if you impress me, trust me:  you're doing something RIGHT. As it is, I probably have higher expectations for those closest to me...but again, I digress.

And my colleague has been most supportive of her work, her work ethic, and has taken a very enthusiastic pride in putting her efforts in front of his client.

As such, I couldn't be more proud. Not only as a “project coordinator”, but as a Dad.

As a result of this project, she's become more interested in not only the craft of Voice Over, but also the intricacies of audio editing. She's also being courted by at least one new client to provide regular services to their company as well.

Let me encourage you all to do something: if you have a young person in your life who is your child, or is just someone you're trying to encourage, and they take an interest in what it is that you do for a living, TEACH THEM! Let them try their hand at your craft.

I think it's true that we all have a passion for what we do. One of the greatest treats that I've been afforded is to pass that passion on to a "new generation”.

Thanks to this community I've been able to open doors to an enthusiastic young person (my kid!) in ways that I always thought were possible for her, but wouldn't have been able to TRULY encourage and nurture otherwise.

Take a chance on a young person. The results may surprise you!

If you think that what you do everyday to earn a living is “just something that you're good at and affords you a living” think again! Something sparked you to go in this direction. Remember that *you* can be that spark for someone else!

The relationships you build can, in all reality, be life-changing. Even the ones you least expect.

Thanks Articulate for creating a community that makes differences that you probably never imagined!

Happy Holidays, all--


12 Replies
Bruce Graham

Andy - that's a wonderful story - thanks for sharing it 

I have tried to get my (mid-teens) daughter to do some v/o work for me, and you have obviously had better success/results than I have!

Her talent obviously comes from years of encouragement however it's great to hear that she's "internalised" that now, and has the personal attitude and drive to do it herself. By the sounds of it she's had a great teacher.

Andy Bowyer

Thanks, Bruce. It has been a tremendous journey. It's nice to see that while those in my immediate surroundings have generally "taken for granted" that "that's what Dad does..." that it's now being seen for what it is: a serious business and in its own right an "art form" In as much as what eLearning design professionals do!

This stuff doesn't happen by itself, nor is it easy! It takes a culmination of like-mindedness, dedication, and dare I say talent to bring it all together and create a meaningful experience for the end-users.

Because that's really what it's all about, right? Doing a job that's not only meaningful for yourself, but that will ultimately benefit those who are having to *learn* it.

I love my job, and those who allow me to do it.

Jeff Kortenbosch

Great story indeed Andy!, I've actually done something similar with an 'older person', as it is not only the young that need chances . Hiring him for a year to learn a new profession (elearning developer) has been an interesting and rewarding journey.

My kids are only 1 and 3 years old but when the time comes... I'll think of your story and teach them all I can!

Dave P

I have had instances when building courses, where I've needed to have a male and female voice.  The way I found the voices to use was by walking around the office and talking to people (and listening to people talk when I would walk through the office).  I found 2 great voices that I have used for many articulate videos.  It just goes to show that you never know all the talent around you until you go looking for it.


Paul Alders

Great story Andy, thanks for sharing!

Actually since a few months back I have encountered how great it is to work with youngsters. After a presentation about one of my projects a 'manager' of an local non-profit organization came up to me and started talking about a the work of his organization. He told me that his organization takes care of youngsters who dropped out of school without any diploma or experience. Now he was searching for companies (big and small) where these youngsters could gain some experience. After having a little chat with a few of them they started to work on one of my projects. And really....I love to see there inspiration and motivation to get the job done!


Eimear O Neill

A beautiful story Andy. Thank you for sharing.  I too try and educate my family and friends about what I do, to enstill a sense that passion is vital and possible in "work". Coming from a childhood & adolesence where many careers were a complete mystery - it is a joy to share and explain my job and the fast growing elearning industry, one which I have a passion and love for, a rarity in my parents day for sure and sadly still the case for many folks today.

So kudos for sharing your time, expertise and passion and nurturing the next generation. 

Let's all keep passing it on to our kids, family, friends and neighbors. It is the season for giving afterall  

Nick n/a

Bruce Graham said:

Out of interest Andy, is your daughter able to use any of her new eLearning/voiceover skills in her college work, university or planned career?

It would be lovely to think that the "growth experience" she has had could be carried on into the future, and help set her up for the next stages of life.

As parents, we all want the best for our children.

To give them valid skills, working experience and help them 'set up in life'. Bruce states it in his last post.

Thanks for giving your inspiring story Andy.

I've also read through the responses to your original post.

All positive and caring!


Andy Bowyer

Thanks everyone.

And yes, by and large, I think her experiences working in my studio have helped her "in real life".

Understand that she's been "saying words" for me for most of her life, not often, and usually as "quickies", but she's not shy around a microphone.

That said, there was a period during her mid-teens that our "in-studio working relationship" was a bit challenging...but I've been amazed at how she's matured since then. More so at how she's begun to embrace the idea that this is a viable "vocation". Now, I wouldn't encourage her to forsake all other avenues and delve into what I do for a living. As an "add on" to her career course certainly! She's far too young to make this her "goal."

As it is, to answer Bruce's question, she's found herself at that magical crossroads of her educational career (and didn't we all?). Where what she set out to do to begin with is beginning to evolve into ideas of a broader nature. She has great aspirations, but through her college career is beginning to appreciate other aspects. She may well go into teaching, which she'd be GREAT at doing. Her dream is still her dream, though. And working behind a microphone certainly won't hurt that.

Her goal is to study Theatre Arts, and hone her acting ability into a marketable skill. So yes, I think this experience has taught her an awful lot about copy interpretation, delivery, inflection, and above all *pacing*. She's immensely talented (and I'm not just saying that as her Dad), but this experience has given her a true appreciation for accepting gentle criticism, opened her mind to taking things in a different direction, and best of all *trusting* that a "director" can offer meaningful suggestions to enhance her performance.

Her evolution, in this project alone, has been a joy to experience. I've been pleasantly surprised at how tenacious she's been.

So thanks again to my amazing client, and to this community for helping to shape the experience that she has been afforded.

And if I don't get back before then, Merry Christmas everyone! And may 2014 be the best year EVER for us all!


Bruce Graham

Some time later......(now that we have had the Pilot group feedback)

At this point I will put my hand up, and admit that I was Andy's client. My end-user client was a US University Psychology Department, and the course was something new for me, a course that was part of a research project on Parenting Skills for Young Children.

The main course was built around recorded telephone conversations, the conversations followed a scripted PC application, which had to be screen-recorded, and then narrated at the same time.

Having worked with Andy before, I wanted someone I could trust just to project manage the whole "audio" side of the course for me, as producing the screen-cams was a large challenge. He did an admirable job of that, producing 1 x audio section per sentence, so that the process of gluing everything together was much easier.

However, the start of the show was undoubtedly his daughter. When the demos were done, I did not know the father/daughter relationship, and certainly did not know how young she was, but the client made the choice ultimately.

I have to say that she was a dream to work with. Some feedback after the first module was taken on board, and the files I received were beautifully spoken, the pace was great, there was FEELING in her vocals, and it sounded as though she was speaking to me as a learner, not just narrating.

The feedback from the client was:

The voiceover work helped to maintain interest in the content, which was clear and easy to understand. Testers particularly enjoyed the primary narrator’s voice - her voice was described as “pleasant” and “engaging”.

It's been a pleasure working with my "sound team", and the vocal skills and production undoubtedly helped get the (full) review that I sent onto Andy/his daughter earlier today, which left me feeling quite humble. All I hope is that she's available in June/July when the reworking and amends part is going to be needed!!!!

Sometimes people surprise us - sometimes they delight us, and sometimes our clients are blissfully unaware what they have done to help someone make a step forward in their life.

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