Jacob: What are your majors, and how long have you worked at KJHK?
Kalekidan: I am a sophomore computer science major, and I’ve worked here for about a year.
Paul: I’m a computer science graduate student and I’ve worked here for about three years now. I started during the summer after my first year here [as a grad student], and I didn’t think it was something I could ever join. I thought, “Wow, it’s a huge radio station, how could I ever be a part of that?” But I had a friend who I found out was a DJ, and it blew my mind.
K: It makes the station tangible when you know students who work here.
P: Right, and I loved KJHK. I found so much great music listening on my walks home after lab late a night. Of course, I wanted to join. So I applied to be a DJ, but I never expected to be chosen…but I did, and I got my first show on Tuesdays from 12 to 3 pm.
How did you move up to the executive staff?
K: I applied! [laughs]
P: It’s different for everyone. For me, as I first started, as a computer scientist, I realized lots of things about the station that were annoying because computers should be able to do the grunt work for the DJs. The very first thing I noticed as a DJ was that every single song we played had to be recorded manually. It became stressful doing that every three minutes while worrying about what to play next. I worked with the IT Director at the time and wrote the Music Logger, which we have now, that automatically logs the music. That’s how I got my foot in the door for IT Director.
K: Second semester last year, I helped our then station manager, Mason Kilpatrick, with his coding homework. He was in EECS 138 or something, and he suggested I apply for Technology Director. I was hesitant at first because I was a freshman, but they encouraged me to go for it, and so I applied, and that was that.
P: You should always apply for positions you want, even if you know you won’t get the position. You’ll get your foot in the door and they will remember that you were interested for future openings.
What do the jobs of Technology Director and IT Director entail?
P: We fix stuff when things go wrong, and a lot of that is related to the KJHK website. But we also do a lot of other projects, like the Music Logger, and more recently, all of the announcements from sponsors and student events. DJs used to have to enter that information as well, and it was a problem I felt a computer scientist could solve.
K: The key is to help people be really lazy.
P: Yeah, computer science is all about working as hard as you can to be as lazy as possible. That’s computer science summed up. So, now we have traffic automatically imported in the system, and we do projects like that. Coming up, we want to get an Alexa service for the station, as well as the Google version. Things to make KJHK more accessible and easier for staff. If there’s anything I see that I can automate, I like to do that for them.
K: Another project we’re working on is to modify the application process on the website, making it easier for new people to apply and get their foot in the door. I’m trying to make the application automated on our end, which makes it easier for the General Manager and Programming Director to manage rather than manually importing the information. So, all part of making things easier for people.
How has the job influenced you as a person or your education at KU?
K: For me personally, I love music. My two passions are music and technology, so joining KJHK has allowed me to be able to enjoy my two passions. After working here, I realized that after graduation, I want to work as a computer scientist and something with music. So personally, this a great opportunity to gain experience in that space.
P: I feel really lucky to enjoy computer science. I never changed majors. In general, I really love helping people. The fact that I can use skills that I have to make other’s lives easier – help them do what they want to do – I find that very satisfying.
Just for fun, what would you do if there were a cyber attack?
P: I’m not sure what I would do in real life. It depends on the situation. But interestingly, the station was actually attacked a couple years ago. Our stream was taken over by Ukraine or Russia or somewhere, and it was playing a bunch of death metal and Taco Bell ads. We also get spam bots on our website all the time, but we’ve set up captchas to help with that.
And lastly, what does KJHK mean to you?
P: It’s a place where I can do some good. Like I talked about, I’m able to take things that I’m passionate about and help others. It feels like cheating because I enjoy my job so much. It’s a great place to socialize with other people who listen to the same, obscure music as you. There’s this bond that you get with someone who has heard the same band/song as you.
K: KJHK is my third space. There’s this idea where your first space is where you sleep, your second is where you work, and your third is where you want to be. The station is where I work, but it’s also where I want to be. It’s my third space. I’ve found that as an undergrad freshman, I found my place and belonging at KJHK.