In the Broadcast and Media industry the old adage is sadly often true – it’s not what you know, but who you know. With hundreds of media graduates entering the market every year, those wishing to work within this industry often have their work cut out for them.
Specialised recruitment agencies act as go between for the employer and employee, ensuring that the right person gets to the right job. Nowhere is this more helpful than in the media industry, where skills and experience can be so wide ranging, and the competition so fierce.
Today I speak with Deborah Cross, a highly experienced recruiter and consultant at Christy Media Solutions, who provide tailored recruitment solutions across all aspects of broadcasting and media content distribution.
As principal consultant at Christy, Deborah is responsible for account managing some of their largest broadcast clients across the world getting involved in the whole process from candidate management right through to talent acquisition. Deborah is also a certified broadcast and media technologist.
Scott Ledbury: Thanks for joining me today Deborah. As a bit of background, talk us through the variety of jobs and skills you recruit for at Christy.
Deborah Cross: The variety of jobs and skills we recruit for at Christy Media are certainly determined by the needs of our clients. For example, a recent appointment for a VP of technology was due to a company acquisition and that of a Director of Sales was a result of one of our manufacturing clients expanding their portfolio of products and developing into new territories.
The way that our company is modelled is to react to the requests of our clients globally so we have experienced and knowledgable consultants who work across each of our divisions. We divide into operations and production, creative post and design, engineering and technical development, sales and marketing, commercial and finance and projects and consulting.
Deborah Cross of Christy Media Solutions
In any one week our job boards might feature grad vacancies, MCR ops, TX ops, engineer roles, architect roles, project managers, schedulers, editors, VFX producers and all the way up to executive appointments. As long as there is a direct link to Broadcast and Media, we’ll recruit.
SL: What are the main types of engagement contract, people who are interested in the different types; whether that’s freelance or short term, long term, fixed term, what are the main pros and cons that come with those types of contracts?
DC: The main types of engagement predominantly; freelance contract, fixed term contract and permanent. For Freelance, it offers a variety of location, of technologies, typically our freelancers are always busy, they build up a good portfolio of clients to work for, and it also offers good rates of pay.
However, with changes in legislation and the pre-requisites for insurances and for freelancers to work via limited companies, the freelance market is less buoyant as it has been in the past. In terms of contract, you get interesting project work, exposure to cutting edge technologies, being exposed to different challenges, feeling that there is something to be achieved and completed.
Again, different environments, ability to knowledge share, all positives. Less positive, certainly from contract resources to generally the shorter pieces of work for specific work streams on a project, so there’s less consistency. As previously mentioned, changes in legislation via HMRC, surrounded with travel and subsistence and off-payroll workers legislation for the public sector is all making contracting less desirable and lucrative for some.
SL: Have you observed any trends recently in the media marketplace in terms of the types of jobs available in the skills required and the trends we see?
DC: Absolutely, the landscape of broadcast has definitely changed, our industry is now consumer led, they demand multi-platform, non-linear delivery of content. These consumers are no longer shackled by linear viewing and have the ability via PVR, VOD, S-VOD, OTT etc. to watch almost any thing, at any time.
But also via whichever medium they choose. We’ve found, certainly within the last 12-18 months, candidates who have forged their careers in perhaps backgrounds such as scheduling, planning, even post-production to a certain degree are now considering a move and are expressing their interest in non-linear types of roles working for streaming services or broadcasters that also offer VOD and OTT solutions.
“The landscape of broadcast has definitely changed, our industry is now consumer led.”
SL: Have you seen the rise or decline in any job areas since Christy formed in 2003?
DC: There has been a decline in the more broadcast engineering type roles, so for example maintenance technicians who would strip kit down to component level to repair or perhaps perform preventative maintenance. There is certainly less demand for those types of skills.
Candidates who also lack the skill set and understanding of converged media, they struggle to find jobs. It’s essential to understand file-based work flows, service based storage, IP delivery and software as a solution, which has made some of the more traditional roles almost obsolete.
Another example, certainly within Ad sales and insertion, with the rise in programmatic for example, on the advertising and sales side, whereas humans would be selling ad space, programmatic software is now enabling targeted advertising and they’re using software rather than people. Again certainly there is a huge demand in the industry for network engineers, ideally candidates that have a background in IT centric technologies, but that have worked in broadcast environments.
Engineers that have development skills, coding and scripting knowledge, Cisco accreditations are always highly desirable. Design architects that can design for production over IP, content management solutions. So whereas anybody that’s either been an operator on CMS systems, or implementation specialists there seems to be a real key area for development there too.
SL: As a follow up to that question, right now as the market stands are there any skills shortages in the market place right now, that Christy Media Solutions are crying out for?
DC: Absolutely. Employers want to consider the future, especially in terms of the next generation of broadcast professionals. There has been a great deal of concern in recent years that broadcast graduates don’t have sufficient understanding of software defined networking and media processing.
Our clients expect broadcast professionals to understand IP delivery, file based workflows, server based storage, they want to see Cisco accreditations, they want people who can code and understand basic programming languages, certainly there has been an issue with the level of understanding broadcast graduates have for example.
“You’ll have a distinct advantage certainly if you can look at the more emerging technologies.”
There is a shortage and an overwhelming concern, I do think that the shortages are also directly correlated to candidates with these types of skills being paid much more lucrative rates, working for financial services for example.
There is an issue there in terms of how they compare with the costings and the overheads that would go associated with those types of skills. You’ll have a distinct advantage certainly if you can look at the more emerging technologies.
“When you go along to an interview, show your personality, be enthusiastic, show you have drive, show you have a willingness to learn.”
SL: Would you say there are less technical jobs out there, than 20/ 30 years ago? For example a TV studio thirty years ago would take more people to run it, compared to today. You’ve touched on this earlier about engineering. Is it a fair assumption today to say that a TV studio requires less people to get it off the ground?
DC: It would definitely be fair to say that again due to the demands from the consumer for more sophisticated productions, the more traditional way of operating a studio has changed.
Examples would be robotic cameras, file-based work flows, editing software However, due to the complexity of work-flow production, i.e. IP delivery, automation, media asset management, the type of content being delivered via various mediums, so it’s not just going to your TV.
There is still a high demand for broadcast technologists. So there are more jobs, but the skill sets are very different than those required 20/30 years ago.
SL: So although jobs have been lost, it’s clear that many jobs have opened up?
DC: Absolutely, the market’s still buoyant.
SL: From an employer point of view, what would the industry like to see more of, from candidates in terms of broader personal skills?
DC: I think the broadcast industry is fantastic, in terms of the personalities people have within broadcast. One of the key things that when we prep candidates to go along to interview is just to show your personality, be enthusiastic, show you have drive, show you have a willingness to learn, don’t be fearful of the technologies and the changes that have come to light, have excellent organisational skills but first and foremost I think be great people people.
“In media production operations, to be multi-skilled is fantastic.”
SL: What’s more important Deborah, qualifications or experience?
DC: It’s got to be both of course, this industry is fantastic for being able to start at the bottom and work your way up. There are a variety of roles you can get your foot in the door for, if you work hard and show determination you’ll be successful.
Similarly with qualifications there’s great opportunities for graduates, not only broadcast engineering graduates, but network engineering type, computer science type graduates are also being invited to come into the broadcast space. There’s lots of additional training that’s always available to enhance your skills and develop as an individual.
Of course, certain roles do require specific skills and accreditations but to answer your question I think they’re both equally as important.
SL: What are your views on multi-skilling? Or would you encourage people to specialist in an area?
DC: I’d say certainly in media production operations to be multi-skilled is fantastic. It demonstrates not only that you can adapt and understand many different components of broadcast but it also offers a great deal of insight into different processes and crafts within that space.
There are occasions where candidates who work in a specific field can feel trapped or can feel that they can’t progress because they’ve stayed in the same role or area for a length of time, it’s sort of a Catch-22 really. It’s certainly down to the individual to make the decision. There are many niche specialised roles in broadcast, if you find you have a real interest and passion in a specific, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing this, however there is one caveat to that.
I would say to anyone working in broadcast; always keep up to date. Keep up to date in the industry even if you’re just attending trade shows such as Media Production, BVE, NAB, IBC, Broadcast Media, CABSAT, just talk to people in the industry. Attend tutorials and seminars, visit manufacturers stands, understand what’s happening now and what the predictions for the future are.
I also highly recommend the after-show aspect of all the exhibitions, not only is it a great way to enhance your network of contacts but it’s incredibly important to meet new people in the industry, it’s not what you know, but who you know sometimes.
SL: Thank you very much Deborah, it’s been fantastic to speak to you.