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  • Writer's pictureTim Maylander

Professional Careers before voice acting - and how they helped

Updated: Jan 17

Voice acting was not my first career. In actuality, it wasn't my second or third, either. Yet everything I did before I became a narrator/voice actor has prepared me masterfully for this new passion, and I am very thankful for the journey that led me to my new career.

Even as a middle schooler, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. My parents had been encouraging me to pursue law, but (sorry mom and dad) the prospect of defending or prosecuting people who I felt didn't deserve it never sat well with me. I went to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and I graduated from UWGB with three majors in four years, earning both a B.A. and a B.S. After graduating I tired to break my way into the journalism world, but I had the unfortunate timing of graduating in 2009 - right after the great recession had completely upended the journalism field. Jobs that were once entry level now required five years' experience. I interviewed for a place in Colorado where the managing editor told me "Well, it was between you and a Pulitzer-prize winning writer who had just been laid off" and there was nothing I could do but agree with the guy that he had made the right call. To pay the bills I began working with SparkNet Interactive, a conglomerate which owned At the time, article marketing was sweeping the SEO world and EA was a top-100 site on After getting promoted a few times and moving departments, I was eventually let go when Google started clamping down hard on our business model and the company wasn't profitable anymore. Here I made my first career change.

My mother was a teacher, and partly as a teenage rebellion thing I never even considered working in the education field. But to help with college expense I began working with a program called TRiO my junior year of undergrad. TRiO helped low income and future first generation college students experience what staying on a college campus would be like while taking classes designed to prepare them for college, all while the students were in middle and high school. This job opened my eyes to life outside my little bubble. See, college was an expectation for me set by my family. Both my parents had not only gone to college, they also both had Master's degrees. The only question about my college experience was if it would take three or four years of high school to get me there. Working with these kids made me face my privilege for the the first time and opened my eyes to the barriers facing students who were not like me. After working part-time at UWGB's TRiO program for five years, I took a full-time position with UW-Fox Valley's TRiO branch. It started out perfectly and I was able to help many students with lessons about paying for college, fee waivers so students could take the ACT/SAT and more. However, a new manager from hell ruined the good thing I had going there, and I left after just one year. (It wasn't long before the program failed to receive grant funding under the direction of said manager, but I digress.) Again, I tried to get back into journalism, but it just wasn't happening. Career change #2.

I took a job in sales though West Business Services working for American Express. I told them I was hoping to work in customer service, and that I didn't want to be a telemarketer. They told me they had an opening in business to business acquisitions. I needed the job, so I took it. What sold me was that I wouldn't be cold-calling grandmas and I wouldn't be scamming people or anything like that. AmEx is obviously an international company with a great reputation (I still use their products to this day), and I quickly found myself very good at working with businesses to get them set up with the correct products. It was the perfect combination of my communications background with my love of speech, debate and gaming. Speaking of that last part, it was also about this time I began working at my friendly local game store, Gnome Games. I loved helping customers find the games they were looking for, as well as the products they needed but didn't even know existed. I absolutely loved my time working in sales at these locations, but when I was accepted at the University of Missouri for graduate school, I knew I had to go.

One of the unique things I did at Mizzou was earn a Master's minor in College Teaching. When I worked with TRiO it was too late in my undergrad career to add a fourth major, but that experience made me realize how much I loved helping others. Throughout my two years taking grad school classes I also taught a section of an undergrad class, and I loved every minute of it. MU's journalism program was rigorous enough on its own, but through summer classes I was able to earn the minor on top of my M.A. That's how after my last classes I ended up hearing about an opening at Jefferson City High School for a journalism and English teacher. I got the position, and began my education career in earnest. Teaching journalism was one of the most amazing experiences in my life, and I will forever cherish my time in the classroom. I led the production of the school's newspaper, Red & Black, while teaching intro-level journalism classes and senior English ones too. At the same time, I was taking classes of my own to earn my teaching certificate (because I didn't have a major in teaching, just a minor). While I was in Jeff City, I met my now-wife Mary, who was completing her general rotation in veterinary science at Mizzou. We moved to Virginia for her specialty internship in neurology, and I continued to teach English classes. When we moved to New Mexico for her residency, I continued my teaching career at a few different schools, but it just didn't work out. New Mexico is 49th in education and 50th in child welfare compared to the rest of the US, and it shows. I left my first position in Santa Fe because I was tired of getting things thrown at me and getting cussed out with no administrative support. I was happy to find a position teaching Advanced Placement classes and coaching speech & debate at Volcano Vista HS, but my contract was non-renewed when I refused to pass a student who had a 30 percent in my class at the time of a traumatic injury. I thought I had found my forever home at Explore Academy in Albuquerque, but despite glowing emails from parents (who worked for the school) of my students and 17 out of 21 perfect scores on their own performance metrics, I was let go because I had the nerve to question the school's Covid-19 policy (or lack thereof) and I taught a Black History Month lesson during Black History Month. Frustrated with the current state of teaching - and the geographic state I was teaching in - I decided not to continue in this field for the time being. Enter my career in voice acting.

Why tell you all of this? Because my three previous careers (journalism, education and sales) have all trained me to be a better voice actor. As a journalist I learned how to deliver news in a professional yet personal way, and I honed my voice to do just that. As a sales rep I used my voice in a warmer way, to make people more comfortable and also to convince them to buy my product. And teaching was the perfect combination of both of those fields - I had to present knowledge in an informative yet fun format, all while managing 20+ students (and their parents, and the administration). But it's through my various educational experiences - especially TRiO - that I got to experience the world around me and people who were not like me. To me, this is critical to being a good voice actor: having the experience of meeting so many different people gives me the range to voice act many different characters (and to know when it's not culturally appropriate for me to voice act a character). I would not be the voice actor and narrator I am today without all the previous experiences I've had in my life, and through each of my previous careers I've learned skills to make me the best narrator/voice actor I can be.

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