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Tech update
OPPORTUNITIES IN ENTERTAINMENT & HOSPITALITY

 

Hospitality & entertainment seek innovative computer scientists,
IT folks & engineers

“It’s important to think strategically, to link technology to the business objectives of the company.” Dr David Porter, the Walter Kaitz Foundation

“Diversifying your workforce is a good business decision. If you don’t address
the demographics of your audience you’re missing a revenue stream.”
Phylis Eagle-Oldson, the Emma L. Bowen Foundation

SVP Vicki Hamilton keeps her eye on IT 
projects at Turner Broadcasting Systems.From hotels to television, the hospitality and entertainment industries depend on a range of
technical professionals to keep their businesses on
the cutting edge.

They have to! With burgeoning digital entertainment platforms and escalating hotel and resort construction, companies are working hard to capture or retain customers who have more choices today than
ever before.

Media: change is part of the excitement

By next February all television broadcasts must be transmitted digitally. Preparing for the conversion from analog to digital has kept techies busy, but industry professionals declare that change is part of the excitement of working in entertainment.

EE Chris Chang is VP of innovation for Harrah’s Entertainment.Vicki Hamilton, SVP of enterprise performance for Turner Broadcasting Systems’ operations and strategy group, notes that the range of job opportunities is broad because there are so many facets to media. “The technology field runs the gamut: you have the technical, business and creative sides,” she notes.

The media industry is always looking for good software developers, network architects and engineers along with program managers and business analysts. “These are people who are really trying to expand the capabilities
of technical products and move them forward,”
Hamilton says.

Significant efforts to diversify the media

Most savvy organizations are working to increase diversity. “If you don’t address the demographics of your audience you’re missing a revenue stream,” says Phylis Eagle-Oldson, CEO of the Emma L. Bowen Foundation (Washington DC), which works with media companies to recruit diverse students for multi-year internships. “Diversifying your workforce is a good business decision, and it’s the right thing to do.”

“I think the industry is making significant efforts to diversify its workforce,” says Dr David Porter, an engineer and executive director of the Walter Kaitz Foundation (Washington DC), which supports Women in Cable Technology (WICT), the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), and the Emma L. Bowen Foundation. This year the Walter Kaitz Foundation granted more than $1.5 million to these organizations to increase diversity in the cable industry.

Porter sees progress in diversity through the associations the foundation supports and the media companies that contribute.

“I think a lot of times people look at the cable industry, particularly the cable systems utilities, as very stagnant, very boring, but the truth is far from that,” he notes. “Because the industry
is so technology-focused and so fast-paced, cable offers significant opportunities to have an interesting and exciting career in the technology space.”

Cable companies boost diversity

Michelle Golden, VP of talent management for Turner Broadcasting System (Atlanta, GA), points out that Turner has developed relationships with industry associations like NAMIC to build a pipeline of talented candidates. Turner also participates in organizations like the Black Engineer of the Year Awards.

“That shows Turner as a company that supports diversity and the growth and development of its employees,” Golden says. Brian Hoffman, regional VP of talent acquisition for Time Warner Cable (New York, NY) in Charlotte, NC and a board member of NAMIC, explains that increasing diversity is a critical part of the company’s business. “We embrace and value the uniqueness of our employees, our customers and partners in promoting a culture that fosters innovation, creativity and customer focus,” he says.

When it comes to IT jobs, Hoffman notes, Time Warner doesn’t necessarily look for techies with cable experience, but it does want a good degree of sophistication in IT. “We very rarely hire entry level for IT positions,” he says. “We look for people with solid years of experience and see the companies they’ve dealt with.”

Diversity is also a prime factor in the company’s career progression development. “Diverse management is part of a truly diverse workforce,” Hoffman says.

Hospitality balances technology with personal service

Evelin Potts is VP of diversity and inclusion at Wyndham Worldwide Corporate (Parsippany, NJ). She encourages tech pros to explore careers in hospitality and lodging.

“People sometimes think this industry is just about making beds. But we deliver many services to our guests, and our technology resources and needs are like those of any major corporation,” she says.

With 6,500 hotels under ten brands on six continents, Wyndham is one of the largest hospitality companies. It offers its employees discounts, domestic partner benefits and education benefits along with medical and retirement plans.

Potts points out that hospitality services are needed year-round. “Guests travel for business, vacation, weddings, reunions and more. We provide an experience for every kind of traveler. And our guests’ needs are diverse, just like our employees.”

Sal Mendoza is vice chair of the Multicultural Diversity Advisory Council of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (Washington, DC), and VP of diversity and inclusion at Hyatt Hotels and Resorts in North America. “We are an industry that requires a human touch,” he says, “but there is a certain segment of business and leisure travelers who want technology that will make it easier to navigate. As an industry you have to provide that.”

Technology has certainly made service more convenient and faster for guests and employees. For instance, Hyatt employs iPods to deliver training for senior leaders, and uses many other online resources for general management training. Companies are also using technology to create more personal services, like room keys that also control the lighting and turn on the TV.
Every hotel needs those critical maintenance engineers, but while the larger, full-service hotels usually have their own engineering departments, IT operations are often managed through an outside vendor or the corporate office.

“Our industry has always been and will always be diverse,” Mendoza says. “But as you move up to executive ranks, you see the percentages diminish. That’s one reason why many companies are putting a lot of effort into developing diverse people. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s a bottom-line imperative.”

Chris Chang is VP of innovation for Harrah’s Entertainment

Chris Chang. Text messages delivering VIP passes to the hottest night club? Customers mixing drinks using Microsoft’s Surface motion-sensing technology? It’s Chris Chang’s job to find ways to offer unique experiences like these to guests at Harrah’s Entertainment (Las Vegas, NV).

“We’re constantly looking at new ways to surprise and delight our customers,” says Chang, who is VP of innovation and IT strategy for Harrah’s.

Chang’s parents are from Taiwan. He was born in Houston, TX, graduated from MIT (Cambridge, MA) with a BS and MS in EE in 1995, and then worked for a year at Texas Instruments as an application engineer.

He became a strategy consultant for a management consulting firm, and advised Fortune 500 technology companies for the next five years. Then he spent another five years in strategy and product management for a business intelligence company.

Chang joined Harrah’s in 2005 through the executive associate program, and worked closely with Tim Stanley, Harrah’s CIO and SVP of innovation, gaming and IT. His eighteen-month experience with Stanley led to his current position.

Chang manages some ten people. “We also leverage a number of external resources, plus our own IT employees who may be rotated onto our innovation projects at any time,” he explains. His group tests and evaluates new technology ideas at Harrah’s fifty properties, including Caesars Palace, the Flamingo Las Vegas and Paris Las Vegas.

The team recently launched a pilot program using Microsoft Surface, a variation of touch-screen technology that, Chang explains, lets you grab and manipulate data and images with your hands. In the eight Surface applications the team dreamed up, guests mix and order drinks, play games and interact with customers at other tables. These apps are currently being tested at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino iBar in Las Vegas.

“This company is an exciting place to be,” says Chang. “We can actually go on the floor and see our ideas in action.”

Harrah’s is able to develop and deploy creative solutions through its culture, like the diversity and inclusion program that Chang recently participated in.

“This is a place where different backgrounds are embraced and different ideas can be acknowledged, embraced, or discussed and debated in an open forum,” he says. He adds that Harrah’s was ranked among the top twenty “best places to work in IT” by Computerworld nine years in a row.

Eric Hardaway seeks owner buy-in for InterContinental Hotels Group

Eric Hardaway. As VP of global technology, based at the Atlanta, GA Americas Region HQ of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG, Windsor, UK), it’s Eric Hardaway’s mission to explain IT investment to franchisees. All but nineteen of IHG’s approximately 4,000 hotels, he explains, are owned by franchisees.

“Even though we are a franchise model, we want to be sure our hotel operators clearly understand the value the IT investment brings,” says Hardaway.

A lot of his job involves managing relationships among IHG, the hotel operators, and the third parties that provide technology solutions for the company. He also supervises four senior-level managers who provide day-to-day operations support for users of technology in both the corporate and hotel environments.

Hardaway spent twenty-five years facilitating AT&T technology solutions for local businesses and private consumers before joining IHG. To build on that exposure he took courses in IT management at the Georgia Institute of Technology, studied sales and marketing at Roosevelt University (Chicago, IL), and earned a 1994 MBA at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (Chicago, IL).

In 1997 he joined Bass Hotels and Resorts (London, UK), now IHG, leading a team that delivered IT solutions to more than 3,000 hotels. He became VP of global technology at IHG in 2002. “My experience has taught me to identify business problems that technology can solve,” he says.

As an example, he cites the recent rollout of a new property-management system at IHG. Property management is “the guts of a hotel’s operations,” he says, and the new system not only facilitates check-in and check-out, but captures guests’ purchasing activities during their stay. The new system gives IHG the ability to share guest preferences at the enterprise level; the information can follow a guest no matter what IHG location is chosen.

“We need to use it to see consistency across the brand,” Hardaway says. “We need to be able to share guest data from hotel to hotel. But we have to respect that our owners are individual investors and sometimes they’ve invested their life savings. We want to make sure they understand the benefit of that investment.”

SVP Vicki Hamilton leads Turner’s new IT strategy group

Vicki Hamilton. As SVP of enterprise performance, Vicki Hamilton is responsible for reporting on the efficiency and effectiveness of all IT projects at Turner Broadcasting Systems (Atlanta, GA). She evaluates the performance of more than $500 million in IT investments. The position is only a year old, and Hamilton says it requires all her considerable IT and business experience.

“I started my career working in the IT field doing everything from programming on up,” she says. “When I came to Turner I brought a blend that lets me understand where the company wants to go.”

Hamilton got her BSMIS from the University of Dayton (Dayton, OH) in 1985. She earned an MBA from St. Louis University (St. Louis, MO) in 1994.

She has always worked in the entertainment industry. She started in operations and technology at the Weather Channel, rising to VP and GM of radio and newspaper. She left to start and run her own business, an advertising and marketing company in the cinema space. After two years she sold the business and joined Turner.

Hamilton manages eight employees onsite in Atlanta. Together they develop methodologies to help prioritize IT investments, evaluate enterprise-wide processes such as customer relationship management, and manage large-scale and international deployments.

“I am the luckiest person in the world and I have the best job!” she says. “I look at this as if
I were an entrepreneur running my own business, and it’s my responsibility to show Turner
an ROI.”

She hopes to see more African Americans and women in IT. “We still need to get more women into the functional area,” she says. “We need more exposure to science and math so we’re not afraid of it, and we too can take advantage of the growing opportunities.”

Terrill Gosa leads technology ops for Time Warner Cable

Terrill Gosa. Time Warner Cable (New York, NY) uses cutting-edge technology to deliver the latest in voice, video and data services. It’s the second-largest cable operator in the U.S., serving some 26 million homes.

“We’re in the business of innovation. There’s always something new that we’re getting to our subscribers,” says Terrill Gosa, senior director of Time Warner’s advanced technology group in Herndon, VA.

Gosa is responsible for deploying, maintaining and operating new product offerings the company develops. He notes that his job is on the subscriber side.

Gosa works within the corporate function. Eighty percent of his seventy-four person staff work remotely at the company’s eight data centers, which deploy solutions to the forty regional divisions.

The depth and breadth of services Time Warner Cable offers bring plenty of variety to the job. “You could be working on one thing one day and the next day leveraging it for something completely different,” Gosa notes. “People assume we’re just a cable or a traditional video delivery company, but we have almost every category of engineering there is.”

Besides engineering positions from junior and associate up to senior and principal, he reports that there are two new titles this year: principal architect and chief architect. There are about 400 engineers in Herndon HQ.

“The skill sets and job opportunities within the technology are pretty robust,” Gosa declares. “We have a wide range of offerings and a very clear career path within those disciplines.”

Gosa earned a 1993 BS in law and public policy with a minor in IST at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY). He worked as a student sales rep for Apple computers at the college bookstore. That led to his first post-college job, managing a LAN and programming for the school’s center for instructional design, which ran on a network of Apple computers.

“After that I never looked back to think I would work in law,” he says. “I just fell in love with technology and have been plugging away at it ever since.”

In 1998 he became director of network ops with Tickets.com (Costa Mesa, CA), a worldwide ticketing services and solutions company. He left in 2000 to join Time Warner Cable’s Syracuse data center as director of regional operations. In 2004 he moved to his current position.

In his eight years with Time Warner Cable he’s noticed significant success growing diversity within the company. “They’ve taken a strong position to attract and retain talented people of color and of gender diversity,” he says. “I’ve seen great strides here.”

Jay Hung directs front-end development for Scripps Networks

Jay Hung. Jay Hung is director of front-end development for Scripps Networks (Knoxville, TN). Based in the company’s New York, NY office, he leads nine people stationed in New York City and Knoxville. The team builds Web components for Scripps Networks’ popular lifestyle television networks.

“We work with the design people who come up with look and feel, color schemes and images, and we build the interfaces they design,” he explains. “We’re delivering information to our users, like recipes for the Food Network or articles about how to fix up your home for HGTV.”

Hung graduated from the University of California-Los Angeles in 1996 with a BSCS. Web development was just catching on and it intrigued him.

“I took very well to the Web,” he says. “I was energized by this active new medium, so I spent a lot of time learning about it and how to code for it.”

After graduating he went to work for Symantec (Cupertino, CA) as a programmer. By 1998 he had started his own business, an online social networking community geared toward the college demographic. He and a business partner made it through a first round of seed funding, but by the time they were working on their second round the dot-com bubble had burst. Though the business closed, Hung took what he learned to other clients and eventually to Yahoo (Sunnyvale, CA).

“It taught me a lot about the business side. I went from being a developer who knows how to code to knowing how to create a business around it, capture a market and build a product,”
he says.

Hung spent two years at Yahoo! working on lifestyle-based products and joined Scripps
in 2007.

“The fact that Scripps Networks had the number one brands in these spaces was very appealing to me,” he says. “The websites were great, but I saw a lot of potential to move them forward for the next three to five years and beyond. That was very exciting and something I knew I would enjoy.”

To succeed in the Web environment, Hung says it’s important to understand the technologies that power the front end, along with Web standards and how to choose the right technology for a task.

“You have to be passionate about what the front end is capable of,” he says. “In our world new technologies keep coming out. It’s important to stay on top of them, to read different publications, and to watch industry leaders.”

And as you rise in your profession, “You also need to be in tune with staff. Provide an environment where they can grow and push the boundaries.”

D/C


OPPORTUNITIES IN ENTERTAINMENT & HOSPITALITY
Check the latest openings at these diversity-minded companies.

Company and location Business area
ESPN
(Bristol, CT)
www.joinourteam.espn.com
Multimedia sports entertainment
Harrah’s Entertainment
(Las Vegas, NV)
www.harrahs.com/harrahs-corporate/careers-home.html
Hotels, casino entertainment
InterContinental Hotels Group
(Atlanta, GA)
www.careers.ichotelsgroup.com
Hotels, franchises
Marriott International
(Bethesda, MD)
marriott.com/careers
Lodging
MGM Mirage
(Las Vegas, NV)
www.mgmmirage.com
Resorts, casinos, gaming and hospitality
Scripps Networks
(Knoxville, TN)
www.scrippsnetworks.com
Lifestyle media networks
Time Warner Cable
(New York, NY)
www.timewarnercable.com/careers
Video, voice and data services
Turner Broadcasting Systems
(Atlanta, GA)
www.turner.com/careers
News, entertainment, animation, young adult media environments on television and other platforms
Warner Brothers
(Burbank, CA)
www.warnerbroscareers.com
Creation, production, distribution, licensing and marketing of entertainment and related businesses
Wyndham Worldwide Corp
(Parsippany, NJ)
www.wyndhamworldwide.com/careers
Hotels, vacation ownership, vacation properties

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