From TV Studios To Tech Startups

In the past, I’ve produced and directed a few shows, from my high school’s TV program, to live news and sports shows, to interview series. Growing up in TV studios taught me a great deal about how to contribute in a professional environment, and I’ve found that many apply to tech startups as well.

Test Rigorously

Before any live broadcast, I learned to do a run-thru, a mock introduction to ensure everyone’s on the same page before the clock starts. Most of the time, we’d realize something was wrong — a missing camera operator, an incorrect script, an unflipped switch…

Testing is incredibly valuable, as any good marketing officer will tell you. At the startups I’ve worked for, we’ve also prioritized testing, using A/B tests to optimize campaigns, editorial content, and technology products. When you test, it prompts you to try alternatives you may not have deemed worthy, and ensures a more scientific approach to solving problems.

Ensure You’re Replaceable

When I first started as an audio engineer, the tech team was particularly comfortable in their ways. The crew head decided since everyone was skilled at their respective roles, there was no cause to switch things up, nor to do more training.

As a result, when the director and technical director both graduated, I was left to replace them without enough experience to be confident. So as soon as I was up to speed, I began rotating the team to ensure everyone learned every position. In addition to having a more experienced crew, it meant we all learned more and became more interested in the work.

Another stopgap measure was creating a studio guide book, and putting it up on the web so that anyone could access it at any time. This ensured that when I graduated, no one would panic. All the answers were in the guide.

I carried that lesson over to my work at Facebook, Digg, and Central Spire, and have always made sure that no task is reliant on one person. For instance, when you create a brand book, it’s easier for every designer and social media coordinator going forward. Redundancy and the spread of knowledge help everyone.

Communication Is Critical

Before I was promoted to crew head, there was no group chat. Because we didn’t use any tool for coordination or planning, no one ever knew who was coming to work. As a result: skeleton crews arrived. However, most of the time we had enough crew, and so my superiors never bothered to change our system (or lack thereof).

When I took over, we started a group chat, and created a system for scheduling and confirming head counts. This level of preparation changed the way we worked. This ensured that no one on my team started panicking five minutes before a live show. We knew we were prepared.

Now, that lesson has come in handy in the startup environment when there’s so much going on. Having the mindset of constant communication keeps everyone on the same page. Folks know what I’m doing, and what’s needed to keep moving.

Showing Up Is Half The Battle

Reliability is a critical characteristic in live TV. Showing up on time is one of the most important traits you can have — almost as important as general competence. I valued consistency and timeliness when hiring crew for the broadcast studio, and that preference paid off. As a dependable person myself, I found that I was always rewarded for my reliability.

As it turns out, showing up early for a live news broadcast is just as valuable as showing up early for anything else. My coworkers know they can trust me to be on time, and that trust has helped the work environment, and company growth.

Remember The Belly

Recently, I reconnected with someone from a few years ago who worked in the same office. He remembered me as the guy who brought in homemade Angel Food Cake.

Turns out, it’s really difficult to bring homemade ice cream sandwiches to work.

My love for making baked goods started in college, after reading The Food Lab from cover to cover. When I ran the TV broadcast tech team, I developed the habit of bringing in treats (homemade and store bought) every night. That habit made everyone particularly happy, especially when producers were so anxious about the shows they forgot to eat dinner.

Carrying that lesson with me has resulted in a less hungry, and more content office.

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technology, UX, and communications

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