Entering the music products industry was intimidating for me as a young professional. I began my career working in event production, front-of-house (FOH) and retail. There were no women, immigrants, or LGBTQIA+ people in leadership around me – making a goal of longevity in the industry difficult to envision.
The truth is, from my experience in the music products industry, I have never been a part of a more inclusive group of people. I’d be remiss not to say that early on in my career, I was met with my own set of challenges based on my background alone. If only I had a dollar for every time I heard, “You’re the engineer…?”, jokes about being gay, or a first-generation American. I cut my teeth wrapping cables to do front of house sound in any and every club that would let me behind a console. No, I wasn’t a band member’s girlfriend or the waitress – I was the engineer and I had to prove tenfold, that I was just as good as my male counterparts. Though I didn’t feel different from them, I was constantly reminded that I was.
Facetious comments and uncomfortable moments aside, my experience has frankly been overwhelmingly positive because of the teammates and allies in MI that have empowered me along the way. When I moved from the event production world to the music products industry, I fortunately enough, was surrounded by colleagues, friends, and mentors who not only became my allies but championed my success while ensuring that I had a safe space and resources I needed to thrive. Factors that, from the outside, seemed non-existent.
I hope that sharing my unique perspective can highlight the various individuals and resources we have within our industry-leading initiatives like WON and NAMMYP to encourage and empower young professionals of all backgrounds; If you see it, you can be it.
Industry-wide, you can see, hear, and feel the culture-shifting before us, and we are all responsible for being a part of positive change. The Music People (TMP), as part of the Exertis | Jam family offers our staff the opportunity to join the “You Belong Here Committee.” The group focuses on creating positive change and educating our employees and partners in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Beyond that, our very own Jeremy Payne is President of NAMM Young Professionals, a group dedicated to mentorship, networking, and connecting young professionals and industry veterans alike. TMP has always been a champion of Women of NAMM (WON) (formerly Smart Women In Music -SWIM) and we continue as an organization to learn and strive to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace.
My goal is to inspire, mentor, and support the future leaders of our industry. One of the ways I am working towards becoming the type of industry leader I wish I had early in my career is through WON.
WON pursues a vision, mission, and objectives for the benefit of women across the music products, pro audio, and entertainment technology segments. It is a privilege to work in an industry that creates resources to connect, support, and grow a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
In 2021, I was selected to attend the WON Summit at NAMM headquarters in Carlsbad, California. It’s been said that we don’t often recognize the most significant moments of our lives as they are happening but, I must admit that once I stepped foot into the NAMM board room and found myself in the company of so many industry leaders and board members - I felt chills and nearly had to pinch myself! I knew that week would be a transformative event, personally and professionally. It was an invaluable experience that I can only describe as humbling and inspiring. I left the summit with a network of women I am proud to call my friends, a group of mentors, and lessons in resilience and a mindset that will serve me for the rest of my life.
It is initiatives like WON that continue to shatter the glass ceiling. They create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. I cannot urge my peers enough to join a group like WON or NAMM Young Professionals (NAMMYP) as a mentor or mentee. There is nothing compared to having a network of people that understand our unique industry, its challenges, and how to navigate highs and lows.
I am proud to have participated in SWIM and look forward to my work with WON. I want to look back after a long career and see how far we have come. I firmly believe our industry’s road to limitless potential will be paved by diversity and inclusion. The future is so bright!
By: Ana Dobrian, National Account Manager, The Music People & On-Stage
About Ana Dobrian
Ana grew up in the New York City metro area and currently resides in Rockaway, New Jersey – just about 30 miles from the city. She is a National Account Manager at The Music People/On-Stage. She found that as a bi-lingual, first-generation American, music possessed the ability to connect people, even when words may have failed. Before joining The Music People, Ana spent several years working within the live sound sector and most recently managed a pro-audio tech team, parts department, and returns facility at a major retailer.