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Career Story: Director Of Technology For A Major Public Television Station

Director Of Technology For A Major Public Television Station

Job Title: Director Of Technology

Type of Company: I work for the Interactive department for WGBH. WGBH is the PBS and NPR affiliate in Boston but, more importantly, it produces about a third of the national programming for PBS. My team makes web sites for these programs, including "NOVA," "Antiques Roadshow," "Curious George" and "Arthur."

Education: BA, History of Science, Harvard College •• M.Ed., Technology in Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Previous Experience: I worked for Harvard University on a prototype for what became Encarta Africana. I taught courses on web design at Marlboro College, the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Yale Design School.

Job Tasks: I am the Director of Technology for Interactive Content at WGBH. We make web sites and other interactive media (DVDs, interactive TV, mobile applications) for nationally broadcast television programs produced at WGBH. These include "NOVA," "The American Experience," "Masterpiece Theater," "Antiques Roadshow," "Curious George," "Arthur" and others. We also make non-broadcast, educational web sites that are aimed at teachers, informal educators and generally interested adults.

I am responsible for the budgeting, planning, architecture and implementation of the technical aspects of our work. As a non-profit, much of WGBH's funding comes from grants, either from government agencies, private foundations, or individuals. So a significant amount of my time on a typical day is spent working on grant proposals: planning the technical aspects of a project, developing the budget and writing portions of the proposal narrative. Once we've gotten funding, I often participate in the early planning and design phases of a project, doing things like online research, brainstorming, writing specifications and helping build schedules. Before I became Director of Technology, I was a web developer and spent more of my time writing computer code. These days I do little of that, although I try to do some to keep my skills sharp.

I also supervise a team of 16 web developers. The developers have a diverse set of skills and experience. Some of them perform tasks very similar to the ones I listed above. Others focus entirely on writing code, in the language of their specialty. I spend a portion of each day working on scheduling their time, and assisting them with their work.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is working with smart people who are dedicated to their work and excel at doing it. It's very satisfying to work on a team of people with diverse background and skills, who are all focused on the same goal. It helps also that the goals are usually related to education and making people's lives better. I also enjoy working for an employer who encourages experimentation and entrepreneurship. Innovation is encouraged and supported.

The worst parts of my job relate to working for a relatively large corporation, which is also beholden to national bureaucracies. Many decisions are influenced by larger economic and political issues which seem unrelated to my line of work. However, I try to take these in stride and see them as opportunities for problem solving.

Job Tips: Understand your user, and the ecosystem in which he or she works and lives. Understand the content deeply, or work with people who do. Understand the technology but be prepared for it to change quickly and frequently.

The user and the content, not the technology, should drive your decision-making, with technology only providing constraints and opportunities.

Additional Thoughts: In general, I find the most valuable people to be those who can communicate clearly about their area of expertise with people who have no such expertise. These translators, who can bridge boundaries are rare and powerful.

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