Why I Left Radio and Never Looked Back

Why I Left Radio and Never Looked Back

What is success to you? Is it a house, is it a marriage, is it a job that pays well enough to live freely? For over 10 years, success was one thing. That one thing brought me the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, forced me to sacrifice a lot of my 20s, and at the end toughened me up into who I am today. This is my radio story.

As I write this article it’s hard to believe that a year has passed since I was last in the radio/broadcasting industry. For those who have known me for any period of time, they know that broadcasting was life for me. Like many radio professionals, they sleep, eat, and drink the industry. It really is the only way to make it. Between industry competition, shrinking salaries, and shrinking job openings, radio has had its share of struggles. As “cool” as a job as it appears to those on the outside, the one’s on the inside essentially form a support group as we all battled each other to rise the ranks. In my seven year radio career I hosted, I produced national programming, and I successfully changed the way social media is done within Houston sports radio. So why did I call it the quits? Why did I “sell out” as some would call it to move into a more traditional field of marketing? This is my radio story.

Sweet Beginnings

At age 16 I tried out for my high school’s TV broadcasting program, called “Dobie News”. This was after I was denied making the baseball team and had about every high school hope and dream shattered. As a teenager I lacked confidence in myself and often shied away from doing whatever it takes to reach my goals. I really couldn’t explain why I decided to try out, besides God leading me in that direction. Much to my surprise I made it into the news program. I honestly had absolutely no clue what I was doing or getting into, other than the fact I was actually pretty good in speech class.

I started the program in the fall semester and immediately felt out of place. Dobie News was full of the cool kids, the people who were way more extroverted than I was. I remember the first week being so nervous that I felt sick at times trying to put on a front for my instructor Mr. Salinas. I wanted to showcase my work ethic, I wanted to be a part of something bigger. I volunteered to report on an August volleyball game in which nobody else wanted to do. I was granted the assignment and it was a turning point for my career and my life.

During the story I felt like I had done this my whole life. The questions for postgame interviews flowed out like a seasoned vet, the girls had immediate chemistry with my style, and I went home that night feeling a tiny ounce of confidence. Most importantly, after that story I started to add my own flair. Whether it’s high school broadcasting or developing a social media philosophy, I’ve always been able to add something different. It started with a simple head nod on my out cues.

I would go on to assist in building a reporting team that only focused on women’s sports. With a lot of the news coverage being dominated by football, I saw an avenue within the program to do something that had never been done. Plus, I got to talk to girls that were way out of this goofy kid’s league! By the end of my two years in the program I had successfully built a reporting model for women’s sports, hosted my own mini-show, and did entertainment-based reporting for school dances. I knew I was special at something for the first time in my life. I put those eggs all in one basket, and enrolled at Sam Houston State University to study broadcast journalism.

The College Days

As a freshman at SHSU, I had a little more belief in myself. As much success as I had found in broadcasting in high school, I felt like I could reinvent myself. Rather than just being a goofy shy guy who happens to have some on-camera talent, I wanted to dominate. I don’t think I had a desire at this point to be a team player and that was a problem. I wanted to be the best anchor, the best radio host, the best whatever at an immediate timeframe. While moving up the ranks in college broadcasting is a little easier, it wasn’t going to happen overnight.

During my first year at SHSU I had contemplating transferring. I had gotten some cracks at weather anchoring, but I fell short when it came to airtime on their news station to other people. My bitterness overwhelmed me and worked against positive production. However, I decided to return for my sophomore year and discovered our school’s radio station 90.5 The Kat. In radio the competition wasn’t as fierce with many of the sports guys, or “not so camera friendly people” getting their cracks on air. Regardless of how we ended up there, radio was a different animal than TV. I loved it immediately.

My initial radio experience involved calling Sam Houston State sporting events. Our main listeners were prisoners at the local prisons in Huntsville, Tx and receiving a phone call was like finding a unicorn. The experience was still some of the most fun I’ve ever had. I made some college friends and some lifelong friends while in the program. Without a ton of training we combined tactics to somehow figure out how to talk on air for 3.5 hours at a time. With each game I called I got more addicted to radio, I gained more drive, I wanted to be better than everyone by long margin. I remember staying up half the night looking at the wall and dreaming as to where my broadcasting career would take me. Would I host a morning show? Would I live my dream job as a sports reporter for the Houston Astros? How many states will I get to live in working up the ranks? How many hot girls will want to be with a radio superstar? My dreams were just about to begin.

The Industry Took My Soul

After my junior year of college I had taken my college broadcasting career to maximized levels on campus. I was hosting a sports talk show, broadcasting games, and was frankly getting bored. That’s when I applied for an internship at CBS Radio Houston. Initially the thought process was simply to intern at Sports Radio 610, the biggest sports radio station in Houston. After getting the internship, I received a call from afternoon drive host Kaden, with their sister top 40 station HOT 95.7. Kaden offered me a role assisting him two days a week. I knew nothing about music, pop culture, or really anything involved with music radio. But who am I to turn down an opportunity? Kaden, was single handily the most important influence to me in my career inside or outside of radio. His style aggressive in work ethic and on-air. He demanded a lot out of me, called me out on my mistakes, and gave me a legitimate opportunity to showcase on-air talents as an intern. Within a week of working with him, I was fascinated by music radio and actually felt like my on-air delivery was much more suited for it than sports. After the summer had ended, I caught my big break.

During the final weeks of my internship I had sent a few airchecks to program director Frito of KNDE-FM in nearby College Station, Tx. I had ridiculously good timing as a former host was leaving a weekend time slot, opening the door for me. Frito brought me in for an interview, and I was offered an $8/hr weekend radio job. You could have told me it was for $1 million and I wouldn’t have known any different. At age 21 I was on freaking commercial radio! My air name would be “Krash”. Krash was an authentic version of Andy Pondillo, that I had kept inside my entire life. I wanted to make my listeners happy, I wanted to share the positive energy that I kept bottled up for years with College Station. In the early days of my show I wasn’t on point with how to hit the post on a song ramp, or how to cram a minute of information into 25 seconds. It probably took six months of trial and error for Krash to become a legitimate sounding radio personality.

Those weekend shows were the greatest hours of my life. Every person who called in to say I made their day, every text message thanking me for a request, every person who knew who I was on the streets, it meant more than I could ever describe. In the moment I was driven, and didn’t always stop to smell the roses. My peers started to believe I was going to be the one from our class to make it to the top rung of the food chain. I was off to a hot start for sure. Despite my perceived success I was still only making $8 an hour, I was really far from where I expected myself to be. After nine months of work I had graduated and it was time to become a full time talent.

After those nine months I started applying all over the country to be a host. As with any college graduate, we don’t exactly have a grasp on what the industry holds for our future. During my first few months of applying I was ignored, ignored some more, and then ignored again. Program Directors went out of their way to criticize my aircheck demo, with one calling me a “Redneck that wouldn’t make it as a host anywhere.” I had a popular host here in Houston play a mean practical joke on me to bring down my ambition. With all the positivity I brought to the industry I was immediately stunned in how mean spirited people were. The facade of college didn’t teach anyone to expect this. I learned that my skill was good, but in radio good wasn’t ever going to cut it. The days turned into weeks the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years. Did I max my radio career out in nine simple months?

During my radio career I have interviewed in nine different states. During the timeframe I was offered one job in a remote location with less than 4,000 people and pretty much off the grid. I would have moved all the way across the country for $22,000 per year and would have only voice tracked shows (not live). With mounting college loans and pressure to find work of more substance, I held out. I never got into radio for the money, but I also needed more than $22K a year to survive without the blessing of my parents. I would turn down my only full-time hosting opportunity to seek opportunities I was more comfortable with. I honestly would have taken that money figure with a college degree if it simply would have been in an area that wasn’t in a horror movie-like location. Many jobs would show interest just to ghost me like a modern day dating app. Others would tell me how talented I am on-air, but go with a local person instead. As for my own station? I was passed up three different times for full-time on-air opportunities during my tenure as a host. In fact, I actually trained a talented woman that would take the opening I wanted and would eventually become their current morning host. I’m not mad at her one bit at all, in fact I’m proud of how far she has come. But it was a major hit at my confidence, it was a realization as to what kind of cutthroat this industry is.

During the final months at KNDE I ended up splitting time for their sports affiliate KZNE. By doing this I was working seven days a week at $8 an hour. I worked 42 straight days at the peak of my radio hustling. A day didn’t go by where I didn’t apply for on-air work in every type of genre. I was exhausted, I was frustrated, and I was bitter as I could be. I made excuses for my failure, and I shed more than a few tears at night. As happy as I was for my four hours on-air, those were the most that I was happy. I had a successful relationship at the time and I put radio before her. In an odd way I would try to tell my girlfriend Alex, that it won’t always be like this when I “make it.” The truth is I didn’t have confidence in much of anything anymore. Radio had brought me to the highest of highs in life, and taken me back down to the lows that I felt before I fell in love with broadcasting as a 16 year old. I worked at KNDE for two years and never once received a raise, and never once felt valued at more than $8 an hour.

Back to Sports

As a 23-year-old at the end of 2012, my job was threatened at Candy 95. I had been told that they would be bumping me off weekends, despite what I felt was solid popularity over the course of two years. I wasn’t moving up in the company, I wasn’t getting new on-air opportunities, and I was never going to be more than $8 an hour. So I suppose it was in their right to bump me off the air, and essentially break my heart once again.

At that point I went back to sports broadcasting with Gow Media in Houston, TX. This was as a part time producer for Yahoo! Sports Radio. It was hardly the job I wanted in radio, but I needed to find a place that would value me at more than $8 an hour. I don’t think I ever truly had a passion for producing. Every day I would come into work I would talk myself into saying that this is what I wanted to do. Every day I would go home questioning things. However, within a few months I gained full-time status at just under $30,000 a year. At this point radio had valued me enough to finally give me full-time work 22 months after I graduated college. I would never call those 22 months a waste, but I still to this day look back on them and scratch my head. In the country of opportunities how did this happen? Was I too cocky? Did I get in the industry at the worst time possible? Did I not know how to interview right? I really don’t know the answer, but it toughened me up at job number two. I learned to appreciate things a little more, and would take what was mine.

Morale was always an issue within radio. Sports broadcasters often had been doing this job for 20–30 years, while their producers were young and hungry college graduates. The youngsters would come in with hip new ideas, while the older generation was more about doing radio like it was in 1986. Some of the hosts were strong at adapting and mixing the best of both worlds, some had an ego as if they were Ryan Seacrest. The majority of my time in radio was around negative morale from all parties. My side was upset that we were working 50 hours a week, getting paid like a manager at Wal-Mart. The older side sometimes expected celebrity treatment, that made it hard for people to work with them. Regardless if radio was cratering financially, the ability of people working together in radio has always been a problem. One person hustles for dollars, one hustles for notoriety, the other feels grandfathered in and only works 15 hours a week while obtaining $60,000+ a year. The different directions of radio weren’t a Gow Media thing, they were something that has dominated the industry. Whether it’s Clear Channel being a bazillion dollars in debt, or CBS Radio giving up completely, it’s clear that the money is dried up and what are we to do about it? The answer is usually just fend for yourself.

My Second Wind

During the course of my almost four years at Gow Media, I was well appreciated. I learned how to move up within the company by going back to what makes me who I am. I was positive in the office and showed a desire to learn everything in radio. The majority of tasks I did weren’t that one’s I ever got into the industry to do. I still saw myself as a music host, and applied for those gigs. As the years went by, my belief that it would happen slowed down tremendously. Every voice that doubts you your whole life starts to creep in your head. The days became like autopilot, and the purpose we all seek for ourselves dissolves.

My career took a major shift when the director of digital Brandon, inquired about me helping on our stations social media channels. As “Krash” on Candy 95, I had had a lot of success leveraging my show on Facebook. I also learned blogging skills from Kaden, while learning how to combine the channels for increased visibility. I started running the social media channels on the side, and it brought some life into me. I felt like I had something I could make my own for the first time since 2012 with the year now being 2014. I would eventually showcase strong numbers in growing digital platforms, and a passionate interest in making it more of my career. In the back of my head I kept thinking that if I get good enough at this, I can combine it with my hosting expertise to land my dream job! Like most cases in radio, that dream job never happened. However, a new dream did appear.

Through 2014–2016, Brandon essentially rebuilt my career. He mentored me on workplace politics, better ways to talk to people, how to lead meetings, and gave me an array of digital skills I can carry with my anywhere. I felt as if everyone else just saw me as a cheap commodity, who was a little smarter and driven then alternative options. Everybody needs someone who believes in them, and Brandon taught me that I’m more than what I thought I was. I actually had a pretty sweet radio gig towards the end of my Gow Media tenure under Brandon. I constructed social media strategies that led ESPN 97.5’s Facebook page to becoming the top sports radio page in Houston. I was doing reporting for the Houston Astros. I was a digital manager of ESPN 97.5, and even hosted video series on our Facebook Live channels. Brandon gave me the control I always desired, and the belief that I was more than just “a radio guy.”

What Radio Was to Me

During the last months of my radio career I started to feel as if I really wasn’t a radio guy anymore. I had grown passionate about Facebook algorithms, learning Instagram marketing, and how to leverage digital platforms for return on investment. During my career I had applied for hundreds of hosting jobs. I had interviewed for cream of the crop positions in Las Vegas and Tampa Bay. I had been told by dozens of Program Directors that they would hire me to host in half a second if they had the ability to add someone. Yet, this ambitious young talent never got his shot. And you know what? I’m okay with it.

I became a bitter person in radio, I became the person I hate. I blamed bosses for my lack of money, my lack of growth. I blamed the industry for not wanting to change. The only thing I gave 100% of myself to was radio. I saw two relationships go by the wayside, and I know they both thought I couldn’t give everything to them. You know what they were right. Radio dominated my thoughts, my dreams, and determined every decision I made. I couldn’t hold a serious relationship, I couldn’t save money, I couldn’t focus on any investments, take trips, or do afford anything but radio. I worked seven days a week, I woke up at 3:45 a.m. some days, and finished working at 1:00 a.m. on others. At the end I wasn’t angry at radio anymore. I want more in life. I want to have a house, a family, I want to give a woman the absolute best that I can give. In December 2015 I looked at myself in the mirror and told myself that I was going to be better. Brandon always told me that he and I can be the bigger people. I took it to heart, and I worked on it everywhere in life. As I worked on being a better person, I discovered that my passion for radio was gone.

Ambition was always my achilles heel, but I learned it wasn’t just me. Every young person I worked with in radio wanted similar dreams. Maybe it was to be a sports host, maybe it was to work out of radio into an entertainment reporter. We all got in this industry to make big plays, and I’d say less than five percent of us ever will. With so many type-A personalities in radio, it was always going to be chaos. It’s just what the industry is about right? The first step to moving forward with my life was forgiving myself and loving myself for what I bring to the table. After we accomplished that task, I forgave all those who I considered to wrong me in my career. I hold no ill will to KNDE, Gow Media, or anybody in between. I wish I could shake all of their hands and let them know this. I wasn’t mature, for a lot of my younger 20’s and I’m making up for it now. These Program Directors had a lot on their plate, and have to make the best decisions in their judgement. Sometimes tough love is the best love, and we need to struggle. I respect every decision that has ever been made about my career, and choose not to make excuses. How can I get better at what it is that I want? How am I working on it today? Am I bringing positive energy to those around me?

My intentions for radio might have seemed like it was about partying, and being a celebrity to some. While that was attractive as a 21-year-old, my pure intentions were always to make people happy. My ability to brighten someone’s day is what has always separated my personality from somebody else’s. The negativity in radio is tough, it changes you, it makes you forget your values. But it’s also not an excuse to be this negative personality. I plead to those still in radio to take the time to find themselves. Remember who you were, and what values you had before the politics of this industry warped your thoughts. If you think that there’s no way to be that person again, then you should evaluate what you want in your career? I’ve learned that I’m a much stronger person because of radio. There is nothing anything can say to me that offends me anymore. There is no workday that is too long or too challenging for me tackle. Finally, I know what my value is as a person and coworker.

My dreams are big in the digital industry. I have built my resume up as one of the top social media specialist in the city of Houston. Sky is the limit for what I can do with my life, and I have more belief in myself than I’ve ever had. I have no quit in my game, but this time I know that there is life outside of my 9–10 hour workday. I’m ready to give everything to a beautiful woman, I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been, I’m working on a reality-show side project, and sleep better than ever. I was extremely BLESSED for every opportunity I had in radio. Radio was always for me, I needed radio. However, radio didn’t need me, and I’m happy to close the chapter for good.



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