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Meet the senior product manager

Dejero's Francois Vaillant reveals how his career has gone from starting out in the Canadian Air Force to the broadcast industry, and how it now involves asking the question 'why' a lot

Francois Vaillant – senior product manager, Dejero
Talk us through an average day in your role

My day-to-day is all about product development for short-term, mid-term and long-term strategy. I’m dedicated to the broadcast side of Dejero’s business and would say 80 per cent of my time is spent on the short-term – helping to prioritise what’s on the table right now and aligning the development and release of a feature or product with our customers’ immediate demands.

I liaise with R&D, sales, support, product marketing and of course our broadcast customers in order to navigate priorities for our roadmap – what needs to be done immediately, in a year’s time and where we should be in 3-5 years. I also ask a lot of ‘whys’ about the relevance of a feature or product – how many people will it benefit? What about the economies of scale? The impact on our resources and on the wider industry?

It’s my job to know the current challenges that broadcasters face versus future challenges so diving deep into industry trends through market research and having regular discussions with key influencers is an important part of my role. It’s a real privilege to speak with the industry’s innovators on a daily basis and to be at the forefront of ground-breaking product development. 

How did you get started in the media industry?

I’d been working in telecoms as operations director for around 12 years, leading all the installation teams and support teams made up of 150+ technicians, when I started working with a broadcast customer. I found the industry fascinating, especially the speed at which it was developing. This is when I applied to join CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) and I haven’t looked back. It gave me the opportunity to eventually lead CBC’s IP transformation, which started in 2017. My job was to ensure consistency of capital investment and the unification and standardisation of the company’s technical architecture.

What training did you have before entering the industry?

I started with a degree in electronics and specialised in avionics with the first part of my career in aviation, which included working for the Canadian Air Force. Electronics is highly transferable across industries and Telecoms then started beckoning in the early 1990s because of the exponential growth in the market. 

Why do you enjoy working in the industry?

This industry is incredibly dynamic and its needs and challenges change from week to week. It’s not just about the technology though, but about the passion of the people that this industry seems to draw. The consumer/audience is what drives the technology – and to think that we’ve moved from analogue to SDI to HD and IP over such a short period is quite mind-boggling – along with all the different platforms on which video content is being consumed – and how it gets there, with production crews using small wireless devices to transmit broadcast quality video live from any location. We can actually see the impact we’re making to our industry on a daily basis with the content that appears on our screens. Being Canadian, I played ice hockey for many years and I’m a big NHL fan — just seeing how game coverage has improved in terms of quality and perspective, and how related content has evolved across platforms — is rewarding from a broadcast professional’s perspective.  

I’m proud to say that this industry gave me the chance to be a pioneer in one of the world’s first IP implementations at CBC. And now, with Dejero, I’m at the forefront of the virtualised, cloud-based technology movement. I’ve been lucky to have been involved with the development of some incredibly versatile platforms that can be diversified across different markets. It really is an exciting place to be.

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

My role is all about making a difference to broadcaster’s day to day. If you are passionate, curious and personable, you’ll go far.

From the early days, I always made sure that I was always communicating with innovators and encouraging ideas from my team. I would also prompt those who are looking to become a senior product manager to get involved in industry bodies. I am a long-standing member of SMPTE and have been its Canadian governor for the past two years. I also represented CBC for ten years at NABA (North American Broadcast Association) and EBU (European Broadcast Union), which has put me in great stead.

It’s essential to get ahead of the game so that you can have meaningful conversations, stay relevant and truly understand what your customers are facing. Everyone is trying to drive simplicity into their day-to-day – how can you simplify what you do and simplify your customers’ jobs? 

Being organised and knowing what restrictions you’re playing with in terms of available technology, cost and resource is also critical to this role.

But, one of the best pieces of advice I can give is to work with people and companies that instil you with pride. And to make sure that you step back every now and then to admire your contributions and your achievements. You’re not just an engineer, you are part of something bigger.