January 18, 2012
By Pamela Williams
We all know the old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Well, our industry has flipped that cliché on its ear. In cable, the mantra could be, “The more things change, the more they change.”
Over the past several years, technologies and applications have advanced nearly non-stop, each time giving birth to new jobs and creating a battle among employers for very specific skills sets. Then, seemingly overnight, a wave of new business and technological advances can change everything again. Skill sets that would guarantee plum positions just a year ago may be less sought after, or even outsourced by employers today.
IT Goes Seismic
In particular, the field of information technology (IT) is undergoing a seismic transformation that is profoundly changing the roles performed by IT employees and—by extension—the skill sets required in other departments. I asked Chuck Hurst, VP, solution planning & delivery for Scripps Networks Interactive, to elaborate on the current state of IT at his company and what it means for job seekers. Two factors that most affect current and would-be employees are cloud computing (the combined use of computing, storage and distribution resources) and the burgeoning importance of consumer information in corporate strategy. As far as the first factor is concerned, he said, “Using cloud resources effectively with established infrastructure and applications requires a new set of skills with a focus on architecture, integration and information management.”
In terms of information as a strategic tool, he said, “Companies no longer compete by just having a better product or process. They compete by knowing more about their customers—their habits, location, preferences and friends. Collecting and analyzing potentially large sets of unstructured data, such as Twitter feeds, and using that information to determine strategy requires very different skill sets from those used in traditional IT roles.”
Yet a third factor is what Hurst called “the consumerization of IT,” which simply put means that users of IT systems expect to interact with the same ease, mobility and personalization they experience with their personal mobile devices. The result at Scripps has been the creation of three new hiring areas in the past year: cloud architect, data czar and user experience manager.
Another job field that did not exist a year ago—at least not in the same way it does today—is social media. Now, Lisa Kaye, president and CEO of greenlightjobs.com, consistently sees employers seeking “Social Media Experts” who tweet, Facebook and create "buzz" about markets, people, industries and trends to help promote businesses in a whole new light. Quipped Kaye, “Who knew that the skillful use of our thumbs would be considered a highly evolved tool?”
In addition to positions specifically involving social media, Kaye said, “Any job that is related to marketing, cross-selling and driving revenue related to online advertising will continue to be a growing trend. Those positions include partnership development, affiliate partnerships, business development and brand marketing.”
Crossover sales skills are especially in demand, as retail sales environments look for people with bricks-and-mortar sales experience coupled with the ability to translate that talent to online sales and promotions.
OK, Some Things Haven’t Changed
Throughout the cable industry, skills in technical development, engineering and project management remain in high demand. So do roles that help to bridge technology with business, such as business analysis, product management and solution architecture. Particularly for programmers, the mobile, mobile-web and digital space areas continue to be hot job categories. According to Blye McSweeney, VP of talent acquisition for Turner Broadcasting, “Our need for talent in these fields reflects our continued emphasis on expanding our cross-platform delivery of content for TV Everywhere-Interactive TV, tablets, iPhone, Android devices and the measurement and monetization of this delivery to our consumers.”
Although engineering continues to rank high on the list of most-sought skills, it is not the only area of opportunity. For instance, Chris Hong, VP of staffing and recruitment for ESPN, said, “We continue to communicate our company brand and culture throughout colleges and universities and will look to hire 2012 graduates within our content, sales and technology divisions.”
For Those Who Want to Break Into Cable...
Here’s good news: Your chances have never been better. In the words of Scripps’s Chuck Hurst, “The blurring of traditional roles within the cable industry will require hiring from outside and cross training those individuals on the necessary background. Skills that help to bridge technology with business are in the highest demand.”
Lisa Kaye, whose company is a job posting aggregator for the media and entertainment industry, agreed, saying, “Most companies will and are already looking at attracting talent from other related industries and even from companies abroad.”
But whether you’re looking to enter the exciting world of cable or advance your current career, the words to remember are these, from Paul Richardson, senior vice president of human resources for ESPN: “We look for confidence, pride and the will to strive for continuous improvement.”
Or, in the words of Walter Chrysler, “The real secret of success is enthusiasm.”
(Pamela Williams, CAE, is Executive Director of the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association (CTHRA))