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On the Record with Rose: Chris Smith

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Chris has been working for Brightspot since June 2018

Rose goes on the record with video technology maverick, 3D modeler and all-around nice guy Chris Smith to learn more about his role as a Senior Product Manager on Brightspot's platform team.

How long have you worked at Brightspot? What brought you here?
I've been at Brightspot for two and a half years now. I had heard about Brightspot before because I used to be a client at AccuWeather. At AccuWeather, we were looking to get off of an old, terrible legacy CMS that required developers to allow editors to publish or update a promo on the homepage. When we were looking for a different platform we discovered Brightspot. I remember working with Brightspot and actually coming to the office. I appreciated the commitment they had to really making their customers successful. Later on, I was looking at making a move back to the D.C. area and I saw that Brightspot, which was still Perfect Sense at the time, was hiring. So I was like, let's see what's going on there. I liked what I saw and decided to join.

I heard that you are currently managing the ongoing development of Media Desk, Brightspot's digital asset manager. Can you explain more about how Media Desk is used by our customers and its value?
When people hear about Brightspot they usually hear about our Content Business Platform, and the use case there is high-volume publishing at scale for your website. However, we also get clients that are interested in a digital asset management solution. Maybe they don't want to publish articles, multimedia or things like that straight to the front end, but they have thousands and thousands of assets. It could be images, documents or other media, and they just want to have it stored and integrated with their other solutions. That's where Brightspot Media Desk comes in. Customers like Johnson & Johnson and The Los Angeles Times leverage media desk, and it's so interesting because each of them has very specific and different use cases for using the DAM. One uses it as a brand portal website where they can tackle the digital rights management of their marketing materials and assets for internal stakeholders and external partners. While the other is leveraging it as an archive to save all their print articles, videos and audio. They even have librarians that are using and searching through all of those assets. It's all pretty interesting and cool.

Prior to leading Media Desk, you helped oversee the development of several new integrations for Brightspot. Does any one integration that you managed stand out as your favorite? Why?
I have to pick a favorite?! Probably the one that stands out is our integration with Amazon Elemental. The use case there is anyone coming from an online video platform like Brightcove or Ooyla, who is finding that these solutions don't meet their needs. With Amazon Elemental, we turn Brightspot into a video platform so editors can manage livestream workflows, transcoding, edit videos, add in overlays, etc. It adds a lot of great functionality into Brightspot. It's really a good example of how robust our integrations can be within the platform, so it is one that stands out for me.

Your worked in the media space for nearly a decade prior to joining to Brightspot. How have you leaned on your past experiences at Gannett, Accuweather and CBS Interactive in your current role?
In my past roles I learned a lot about digital video and storytelling. So, that's something that I am really passionate about. Video is one of the highest growing formats for media consumption, especially during the pandemic, and everyone is now out there watching Netflix or using video-based calls like Zoom. A lot of what I learned is the foundation and fundamentals of video streaming and the technology of the video tech stack. When it comes to working on the Elemental integration, that knowledge is really helpful when we're talking to prospects and discussing their video needs and pain points in order to understand how Brightspot can help them be successful.

What characteristics are most important to making you successful at your job?
For me, personally, it is empathy and understanding people. Understanding the users in product management is really important, particularly understanding what a user wants and needs and how to fulfill that need. It's also helpful when working with coworkers and collaborating on projects. It's beneficial to understand different objectives, perspectives and backgrounds and open your mind to those as you work together to move a project forward.

How do you think you've grown professionally during your time at Brightspot?
I think professionally I've learned a lot about cloud-based architecture while working at Brightspot because much of our infrastructure is hosted in AWS. We're even working with other vendors like Azure and Google. Before I didn't have that expertise or knowledge—I just had a surface-level understanding. Here, I've had the opportunity to work with our ops team and engineers to understand our prospects' and clients' needs, and that has really enhanced my insight and has been really helpful.

Besides the people, what is your favorite part about working at Brightspot?
Here you get to work with so many different clients, in different industries, and with many different use cases. From video streaming to article authoring, to using different third-party services, to playing back video on the front end, to personalization, or whatever—it's really interesting seeing their needs and finding a way to meet them. There's never a boring day, which is fun, and it's something I like a lot about working here.

What has been a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic for you?
You save a lot of money! Every weekend before quarantine, I would drive to Southern Maryland to visit my family or I'd hangout with friends in the city and we would take an Uber, go out to eat or go out to the movies. All of these little things just add up. I also feel like not commuting has saved me a lot of time. Now I have more time for hobbies or learning new things.

What are your favorite activities or hobbies to do outside of the office?
I've been learning 3D modeling and I'll make little 3D virtual sets. I made a cyber-punk city block a couple of months ago. Recently, I just worked on making a little cottage in a forest. It's been pretty interesting and I've been making some cool art!

What was the last movie you saw? Do you recommend it?
I been watching a show called 60 Days In. The premise is there are sheriffs at various jails and they are having issues. They are trying to improve the overall prison experience and curb the illegal activity at their jail. To gain more insight into what is happening, they have six to seven participants—just regular everyday people—and they go undercover as prisoners to find out any information they can share. It's insane to me and these people are in there for 60 days! So, I've been binge watching that on Hulu lately. It's so funny and so scary. I definitely recommend it. It makes you never want to go to jail.

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