Episode 3: Dr Yioula Kyriacou – Head of Engineering at CyBC

How does one of Europe’s smallest broadcasters maintain a technical edge with just a small team of busy engineers? In this podcast, we meet Dr Yioula Kyriacou, Head of Engineering for Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC).
Yioula leads of team of broadcast and IT engineers who deal daily with the merging boundaries between computer technology and broadcast infrastructure. How does she attract new talent and how has her own training in project management helped to drive technological change within CyBC.

Episode 3

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. SkillBytes is a podcast series, where we’re exploring changing skill sets and career paths in today’s media technology environment. Our guest for this episode of SkillBytes is Yioula Kyriacou from the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation.

Yioula Preview Clip: I truly believe in the power of technology. If you manage it correctly and if you look at the organisation as a system. And the system for me consists of the social and the technical.

Eoghan: Yioula, thanks for joining us.

Yioula: Thanks for having me.

Eoghan: You are head of engineering at CyBC. But before we talk about that in a little bit more detail, I’m going to give you thirty seconds to summarise your professional career to date.

Yioula: OK, that’s a bit less than thirty seconds per year! So, I started my career as an engineer. Then I moved to Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation and for the last twelve years, I’m head of engineering. Nowadays, I mostly do project management and leading teams. And I’m mainly busy with changing the technology scenery in CyBC.

Eoghan: So as head of engineering, I guess you have a number of people reporting to you. What sort of team do you have?

Yioula: I have a team of engineers: electronic and broadcast engineers, but also information technology computer engineers. We keep two networks: a separate broadcast network where we have our playout and production network, and the information technology network. But we mix them. So, when we have meetings, we get together – we share ideas. The IT engineers are a bit more relaxed in the way of, “let’s shut down the server” and they don’t take into consideration that we have to be on time on air; while the broadcast engineers have this broadcast spirit, as we call it. But when we mix together, then we make the winning team.

Eoghan: You’ve been with the CyBC for some years now. Have you found that the culture is changing? For example, among the broadcast engineers as broadcasting becomes more influenced by information technology.

Yioula: Yes, I can see the engineer’s culture changing. My first project was about fifteen years ago for automating our television playout. There was a lot of resistance at that time. While here for the last projects that I have been involved in, like the multimedia newsroom system that was just put on air last December, the resistance to change was less.

Eoghan: And do you have some ideas about why there’s been that change?

Yioula: I think it’s the skills that I developed in project management, and I embarked in different models in managing technological projects. And I think this helped a lot.

Eoghan: Tell me a little bit more about that. What has changed between the way that you would have managed projects in the past and now that you’ve done quite a bit of training in project management?

Yioula: It was my PhD studies: I did research on how to manage technological change in order to enable assimilation of technologies. So, one of the factors was that the more frequently you introduce technologies into an organisation, the most likely they are going to be assimilated fast. Another important factor was the involvement of all stakeholders (including all users, journalists, producers, engineers), the training on the technical systems and we never give a system to the users if it is not ready. It is the reliability of the systems.

Eoghan: Tell me, has there been much change in your team in the past ten years? Have you had many changes of personnel there?

Yioula: Unfortunately, because of the economic crisis that we had in Cyprus, we couldn’t recruit new personnel. We’re trying now to recruit IT, engineers because we want to ensure that we have security on our networks. So, we’re hoping to have soon new engineers. But from my research (we) also have found that the ability of the organisation to have technologies; it also impacts talent management. And talent management, at least in the studies and the models that I have developed with my professor, is measured in talent attraction and retention. So, it’s not enough only to attract talent, but you have to retain talent.

Eoghan: So, if we look at the talent attraction side of that equation, does CyBC represent an organisation that is an attractive organisation for young IT engineers to work for at this point?

Yioula: Maybe it wasn’t a few years ago, but because we have installed the media asset management with our production and archive platform and our playout for television and radio (and all this is on one platform – it’s unified – as I call it, the media factory of CyBC) I think now this can be an attractive workspace for young engineers.

Eoghan: Do you have some strategies in place already in terms of retaining that talent? Are there some things that you have in mind that that will help you to hold on to these young engineers when they join the organisation?

Yioula: I am trying to give autonomy because I believe that autonomy is one of the key motivators. And also, the feeling of community. I try to give them leading-edge projects to work on. And for me the most important is the team building and we are a strong team… and I think this is one, when we discuss with the guys (because I don’t have female engineers on my team…) it’s one of our biggest advantages as a team that we are a very strong team.

Eoghan: It is still very much a man’s world, the world of engineering in broadcast organisations. How has that been for you?

Yioula: It has been a bit difficult because I started my career about twenty-five, twenty-six years ago. But I find my skills as a woman to be helping me in this changing world. I don’t try to behave like a man. I just am myself. I care about my team. I care about my colleagues. We try to evolve together and try to learn together. I keep open communications, building a strong team and it works for me. I enjoy it.

Eoghan: Do you think that in future you will see more women coming into the technology and engineering teams at CyBC?

Yioula: I can see young women coming into engineering in general. But broadcast engineering is very specific engineering. It’s twenty-four-seven, so it’s a bit difficult for a work/life balance. But with these new platforms and the new media that is getting streamed (and it’s not like live song contests or football matches) maybe yes, and I hope so. I hope so.

Eoghan: When you look at other, for example, large public broadcasters around Europe, Cyprus would be among the smaller countries and your organisation would be among the smaller broadcasters. Do you feel that it brings advantages being smaller like that, or do you look with envy at some of the larger broadcasters who perhaps have more resources available?

Yioula: Yes, I can see the advantages of being small because we are more agile, and we can do things. We get the chance to get involved in everything. For example, myself, I get involved and go to the stadium to do football coverage. On the other hand, being so small, it doesn’t give us the opportunity to test new systems. So, we are followers, we’re not the leaders. And the other disadvantage, if I can say it: it’s a bit difficult to focus really deep into a standard technology, and this is where the EBU helps us a lot to have the standards so we can rely on when writing the specifications.

Eoghan: So, within your teams, you feel that may be because you have relatively small teams, maybe compared to some other organisations, people don’t have an opportunity to really develop very deep skills in a particular area: everybody needs to be quite hands-on across the board?

Yioula: Exactly, and this is our problem, especially now that the scenery is changing, and we need to learn about IP production and security. And information technology is converging so deeply with the broadcast technology, we would really need the time to educate ourselves.

Eoghan: So at the end of our SkillBytes podcast, I would like to return to you again and specifically to ask you that if you had an opportunity to give a piece of advice to yourself at the start of your career, what piece of advice might you give to yourself?

Yioula: Maybe not stay in Cyprus because Cyprus is a very small country with a very small opportunity to really get on new technologies and develop into being at the edge of what’s happening, Also, in regard to technologies but also in regard to strategy. And I’m missing this as well.

Eoghan: Yioula Kyriacou, thank you for joining us on MediaRoad SkillBytes.

Yioula: Thank you very much for having me.

Eoghan:  You can find more information on the initiative that has inspired this series by heading to www.mediaroad.eu