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Mark Scaife – My career in Acoustics

10 Oct 23

Watching Kraftwerk on Tomorrow’s World led to 25+ years in the Acoustics industry!

There are many different routes that can be taken into the Acoustics industry – from University degrees to building up experience on the job.

The Acoustic team at CDC have taken the time to look back over their careers and share their journey’s and some top tips along the way.

Read on to find out more about Mark’s Career.

Mark Scaife

Role at Cahill Design Consultants

Head of Acoustics

Experience working in Acoustics:

25+ Years

Top Tip for someone new to the industry:

Find a local Acoustic Consultancy and volunteer so you can pick up experience. Be open-minded and prepared to do anything. 

Try to look for the positives in any project, no matter how big or small. It’s not always the big projects that will teach you the most. 

Mark’s Acoustic Journey 

It all started with Kraftwerk (look them up if you’ve not heard of them) and an episode of Tomorrow’s World! The band was showing off a drum machine on the show. I was already intrigued with synths and loudspeakers, so this sparked further interest. 

My fascination with sound and synths was fuelled again by a GCSE performance of The Wizard of Oz. I was drawn to sound engineering for the play, working with my friend to use synthesizers and an echo chamber to help bring the action alive with sound. Then, for A-level physics, my final project was on loudspeakers and microphones. After this, I decided to take a Degree in Electro Acoustics at the University of Salford. 

After failing the first year and nearly giving up, I enrolled on an Audio Technology Degree. This felt more aligned with what I wanted to do. However, there were few jobs in this field, so I took a year out and found a placement in Woking.  

This proved to be a great move as I got to travel and work on some exciting projects including Chelsea football stadium, a Disney cinema above a railway line in Hammersmith, and an Acoustic Laboratory. My main job was driving around the country doing night surveys from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for proposed Sainsbury’s supermarkets. The placement allowed me to learn a lot and increased my interest in the environmental and architectural side of acoustics. 

After finishing my degree, I worked in a timber mill whilst searching for acoustics jobs.  I found a local acoustic consultant who specialised in sound system design.  I did some work for free and learned how to use acoustic modelling software for room acoustics.  The experience from this gave me the opportunity to get my first proper job.

Working in Acoustics

As a newcomer to the company, I was responsible for a lot of the site work.  I spent a lot of the time undertaking surveys for bars and nightclubs.  Largely on Friday and Saturday nights, which was also interesting.  I also had the rather glamourous task of measuring the sound power levels of lawnmowers. (If you’ve ever noticed the sound level sticker on your mower and wondered what it meant…). 

I then moved to Brighton, joining an Acoustics firm. I worked on several conversion projects, turning shops into night club and bar projects. Other notable projects were Cross Rail and the redevelopment around Wembley Stadium. 

In 2008, I moved to Dubai. This was motivated by the economic crash and a chance meeting between my brother and a project leader from a Middle East construction company. I worked in Kuala Lumpur, Inda, Saudi Arabi and a few other places. A few stand-out projects were the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi – the meeting place for the UAE cabinet and over a billion-dollar construction value. New York University in Abu Dhabi, The Louvre, Emirates, Doha Metro (an underground rail network), and the high-speed rail link for Suadi Arabia in preparation for the World Cup. This last project required construction noise assessments for around 120 rail stations. 

After returning to the UK for my family, I have worked in management positions ever since. I have moved away from the tech side a little, and my focus is more on managing people and business development. Solving business challenges over acoustic challenges. 

Most rewarding project:

(The smaller ones!) When in the Middle East, I volunteered for a dog shelter. The shelter had been gifted some land, and an education lecture room was built. It was essentially just a concrete box, but I persuaded a local supplier to donate acoustic panels and installed them myself. It was rewarding to use my skills and knowledge to help the charity. 

Worst Experience:

On site one night in Ashford, Kent – about to do the first measurements for a club due to open the next day; I was setting up the equipment, the tripod fell and landed on the microphone… and broke it. With no spares, I had to go and admit what had happened and offer to be back in 2-3 hours after I’d driven to Suffolk and back for a spare! 

Funny Experience: 

One night… (These things seem to happen at night!) I did a survey in a field next to the M4 and suddenly heard noises. I looked around to find all the cows had taken an interest and were heading towards me to find out what I was up to. They blocked my way, and I had to scale over a fence and had a long walk back to my car.   

Interesting Fact:

I am dyslexic, although I only had this determined relatively late in life.  So, I have spent a large portion of my life not knowing why I struggled with certain aspects of the job. 

Considering a career in Acoustics? Check out our careers page

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