…The power of film and TV: Film and television are still some of the most predominant ways that people are exposed to experiences outside of their day-to-day interactions. That serious responsibility means content creators have an obligation to represent all cultures and views because of the power they have to impact society, politics, and technology.
As a part of my series on leaders helong to make film and TV more diverse, I had the pleasure to interview the Deluxe One Team.
· Hannah Barnhardt: Deluxe’s Director of Product Strategy, Hannah is working to accelerate the industry’s embrace of new technologies to maximize efficiencies and streamline cloud solutions for the media and entertainment market
· Stefanie Gamberg: Deluxe’s VP Product Management, Stefanie develops back-end microservices that power digital distribution workflows and enable automation. Her core drive is influencing supply chain evolution and streamlining processes within media operations.
· Melissa Cao: VP of Product Management for Deluxe’s creative services, Melissa focuses on the planning and development of products within the post-production services space and is leading new initiatives for virtual VFX workstations.
· Evangeline Lee: Head of UI/UX Product Management for Deluxe, Evangeline leads the design and user experience for all of Deluxe’s services
· Kristie Fung: Deluxe’s VP of Product Management for OTT & Content Exchange, Kristie is leading the development of the Deluxe’s OTT streaming platform, as well as developing solutions that enable entertainment companies to effectively reach today’s increasingly fragmented audiences.
· Sherry Kao: Deluxe’s VP of New Technology, Sherry is at the forefront of working with new and emerging formats like 4K, UHD and HDR, building on Deluxe’s history of developing and mainstreaming innovation in new media formats.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
“From a young age, I was fascinated by media & entertainment, as evident by my disassembling of our family’s VHS machine in grade school. I was curious about how the TV shows and movies I watched were made. At the time, I was convinced that working in news was the ultimate goal, that disseminating information to the masses was a noble profession.
As my values and ideals no longer aligned with working in news specifically, my focus began to shift to the content that was shaping societal norms. The shift resulted in venturing from live television and post-production to content distribution. I described my work to friends as “the 31 flavors of video — SVOD, TVOD, PPV, AVOD, and EST — you name it, we create and deliver it so you can watch it on Amazon, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, etc.” So many of the processes to generate content were manual and hardware intensive, that I couldn’t help but think, there’s got to be a better way to get content out there.
Working in Product Management on Deluxe One provides that perfect challenge. We are streamlining and transforming the media & entertainment Industry by building relevant tools that make content accessible to audiences efficiently and seamlessly, regardless of medium, device, platform, or geographic location. It’s brought back my initial passion for defining how TV and film are created, distributed, and received by audiences around the world.” — Stefanie Gamberg, VP of Product Management, Deluxe
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
“For me, the most interesting thing that’s happened is the fact that I landed in this industry at all. I started off in nonprofit and was learning about that space when I was given the opportunity to peek into the movie business. I definitely didn’t understand how rare and amazing the opportunity was at the time and actually felt a bit scared to make a change. I feel so fortunate that I took that leap despite knowing nothing about the business and what it meant to actually work in Backlot Operations at a major studio. I was very lucky to have support from my bosses while I learned on the job, as well as, meeting people who were so generous and patient with sharing their knowledge and love of the business with a newbie like me. They were long days but during my first years, I did everything from prepping location contracts, to picking up talent at the front gate (in a golf cart that I just learned how to drive), to coordinating visual effects shots for television and feature projects. It’s been a gift to be a part of a business that has kept me engaged and learning even after so many years.” — Melissa Cao, VP of Product Management for Deluxe’s creative services
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
“I’ll admit that I had to Google what a “Product Owner” was when I was first presented with the opportunity to transition to a product role. While I quickly discovered how much I loved the opportunity to be a bridge between the business, engineering team, and users, I also discovered how many engineering acronyms and terms were out there that I didn’t know. I did quite a bit of reading on my personal time and then spent most meetings trying to keep-up while Googling half of the terms.
Finally one meeting, a question was posed to me point-blank, and of course, it involved an acronym that I didn’t understand. Instead of admitting that I had no idea what it meant, I just started talking with the hope that someone would soon chime-in and continue the thought. That didn’t happen, and what ensued was a hilarious and embarrassing series of confused looks and questions from my team of engineers.
I now know that “RDB” stands for “Relational Database,” and that there will forever be things that I do not know… yet! Instead of being embarrassed, I’ve learned to be excited and challenged by the process, humility, and reward of asking questions.” — Evangeline Lee, Head of UI/UX Product Management, Deluxe
Can you describe how you are helping to make popular culture more representative of the US population?
“One of the most rewarding aspects of my role is being able to work with specialist content providers, and helping them share their content with a much larger audience than they have traditionally been able to reach. The flexibility of our Deluxe One platform provides a unique opportunity for us to offer these smaller segments of the market the same modern, feature-rich core OTT platform used by some of the largest content distributors in the industry. In my career, I’ve successfully partnered with providers who produced content for the Asian and European markets to share their unique cultural perspectives worldwide, as well as with providers that share people of color and non-binary gender perspectives right here in the United States. It’s my hope that by taking care of the details of OTT development, I can continue to free up these diverse voices to focus on spreading their unique vision.” — Kristie Fung, VP of Product Management for OTT & Content Exchange, Deluxe
Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by the work you are doing?
“This question immediately makes me think of the direct reports I’ve had who inspire me to be a strong leader. A theme I noticed across many of them is that they had a silent talent that needed to be nurtured. I pride myself in being able to provide encouragement to get them to the next level. I have managed people who were pigeon-holed as individual contributors due to the team’s reliance on them executing daily tasks, even though they had everything it took to be a leader. I encouraged them to begin load balancing their work by training their team members, to stop worrying about job security, and to start thinking about job growth. I’m proud to say that each of these individuals have been able to expand their knowledge base and achieve new levels in their career, once they let go and reached.” — Stefanie Gamberg, VP of Product Management, Deluxe
Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important to have diversity represented in film and television and its potential effects on our culture?
Increasing diversity and reducing stereotypes in entertainment play a key role in helping to break down barriers across many facets of society.
1. The power of film and tv: Film and television are still some of the most predominant ways that people are exposed to experiences outside of their day-to-day interactions. That serious responsibility means content creators have an obligation to represent all cultures and views because of the power they have to impact society, politics, and technology.
2. Increasing screen times: Today’s digital world has led to a decrease in the amount of face-to-face interaction in society, making social media or film/television/YouTube a primary source of information. That means it’s up to the programming on these screens to show that our society is a melting pot of cultures and that being different is not only okay but should be supported.
3. Fighting bias: With machine learning and artificial intelligence on the rise, the deep learning models at the core of it are still being built on the subjective bias of the people training the models. We may never be able to completely eliminate bias from humans, but at least we can try to reduce the skew by exposing people to more diversity.- Sherry Kao, VP of New Technology, Deluxe
Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
Companies are taking great strides and becoming increasingly inclusive and diverse, especially within entertainment. We have a lot more work to do — this is a long marathon and we’ve only finished our first mile.
1. Be Curious: I encourage women to be curious — ask to join meetings you wouldn’t normally be included in, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, and learn more about what’s going on behind-the-scenes, even if it’s not directly related to your current position.
2. Be Fearless: It’s crucial to remember that sometimes you are your biggest barrier. Always know your value and what your mind, voice, and experience can bring to a room.
3. Be Tactical: Confronting large systemic issues with a goal to spark a true change is not a simple task. The shift is transformative and can be daunting, so be strategic. Pick the battles you know you can win and continue to evolve from there — whether that’s challenging opinion from a colleague that you normally would have let slide, or directly questioning your team and management about a lack of cultural representation within your meeting room, team, and company. Have the conversation and you may be surprised with where it takes you.- Hannah Barnhardt, Director of Product Strategy, Deluxe
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
“Leadership means understanding and communicating vision, and engaging your team to get buy-in. But leadership interaction with your team doesn’t stop there; leaders support team members through a project or task’s completion and are open to exploring options based on the team’s feedback. They provide ongoing guidance and support, with an end goal of building an empowered and skilled team that is comfortable working autonomously, and is professionally invested in the outcome of every product.” — Stefanie Gamberg, VP of Product Management, Deluxe
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?
1. Don’t be afraid to fail.
“Fail hard and fail fast. It’s all about picking yourself back up and learning from that failure. It does no one any service, least of all yourself, to wallow in self-doubt. I used to really struggle to pick myself up after tough client meetings. I finally trained myself to focus on the lessons learned– whether it be more practice, getting an outside perspective on my presentation, or even taking a step away from staring at the same document day in and day out — and be better prepared for the next go-around.” — Kristie Fung, Deluxe’s VP of Product Management for OTT & Digital Cinema
2. Careers are long and not linear.
“I started in finance as an analyst for a Fortune 500 Aerospace company, and after more than a few years of crunching numbers and creating forecasts, I realized finance was not for me. I transitioned from finance into a business systems role, then used those skills to ultimately transition into a product role within the media & entertainment/tech space. Moving from a position where I was solely motivated by a paycheck to a role where I actually care about the product not only improved my overall happiness but also made me excited to come into work every day.” — Kristie Fung, Deluxe’s VP of Product Management for OTT & Digital Cinema
3. Work for people, not companies.
“Having a strong support network is a game changer. Whether it’s a colleague or a boss, the people around you have a greater impact on your day-to-day work environment than anything else. Choose to work for inspiring leaders that believe in you and learn everything you can from them. Moving from Finance/Aerospace to Tech/Media & Entertainment came with a huge learning curve. With the right bosses and the right direction, not only was I able to adapt and learn quickly but when I failed and made mistakes, those same bosses were there to guide me in the direction that ultimately drove us towards the same goal of creating a great product.” Kristie Fung, Deluxe’s VP of Product Management for OTT & Digital Cinema
4. When in doubt, do the right thing.
“You can always defend doing the right thing. Decisions are tough and may even make you question your ethics and morality. In my experience, the factor that has always been complex is people. We spend so much time with our work families and when faced with business decisions that impact those dynamics or relationships, it gets really hard. I’ve found that when I have the proper reasoning and data, measured and considered everything on a level playing field, doing the right thing was bearable even if it was hard. It allowed me to clearly express the reasoning for decisions to our teams so they may understand and also be able to move forward from challenging situations.” Melissa Cao, VP of Product Management for Deluxe’s Creative Services
5. Know the Numbers
“Managing and judging the health of any business involves metrics and numbers. In a couple of jobs I’ve had, I didn’t have to focus on numbers; it had more to do with getting the tasks done and out the door. All measurements were anecdotal. In some circumstances that worked, but I found that as I progressed in my career knowing my data was critical to understanding and managing a team or business. If I needed to learn something new or to understand the challenges my team might be facing, it was helpful to know what metrics or KPIs were critical for success and progress from that standpoint. It rippled out from there, the numbers and data expanded to process and workflows, people, tools, infrastructure and so on. Numbers gave me a deeper understanding of the challenges, along with goals to target, and a means to measure progress and success.” — Melissa Cao, VP of Product Management for Deluxe’s Creative Services
You are people of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
“Because of how media consumption is changing, we have a large demographic of key influencers and media figures who are using technology as their personal platform to inspire movements and do good in their communities of fans and followers. My goal is to ensure that their stories and voices are being distributed accurately and globally and to define and create not only a platform that leverages technology to streamline our industry’s imminent needs, but also lay the foundation for the future of the entertainment business and creative landscape.
We have lots of movements that are already taking place. My focus is on continuing to innovate and drive the ways in which consumers and content interact and engage so that movements that are changing lives and society for the better can grow and expand. The first step is enabling the positive leaders of today and giving them the tools they need to increase awareness and education at a global level about their causes.” — Hannah Barnhardt, Deluxe’s Director of Product Strategy
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you put bananas and money in front of monkeys, monkeys will choose bananas, because monkeys do not know that money can buy a lot of bananas. In reality, if you put money and health in front of people, people tend to choose money, because too many people do not know that health can bring more money and happiness!”
– Jack Ma
“In my nearly 20-year career, I was never truly happy until I was able to achieve “work-life balance” or “work-life alignment.” In my twenties, work was always my priority and I prioritized it at the expense of my health, and sometimes even personal relationships. I can’t even count the number of days that I’d be at work past midnight and picking up Del Taco for dinner on the way home. While I was successful at work, I wasn’t happy because physically and mentally I felt miserable. It wasn’t until I finally decided that I needed to put myself on the to-do list too that things started to turn around. I joined a gym, hired a personal trainer, and also adopted the sweetest dog ever from the humane society. After I started to make sure that I was also allotted time to take care of my health and personal life, I was able to truly feel happy.” Sherry Kao, VP of New Technology, Deluxe
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
“I would love to have breakfast with the late Fred Rogers. As a child, I loved watching re-runs of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” (one of the shows I watched to learn English!), and I continue to be inspired by his compassionate and strong example of using influence to navigate difficult questions, provide representation, fight bias, and advocate for change.” Evangeline Lee, Head of UI/UX Product Management, Deluxe
How can our readers follow you on social media?