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Spotlight on TEC Women: Feyaza Khan, tech podcaster

If you’ve ever listened to Tech South West’s Tribe Tech podcast, you’ll be familiar with Feyaza. Each month, she and co-host Robert cover news, companies and people from the southwest’s fast-growing tech scene.

But how did Feyaza come to present a tech-focused podcast, and what skills do you need to be a professional podcaster or radio presenter? We spoke to her to find out.

Can you tell us a bit about Tech South West and how you got involved with it? Tech South West promotes what's happening in the southwest from the tech perspective.

For a long time, Cornwall and the southwest have been seen as nice places to live because of the lifestyle and the beach and surfing. But actually amazing things are happening in the tech sector here, and we want people across the UK to be aware of that.

I got involved because Tech South West were looking for someone with radio journalism experience and knowledge of the tech sector, who could present and edit a podcast. I ticked all of those boxes.

Let’s talk about tech first – how did you start working in the sector?

My professional background is in radio journalism, but I’ve also done a lot of PR work for tech companies. I started off doing work for my sister’s tech business, in South Africa where I’m from. Through that work I met other tech companies in South Africa and I did PR for them too.

It means that when I moved to Cornwall, I had that background and I was able to get PR work from local organisations like Software Cornwall and Falmouth Launchpad.

How did you get into radio journalism – was it something you always wanted to do?

When I was young, I wanted to be a mechanic or a journalist. My dad would have encouraged me to be a mechanic – we’d built go-karts together – but he passed away when I was 16. After he passed away, I chose the journalism route because it was completely different to the life I’d known.

I moved to England, to Liverpool, at 17, but I couldn't go to university immediately as it would have been very expensive. I decided to wait three years and apply when it would cost much less. So I took an unpaid internship with a tiny local newspaper, and did an NVQ in TV editing and media skills.

As part of the NVQ, I got a work placement in the PR department of the Royal Liverpool Hospital. We created a magazine and it was a lot of fun. I used the skills I’d learned to get some paid work at the Liverpool Echo, a much bigger local newspaper. That felt very exciting.

When I finally went to university, one of my lecturers was so passionate about broadcasting that I decided to major in radio. By chance, I got talking at a festival to a guy who turned out to be managing director of BBC Radio Merseyside. He said that I should give him a call when I graduated.

Three years later I did, thinking he wouldn’t remember me, but he did! They got me on board as their freelance breakfast reporter. I had no clue then what I was doing. It took me about eight hours to edit a package which now takes me about 40 minutes!

People might be surprised that editing is a big part of a radio reporter’s job.

It is, and you have to learn how to do it. Even as a newsreader, you're still editing your own stuff, and editing other people’s segments into your bulletin.

Feyaza Khan on the first Tribe Tech podcast
Feyaza and Robert (R) co-host the Tribe Tech podcast

I love the editing side. It may sound geeky, but there’s no better feeling than when you're editing something, and the person says ‘um’ 50,000 times, and you edit it so that there isn’t a single ‘um’ and you can't tell they were ever there.

It’s a very technical job, because the equipment and the software that you need to use is very techy, and it’s changing all the time. But that means it’s always getting better, which is exciting.

Do you have to go to university to learn how to work in radio?

I would say not. What you get from university is the passion for the job and maybe some contacts, but not how to actually do the job itself.

University for me was a fantastic social experience, but I think if I hadn’t gone, I would have been fine. Having said that, you do have to learn media law, which is super-important because you don't want to say something libellous on air.

Otherwise, work experience is how you learn to do the job. Some of our best journalists started out as broadcast assistants – they answer the phone, they go on reception, they do anything that needs doing. But they're also learning how to present and edit.

You will almost certainly have to work for free at first. But what you're doing is giving yourself an education. I worked for free for four years, but in that time I learned how to write bulletins and how to cut packages – because I was working alongside experienced journalists who taught me.

Do you have any advice for girls who might like to be a professional podcaster or radio presenter one day?

Definitely practise as much as you can. Radio is a fantastic medium for getting started in journalism because all you need is a phone. You just pick up the phone, you start talking, and you say what you see. You can publish it on a podcast platform or on YouTube.

"Radio is a fantastic medium for getting started in journalism because all you need is a phone. You just pick up the phone, you start talking, and you say what you see."

There are also community radio stations like Source FM in Falmouth, who are happy to take on young presenters. Hospital radio is another good way of getting into it. And places like H&M and Topshop have their own radio stations now – so go to those places, find out who does that, and see if they will let you do something.

Think about stories in your community that you could cover. It could just be small things like the litter in your local park and how you're going to fix it. At a grassroots level, journalism is all about community. You start there, and in 10 years you could be talking to the president of America!

More resources

Cornwall College offers a diploma in Creative Media Production

Falmouth University offers a BA in Journalism and Creative Writing

See other universities offering radio journalism degrees

Source FM is a friendly community radio station with presenters of all ages


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