Women Of Automation Part 1: Justine Marie Benoit
By Anna Robb
Justine, what is your location, job title and job responsibilities day to day?
I am an Automation Technician for the show KA by Cirque du Soleil, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV. Along with a team of seven Automation Technicians, we operate the control boards to run automation cues during the show, as well as perform daily inspections and maintenance on all of our equipment. During the day, we also operate the control boards to run rehearsals and to assist other departments, such as rigging and lighting, with their maintenance projects.
How did you get into the field of Automation? What were the steps that lead you into this area?
I took part in the undergraduate program at the University of Nevada Las Vegas called Entertainment Engineering and Design. Initially, I wanted to get involved in set design, until we had a guest from Stage Technologies (now TAIT) who shared her experience in Automation. I was fascinated by her story, so I decided to pursue a career in Automation.
I began my career as an intern for The Beatles’ LOVE by Cirque du Soleil in 2012 and built up my career from there.
In my senior year in college, I was an on-call Automation Technician at Mystere, also by Cirque. In 2015, I came back to LOVE as an on-call Automation Technician, and then, a month later, became a full-time show crew Automation Technician for KA.
What is the best part of your job? What is the worst?
Surprisingly, my job could get pretty mundane and monotonous. We run the exact same cues every single night, ten shows each week. But when I take a moment at the end of a show to look out into the audience and see the joy and awe in their faces, I’m reminded of how incredible my job is. I love talking about what we do and showing others all the things we get to play with at work. As one of the very few female Automation Technicians in the industry, I feel empowered. I have broken layers of the glass ceiling and I get to inspire other women to do the same. Inspiring others to discover and be the incredible person that they are is what makes my job so great.
What skills do you need to have to be part of the Automation world?
Having basic skills and experience in mechanics, electrical, and computer logic helps. Knowing your way around live theater is also a plus. However, your attitude plays a much bigger role than your skills and experiences. It takes a special person to be successful in Automation. There is a delicate balance in confidence and cautiousness. There must be a drive within you to continue learning, and discover ways to improve your show, and especially yourself. We literally have people’s lives at the tip of our fingers, and it’s important to take accountability for all your actions. It’s also important to know that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you own up to it and learn from it.
Know and respect your equipment. Respect and uplift your crew.
Do your best, but most importantly, have fun.
Name a person who inspires you and tell us why
I don’t have a single person to name as my inspiration. Experiencing an awe-struck audience inspires me to keep doing my job. My husband and our future children inspire me to keep doing my best at my job. Young women who are looking to pursue a career in any STEAM field inspire me to be a good role model. I want to be someone’s inspiration, and that motivates me to be the incredible person I am.