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Meet the… VP of product

Tim Baldwin, VP product at Zixi, explains his journey into the media industry and the varying qualities required of a product manager

Talk us through an average day in your role

Being a product manager means what you do on any given day can be completely different than any other day. Product managers are often the glue in an organisation that connects sales, marketing, engineering, and QA. For that reason, in a given day you might be on a sales call explaining key features to a customer and then working with QA to track down a software bug or benchmark product performance and then working with engineering on improving UI design and then working with marketing on the product messaging for the next software release. Somewhere in the midst of this, you are also reviewing feature requests that come in from customers and prioritising them into the product roadmap.

How did you get started in the media industry?

Through a connection from a friend, I started working as a consultant with a software-based live video encoding company called Kulabyte. At the time all of the broadcast quality encoding solutions were delivered as turn-key hardware solutions whereas Kulabtye’s solution could be installed on an off-the-shelf server hardware with Blackmagic PCIe cards for video capture. That consulting gig turned into a full-time role owning product, marketing, and customer support at Kulabyte. Eventually, Kulabyte was acquired by Haivision and I continued owning product management for the internet streaming products at Haivision.

What training did you have before entering the industry?

None. Prior to video streaming/broadcast media, I was in the semiconductor industry and had no formal experience with video encoding and streaming. However, I was always interested in video processing and had used ffmpeg, for example, to process video files from a camera or captured from broadcast TV via a PCIe over-the-air capture card. Having cut the cable TV cord in 2004, I was also an early adopter of streaming video with the first Roku box and the VoD streaming services it provided at the time.

Why do you enjoy working in the industry?

I enjoy live video streaming and broadcast media because the requirements and technology needed to meet those requirements never stand still. To continue to provide the best entertainment product for consumers, the solutions provided by the industry are, at a minimum, evolving and sometimes taking large leaps. Some new solutions work out well, such as 4K video, while others do not gain much traction, like 3D TV, but the industry continuously works towards a better experience for the consumer and in return higher advertising rates. With the requirements constantly changing and with typical cost consciousness among broadcast media companies, there is always the need for innovation and creative solutions.

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

A key requirement of a product management role is being able to communicate and engage with many different teams inside the organisation. This requires a well-rounded person with deep technical proficiency and knowledge of customer use cases and work flows as well as an understanding of sales processes, pricing and packaging, and go to market strategies. Also, as a product manager, you are responsible for the success of your product, but most of the team members you need to make your product successful do not report to you. Your ability to lead and inspire others to deliver the vision you have for your product will largely determine how successful you are as a product manager.