This is the first episode of our new podcast series, MediaRoad SkillBytes: where we’re exploring changing skill sets and career paths in today’s media technology environment. Our first guest is Léonard Bouchet – head of Data and Archives at the French-speaking Swiss broadcaster RTS.
Léonard shares his experience of developing a new organisational structure within the Data and Archives team and explains what helps to drive rapid change inside RTS.
Eoghan: You’re listening to MediaRoad SkillBytes with me Eoghan O’Sullivan. The MediaRoad project is supporting the transformation of the European media sector by building an ecosystem for innovation. This is the first episode of our new podcast series, SkillBytes: where we’re exploring changing skill sets and career paths in today’s media technology environment. Our first guest is Léonard Bouchet.
Léonard: In broadcasters, we really have cool and good experts in various specific fields. You also need someone who actually knows how to do a lot of different stuff that they are not expert in.
Eoghan: Léonard is head of Data and Archives at the French-speaking Swiss broadcaster RTS.
Léonard: In the world of archives, with Artificial Intelligence, there are a lot of changes in the way we extract the metadata from the content we have.
Eoghan: Léonard, thank you for joining us.
Léonard: Thank you.
Eoghan: Now, clearly, you’ve not always been head of Data and Archives at RTS. So I’m going to give you thirty seconds to summarise your career to date.
Léonard: Great. Thirty seconds. Let’s do it. I actually started as a developer in a private corporation for ten years. And I came to public broadcasting ten years ago as a software developer. Then I was appointed head of mobile development and later the head of digital production. And since two and a-half years, I’m head of Data and Archive.
Eoghan: And what does your job as head of Data and Archive entail?
Léonard: Well, it’s all about data and archive! But it is actually more about people and organising the work of the people or letting the people do the work. Because in my service there are a lot of people who know much better than me what data and archive are. So my main job is to think about a strategy and not getting into their way of doing the job.
Eoghan: Who are these people that you refer to? Who are the people who are working with Data and Archives for RTS these days? What kinds of profile do they have?
Léonard: It’s really diverse. We have a lot of expertise coming from years now of knowing the content like music specialists, for example. We have writers. We have very, very diverse competence and what we’ve seen lately with Artificial Intelligence, there are a lot of changes in the way we handle the data and the way we extract the metadata from the content we have. And so the way we actually put the metadata in also.
Eoghan: This field of AI is an emerging field. There’s a lot of hype around it. How are you going about putting teams together to work with AI and to work in this field?
Léonard: Really, it was an opportunity that we had, eighteen months ago. We met a guy from the digital world who said to us, “but don’t you think we could do something with Machine Learning (and) Deep Learning techniques within the field of archives”. And we had the opportunity to have one talent coming to us saying, “OK, do you want to work in field with me?” And so we had the capability to evolve really quickly in terms of organisation and set up a mini team with him. And this capability to actually change our organisation very quickly, that was related to long experience of agile organisations. I had already quite a lot of experience with agility and different frameworks to organise teams to work efficiently within the software development world. And here in the archive, we’ve adopted a very different mode of organisation which is called Holacracy. And it’s a system that helps empowering people to just have the right decisions at the right places. There is no hierarchy anymore between people. There is a hierarchy though, but that’s more a hierarchy of activities amongst themselves. Because you have a global activity and have multiple activities. And all activities are described in circles. So that’s that’s really a completely and very interesting, different model of organising people.
Eoghan: So I’ve been involved in media in various capacities and looking at innovation and skills and competencies over the last couple of years. This is the first time I’ve come upon this word Hola, hola. I can’t even pronounce it. Holacracy. It sounds like a challenge from managers?
Léonard: Ah it is definitely! It’s really a change of mind from managers. For me it means that we have to develop more the leadership part of managing and let the people work on almost all the other parts. Micromanaging people isn’t at all allowed in this system. Even actually managing people is not allowed at all.
Eoghan: When you come to hire these teams, for example, to work with technology like Artificial Intelligence, what sorts of profile are you looking for?
Léonard: I think one of the key of the success is really to build multi-disciplinary teams and really agile teams that can adapt to different situations and different contexts and different set of data that is output by the machine. So what I think is really key is looking for people who (have) a T-shaped competence. This T shape means in the horizontal part of the T you have what the people can do outside of their expertise field. So they must be people who actually know how to do a lot of different stuff. They are very open to (doing) stuff that they are not expert(s) in. And the vertical bar of the T means you also need someone that has at least one area of expertise.
Eoghan: I’m wondering if this is a change from how we might have looked at broadcast organisations originally. Because really, we thought about having deep expertise and deep skill with a particular technology. It seems to me that a shift towards this T shape profile could offer a framework for staff development and for career progression as well – with people who are already a kind of I shape, deep experts in a particular area.
Léonard: You’re right that in broadcasters we really have cool and good experts in various specific fields. And more than often they are kind of alone. And it’s really hard to have such experts work together with others because they are such experts in their fields. No one actually can work with them. So that’s why you actually never assign the task to one person, normally. It’s always the people who actually take the tasks for themselves. And usually it’s either the team succeeds or the team fails. That means that it allows the team to still go on, even if their expert actually breaks his leg or something like that.
Eoghan: So you’re telling me there’s more than one T in Team?
Léonard: Yeah, exactly! They are all Ts. And I love one rule that I used to hate in Scrum. I dunno if you know the Scrum framework? There is a rule saying “no other title than developer”. At the beginning, when we saw this rule I thought, “well, really this is a stupid rule because you have graphical designers, you have database experts, you have system engineers, you have software developers. They don’t have the same title. But the rule is there to say, OK, you’re actually all team members, That’s it. And that’s very important for the team to go.
Eoghan: If we bring the conversation around then finally to you yourself – in your own career path – and MediaRoad SkillBytes is focused around skills – if you could give yourself one piece of advice at the start of your career from you, to you, what might you say to yourself?
Léonard: I would say, Be curious. I think curiosity is one very important key factor in careers in general. Try to learn and try to experiment. But if I look back, I think that’s what I’ve done somehow.
Eoghan: Léonard Bouchet, thank you very much for talking to us.
Léonard: Thank you.
Eoghan: You can find more information on the initiative that has inspired this series by heading to mediaroad.eu.