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Meet the director of product management

Ateliere Creative Technologies' Eric Toulain discusses why the media industry is "more fun" than any other industry he's worked in, and even though it's a big industry, it often feels like a small world

Eric Toulain, director of product management, Ateliere Creative Technologies 
Talk us through an average day in your role

I lead the product department at Ateliere Creative Technologies, providing an innovative cloud-native SaaS media supply chain. Being based in California, my days start quite early to sync-up with our teams and partners in Europe on our different product initiatives. The rest of the day differs quite a lot from one to another, from analysing the market and competitive landscape to collaborating with sales, marketing, and engineering to gather new ideas, prioritise and document requirements to build a cohesive and innovative roadmap,  when I’m not out there meeting with customers and peers or attending trade shows like NAB, IBC or HPA and SMPTE events.

How did you get started in the media industry?

After 10 years working for diverse industries in France, I joined a broadcast and media software company willing to relocate me to California. I had to learn a whole new lingo specific to the media industry while switching to English as my main language. I started in support in a globally distributed team, and developed my technical and business skills switching to the business and solution side for Americas and APAC, focusing on the bigger picture as my interest grew into the whole chain from content production to delivery, in different verticals including news, sports and theatrical.

What training did you have before entering the industry?

My background is in system, network and telecommunications, so besides some common software and technology knowledge, I didn’t have any industry-related education. I learned on the job delivering project after project to broadcasters and content producers around the world, helped by an insatiable curiosity and incredible mentors willing to pass their knowledge on.

Why do you enjoy working in the industry?

Besides being way more fun than any other industry I worked in, I love thinking that we are spreading emotion and a better knowledge about the world we live in thanks to the democratisation of the internet and innovations in media and streaming technologies. Who would have imagined 20 years ago, how easy it would be to find and watch content from South Korea, Lebanon, or Columbia directly from your phone? Also, while being a big industry, this feels like a small world where you always end up crossing the path of old colleagues and friends which makes it even more enjoyable.

 What piece of advice would you offer someone looking to explore a role similar to yours?

Be curious, always. Ask questions. Try to understand the why, what drives the requests you get from your users and customers, why they do things the way they do them, and what happens upstream and downstream of the workflow. Empathy is an important part of the job, put yourself in their shoes and feel what their pain points and frustration are: how a trivial additional click for you might be a mountain when you have to do the same operation a thousand times every day. Finally, stay relevant, read the industry press to know what is happening in the media landscape and how other technology companies solve some of the biggest problems our users face but don’t limit this to the media industry: also observe the products you use every day as some of the best user experiences hide there.