Smashing Spotlight: Samantha Jacobsen, Production Manager
Ever wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Samantha Jacobsen, Production Manager, to talk shop, how she helps manage 100+ sites in multiple languages around the globe for Sony Pictures Television, her tips for overseeing large-scale server migrations, and the role that homemade baked goods has on team cohesion.
You help manage one of Smashing’s longest standing clients, Sony Pictures Television. The work spans 100+ sites, in multiple languages around the globe. How do you tackle a scope of this magnitude?
My secret weapon is my incredible team of producers. Maya, Amanda, and Yuka really do all of the leg work; I’m here to provide historical information, share the nuggets of knowledge lodged in my brain from six years of working on the platforms and tools, or be the bearer of bad news when things go awry. I also rely heavily on the patience and expertise of the developers and Lindsey, our QA specialist, to provide me with the information I need to make recommendations to Sony Pictures Television about the platform, de-escalate issues, and generally sound intelligent when talking to stakeholders. They all make me look really good.
Speaking of those 100+ sites, what was your best offense when you helped oversee the migration of them from Sony servers to Amazon Web Services?
We had actually done a migration to the Sony servers just over a year before, so when the migration to Amazon Web Services (AWS) was greenlit, I scrounged up all of the major issues we had the first time around and ensured those were accounted for.
The AWS migration came with its own special issues, but the biggest issue that was shared by both was content migration from one server to the next. Communication with our many content editors around the globe was key. They are constantly adding content and often before our workday begins. By using group Basecamp threads (in which it looked like I was mostly talking to myself), I kept our 16 regions abundantly aware of the snags we ran into that caused shifts or lifts in content freezes, and I did my darnedest to minimize the amount of work lost.
Your team is known for its tight-knit, supportive dynamic. What are some of the ways you help guarantee team alignment? Any funny quirks?
I think a healthy mixture of trust, respect, and teasing is what makes us so close. Jokes about the height impairment of producers are usually accompanied by brilliant ideas about user experience improvements from QA, or the fix to a particularly troublesome bug from a developer. We are a bunch of brilliant people, but we also communicate very well, we support each other’s ideas and reservations, and no one is safe from torment (nor is anyone innocent of dishing it out). Homemade baked goods help too.
You have a background in film and television. Does this ever affect your decision-making process when tackling complex issues with Sony?
Coming from film/TV always makes me think twice about why we should or shouldn’t do a particular feature or task, and it can dictate whether I escalate an issue or not. Our end users are, first and foremost, television watchers and movie goers. They come to our sites for more episodes, movie news, etc., so we need to make smart decisions about how to best enrich their extended experience without cluttering it up with unnecessary features and functionality. This sometimes means having to transform, or even turn down, requests from stakeholders.
How do you remember all of the nuances of the numerous Sony Pictures Television properties and their sites?
I’ve always had great memory recall, but I also think it has a little something to do with wanting everyone to be as happy as humanly possible. I genuinely care that the regions I support have everything they need to operate smoothly and create the websites they want. Cataloguing their content, their past issues, and unique functionality in my mind allows me to quickly resolve issues, catch issues before they hit production, or provide context for why something is the way it is. I like to think I’m saving time and headaches for what I consider to be my hundreds of Sony teammates.
You’ve recently become engaged to a fellow Smashing employee. First things first…CONGRATS! As a production manager, are your managerial instincts in overdrive while planning your wedding? How many spreadsheets do you have?
Thank you! I have a single workbook but it does have multiple sheets…
My natural organizational instincts have kicked in, but I wouldn’t say I’m in production management overdrive. Yes, tasks have been doled out and I’m keeping a close eye on milestones…but we’re a really great team, so there’s hardly any real work to be managed!