Developing Products, Managing Teams and Building an Entertainment Career Behind the Scenes
During CES we had a chance to spend some time catching up with Alix Baudin, SVP/GM, Digital Product and Operations, Scripps Networks Interactive. He has had a distinguished career in technology touching finance, media and entertainment. He shared some of his lessons learned and thoughts about keys to success as an executive and the impact of technology as a disruptive force.
Name: Alix Baudin
Grew up in: Queens and Long Island, NY
Role: SVP/GM, Digital Product and Operations, Scripps Networks Interactive
Favorite Book(s): Good to Great
Degree: Computer and Information Science
What issues are you most passionate about?
The issues I am most passionate about are improving the graduation rate among people of color and increasing the number of people of color in technology careers and entrepreneurship.
How did you get into the world of technology and / or finance?
As the grandson of a civil engineer, with a propensity for solving math and science problems, I knew very early in life that I would pursue a career in technology. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a MSE in Computer and Information Science, I joined Goldman Sachs in the New Associate Programmer Analyst Program. There, I led and managed high impact technology platforms which became my initial experience in developing technology products. Later, I went back to business school (The Wharton School) and spent over a decade in media and technology in various roles (corporate finance, strategy, business development, product development, and operations).
The velocity of change today has challenged my strategic thinking.
Who has been your most important professional mentor and why?
I believe mentorship is centered on a trusted relationship, sponsorship, and unfiltered communication. I’ve been fortunate to work with or for many successful business executives (John Skipper, Manish Jha, Denmark West, Tom Ascheim, Alisa Bowen, John Lansing) that have given me sound advice on strategic decisions, career decisions, and leadership.
What has been the most meaningful professional experience you’ve had and why?
My most meaningful professional experience to date is my current role. I am responsible for an approximately 200 person team focused on developing multiplatform consumer digital experiences for Scripps Networks Interactive portfolio of lifestyle media brands.
My objective is to build compelling digital experiences that connect our brands with consumers everyday, everywhere. I’ve learned how to create and lead an effective enterprise product organization designed to drive innovation via three tenets: 1) time to market, 2) high engagement, and 3) utilization of data. I also learned how to build an effective organization based on a culture of collaboration and building a team that is passionate about connecting our brands with consumers in a meaningful way. In addition, I’ve leveraged my financial and operational background to build business process management tools that drive investment decisions and product portfolio management.
What is the most difficult professional or personal challenge you’ve had to overcome?
My most difficult professional challenge thus far has been the evolving fragmentation of media and the constant battle for the attention of the consumer. In addition, technology is disrupting industries at a much faster clip. As a digital executive, I’ve always had the confidence that I could ride the next technology wave (new programming language, new platforms, new business models, etc.). But the velocity of change today has challenged my strategic thinking, my influence skills to help a large organization adapt to macro changes beyond my control, and my day-to-day job of prioritizing my time and team’s time to meet the challenge of serving the consumer.
I do expect that managers and leaders of the future will need to be equipped and comfortable discussing scalability, consumer data, user experience, etc.
What advice do you have for young people of color who are looking to get into technology?
My advice to young people is to learn how to code. Software will be a core attribute of products in the future across most industries (automobile, health, CPG, retail, etc.). I don’t expect everybody to be a career developer but I do expect that managers and leaders of the future will need to be equipped and comfortable discussing scalability, consumer data, user experience, etc.
Who is one person you follow on social media who you think others should follow?
What news outlets or media sources do you read on a regular basis?
Business Insider, Recode, Tech Crunch, Huffington Post, Venture Beat.
Your colleagues have to trust you.
You have spent over a decade working at senior levels in the media and entertainment industry. When did you decide that was the career path you wanted to take and how did you break into the industry?
During the summer between my first and second year at business school, I joined JP Morgan as a summer associate in the Technology Media and Telecommunications Corporate Finance Group. It was a great opportunity to marry my computer science background, interest in media, and finance. After a couple of years of investment banking at JP Morgan focused on media companies and MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors), I joined ESPN to head a team responsible for finance and strategy for the ESPN Mobile division. My career path since then has primarily been guided by my interest in media, technology, and operations.
You have worked in or around three sectors – music, print publishing and cable television, where there are tremendous forces of technology and competition forcing change and even disruption. What can you tell us about those experiences and what have been the most important lessons you have learned?
The pace of disruption over the past few years has been mind blowing. Technology is fragmenting the distribution of media at a rapid pace, reducing the attention span of audiences because of new devices / screens, and reducing the cost of entry for new entrants. The lessons I’ve learned along the way to compete in this new world order are the following:
- Always start with building a “brand” that makes people’s lives better
- Invest in knowing about your consumer and their needs
- Ensure your service / product is available to your consumers on platforms with scale
- Continue to experiment with new business models while you keep an eye on the core business model.
You have also been successful managing product and operations groups in large traditional media and entertainment companies. What advice can you give about being successful in those types of settings?
My success in managing enterprise product and ops organizations is a result of three things:
- Recruiting exceptional talent
- Creating a culture focused on transparency and open communication
- Leveraging financial data and analytics to ensure my day to day decisions are aligned with the business’s strategy.
Actually, there is one more important thing; your colleagues have to trust you.