Q&A with Karen Painter, Head of Media Software & Services

“If we want technology to serve society rather than enslave it, we have to build systems accessible to all people - be they male or female, young, old, disabled, computer wizards or technophobes.” - Anita Borg

For those of you not familiar with Anita Borg, she was an American computer scientist who founded the Institute for Women in Technology and was a leading advocate for women to join the technical revolution as active participants and leaders. She also founded the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, which most recently took place October 19-21 in Houston, TX.

During this year’s event, Turner’s Head of Media Software and Services Karen Painter – Who leads all software and app developments as well as its infrastructure - participated in the Technical Executive Forum (Tech Exec Forum), an annual, invitation‐only event for C‐suite technical executives interested in leveraging diversity for innovation and driving company culture.

Recently Karen helped launch LiTT – Ladies in Technology at Turner – forming the first community at Turner for women in technology created by women in technology. Fresh off this launch and the Grace Hopper event we sat down with Karen to ask her about her experience there and share insights into how this impacts her role at Turner.

Managing such a diverse technical portfolio for so many distinct and recognizable brand properties must be quite a challenge. Can you tell us more about your organization and your role?

It’s a really fun challenge, and the way it is possible is by having such amazing teams across the Media Software & Services (MSS) organization. With over 400 applications in our portfolio, we have a diverse set of responsibilities which include digital properties (com sites for NBA, NBA League Pass, CNN, CNN Money, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and more), back office systems (for HR, Finance, Legal, Properties, Ad Sales, Content Distribution, Rights Management and more), the Turner Data Cloud and common platforms (such as content management systems, video platforms & member services platforms). We also provide second and third-tier support for the apps we build and infrastructure and operations for selected systems.

John Martin, Turner CEO, recently gave an interview with Recode and discussed how Turner is evolving its technical capabilities. From your perspective, what are some of the more noticeable changes, and what can we expect down the road?

That interview with Recode was well worth reading. In it, John Martin talks about how we are shifting to a consumer-first organization, and that’s definitely reflected in our technology roadmap. It identifies 15 major programs of work that really allows us to put the consumer first and reimagine TV. The way that GTO has come together guided by the technology roadmap and Jeremy [Legg]’s leadership is noticeably different.

As we move to a broadcast over IP technology stack and do more with our Turner Data Cloud and our ad sales, we can give consumers programs and advertising they are interested in. We’ll know a lot about consumers through the Turner Data Cloud, and we’ll be able to target our advertising and programming to them. 

The other thing that is really different and exciting is our willingness to standardize on technology platforms such as our content management system and You.i Engine development platform. Both efforts reflect a movement toward consolidating our technology stack, which allows us to simplify, reduce our technical debt and move quickly to get things done.
In looking at business capabilities of the future, I’m excited about being able to consume our content anywhere on multiple devices and about making searching for our content easier. From where I sit, our content is getting better and better.

What role did your team play in the development of FilmStruck?
On the surface, FilmStruck is a beautiful product with a very simple and elegant design, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. While the Media Software & Services (MSS) team was responsible for implementing the FilmStruck product, this was an effort that spanned all of Global Technology and Operations (GTO) and the TCM Digital Team.

It really takes a village to build something like this. We worked with external vendors like You.i to develop a single code base that can be deployed across multiple devices easily. They were also responsible for making the design come to life within the mobile applications. We leveraged Accenture’s Video Solution (AVS) product for backend support. The content supply chain ensured content and metadata were received from all the distributors, put into the correct transcode and encode, and delivered to the cloud for FilmStruck to utilize. We took advantage of already existing infrastructure like iStreamPlanet for Digital Rights Management and the Turner Data Cloud for analytics.

In addition to the technology, we had to create a brand new support model since consumers would be calling Turner for support, which is new for us.  We are leveraging a company called 24/7 for online support of FilmStruck. 
All in all there was much to figure out, but thankfully GTO partnered with an amazing client, TCM, who helped us make this a reality.

You recently attended the Grace Hopper Conference can you tell us about your first ever experience? 
It was a wonderful experience, and I look forward to continuing to participate and contribute to it. Together with leading Turner technologists Melissa Koehler and Maigh Houlihan, who joined me at the Grace Hopper Conference, we were part of roughly 15,000 women technologists from more than 60 countries.

The representation of the companies that were involved was very impressive with hundreds of different topics and speakers. Personally, I enjoyed the many ways in which diversity was covered, and I was specifically intrigued by the conversation we had around temperament. Susan Cain, author of the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, led with this topic as her keynote.

Why is a partnership with the Anita Borg Institute so important for Turner?
I was pleased to see that a lot of people used the Grace Hopper Conference – ABI’s cornerstone event – for recruitment. Many had booths set up to demonstrate the growing importance of attracting female tech talent and to foster discussions about their companies.

Turner’s involvement is just getting started. I saw a number of thought-provoking initiatives in which we’ll want to become involved such as the Quiet Revolution, (a group of Anita Borg Institute Partners creating cultures where women (and introverts) thrive.) Taking part in these initiatives will also allow us to form some interesting partnerships.  

Working with groups that focus on getting more women into our workforce, especially in technology, excites me. And I’m extremely proud of our Ladies in Tech at Turner (LiTT) group that Melissa and Maigh have formed. It’s another step toward creating a more diverse workforce. We all collectively become stronger when we have a diverse workforce.