Audio professional turned author: SAE London alumni Yello Balolia tells us about his varied career

16 Oct 2018

Yello Balolia is an audio professional who has turned his hand to many things during his career. Having studied an Audio diploma at SAE London in the late 90’s, Yello’s career has seen him work for ITV, start his own publishing company, then his own ukulele business, and also launch his own boutique festival, Magical Festival. With over twenty years experience and a lot of knowledge to share, we caught up with him to hear about his experience at SAE London and in the wider world of work.

1. What was your experience like studying Audio at SAE London?

"Loved it! I did the intensive 9-month diploma course and I went into SAE every single day of the 9 months apart from 2 weeks at Xmas!  The atmosphere was great and there was so much to learn - I just couldn’t keep away!"

2. What particular skills did you take away?

"SAE provided me with a solid foundation in sound.  From editing actual tape, to digital techniques, to the all-important theory, I felt I left SAE with a decent level of understanding in all the essential areas needed to go out into the workplace.  I worked super hard and felt I had a qualification and enough basic experience to feel confident about applying for jobs."

3. What has your career been like since leaving SAE London?

"As soon as I left SAE, I was on a mission to find a job in sound.  I spent weeks typing up all the postal addresses from the Media Guide book, and ended up with just over 1,000 addresses for recording studios, film and TV studios, live music venues and radio stations.  I decided to send a letter and CV to ALL of them to see if they had any jobs going!  £400 in printing and stamps later, I knew the perfect job would come my way.

Over the next month, I received up to 30 rejection letters back per day!  But in that pile of 400+ letters, there were 12 offers for interviews including a boom operator on Hollyoaks in Liverpool, sound assistant for a music library composer in Southampton, and a sound technician (and it turns out, newsreader!) at a radio station in Bradford.

Out of all the interviews, the job that I said YES to was in fact a Runner at ITV’s main studio in London.  The job was literally to make tea for people with real TV jobs (directors, producers, editors etc), and I got paid £8,800 per year… full-time!  Again, I worked really hard and after 4 months got promoted to Head Runner, then to Technical Runner in the post production sound department (after hanging out there on many of my days off!).  After doing various tracklaying and small mixing tasks, I was finally rewarded with a role of Sound Assistant and then Dubbing Mixer.  On some days I was mixing live Champions League football matches on ITV1 where the audio for millions of TVs were passing through my faders!

Meanwhile, I developed a keen interest in photography, and ended up quitting ITV after 4 years to do a full-time degree in Photography & Video Production. I was still freelancing at ITV to fund the studies, and later to save for an apartment in London."

4. What are you doing at the moment?

"Quite a few things!! Since SAE and ITV, I’ve started a publishing company to write and publish health books for people with diabetes. I started playing the ukulele and ended up forming a small company with my ukulele teacher, where we sell books we’ve written together with ukulele accessories. A few years ago, I started a small boutique festival with some friends. We’ve just had our 2nd event: a 3-day festival for 1,000 people. And finally, I’ve most recently started a YouTube channel with short videos inspiring people to look at the world differently. So I keep myself busy as you can imagine! 

I must say that the skills I’ve learned at SAE have definitely come in useful in ALL of these projects."


5. What advice would you give our current students?


"1. Put in mega effort. What you get out of the course (and out of life) is directly correlated to the effort you put in. Be super enthusiastic.

2. Look after yourself. Think wisely about your diet and exercise, as they have a bigger effect than you think on your whole life.

3. Make a list of 5 things that really matter to you, and stick to them. It’s easy to get distracted these days, and the distractions won’t help you contribute to the world. Focus.

4. Work together and help each other. You’ll get further in life if you learn to truly collaborate (aka being on the same team), rather than going through life with an attitude of competing against one another.

5. Don’t underestimate how much your skills are transferable between industries, and be open-minded to the fact that your career (and life) path is probably going to be way different than you imagine it to be.  Even if you trained in one industry, there’s nothing stopping you from jumping ship to another type of job, project or business."

Find out more about Yello’s YouTube Channel.