GARY SMITH has recently joined SIS as Chief Operating Officer and a member of the board. Here, he introduces himself and gives his first impressions of SIS.
There aren’t many new jobs which whisk you off to Wimbledon during the first few days – but I struck lucky with SIS!
Okay, I spent more time being wowed by satellite vans than Murray’s backhand, but seeing the SIS outside broadcast team in action was an equally impressive sight.
The fact they roll up at live events with their cutting edge uplink and camera capabilities, to deliver professional, high quality pictures to a huge and diverse range of customers, is quite something. Having seen them in action, I can see why they’re unrivalled in Europe.
Add to that SIS’s visionary move to MediaCityUK in Salford, with many customers on-hand, and the construction of the new state-of the-art satellite teleport – the largest in the north of the UK – and I feel privileged to have joined a company that’s ahead of the game.
I was attracted to SIS because it’s a fascinating business with complex and diverse capabilities, operating in a constantly evolving industry. I really admire the resources and expertise it has and feel particularly fortunate to have joined it at this time.
My background in engineering gives me an analytical approach to problem solving which has served me well ever since. Managing construction projects in London and Malaysia also developed my project management skills which I easily transferred to IT and then to television with BSkyB.
At BSkyB I was the commercial guy in the “skunk works” team that developed the red button technology, first used for the Sky Bet service before moving on to look after the broadcaster such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 which used the Sky platform, ensuring the smooth delivery of their services.
I then had an opportunity to move to Canada to run the Bell Video Group with responsibility for Bell ExpressVu, Canada’s largest satellite television business, and the creation of Bell’s landline-based IPTV service, Fibe TV.
My next move – to step off the career ladder for a while and complete a full-time MBA and a Chartered Director programme - was unfinished business I’d carried with me since graduating from university.
As your career becomes more specialised I think there’s a danger of becoming a little bit narrow in your outlook. I wanted to develop my knowledge, interests and skill sets and the MBA exceeded my expectations in every respect. It stretched my perspectives and taught me about aspects of business and the economy you don’t come across in every day working life. For example, I worked with a not-for-profit organisation transferring diabetes expertise from Canada to China. You don’t get those sort of opportunities without moving away from the corporate world for a while.
During that time, I held a non-executive board position with GameTV, a broadcaster in Canada focussed on the use of interactive technology for in-home gaming.
Canada has no comparable service to SIS TV (the service for bookmakers) because gaming and betting is highly regulated in Canada. There is no off-course betting, only gaming, and that takes place in casinos and bingo halls. SIS LIVE (the OB business), does have an equivalent in Canada. It's called Dome Productions and is owned by two major terrestrial broadcasters.
When the time came to step back into the corporate world full-time, the opportunity of joining SIS as COO was exactly the sort of role I was looking for. I hoped to utilise my experience and knowledge and stretch myself with new challenges - and I think SIS is the perfect match.
Going forward, I want to help deliver the exciting changes already afoot and play my part in making the business even more successful. We’re constantly revising our SIS LIVE packages, for example, to respond to industry changes.
With SIS FACTS and other additional services, I’ll help ensure we have the products customers want and that our strong satellite delivery platform continues to provide a top class service.
I hope to write again later when I’ve had time to settle in and – hopefully – come up with some useful suggestions for our continued growth. But for now, SIS is quite simply a very interesting place to be and I feel fortunate to have been given the opportunity to help in its continued success.