It's time for another "Industry Spotlight," our monthly series where we interview professionals from across the entertainment industry about their current jobs and career trajectories. Our hope is that you will learn more about the positions you're already interested in, discover new roles you may not have considered, and utilize the wisdom of those who've paved the way before you to forge your own path for success.
This month, we sat down with Heather Blanda, Director, Programming Planning at Crackle.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: What is your main job function?
HEATHER: I lead the strategic planning, network scheduling, and curation of all content, including premium TV series and features (both licensed and original) across the OTT digital streaming service, Crackle. Planning includes annual, monthly, and daily schedules as well as themed playlists to achieve the network KPI [Key Performance Indicator] goals and increase viewership. I am also responsible for determining the content merchandised on Sony Crackle’s primary promotional levers (Multiplex Channels, Homepage Slideshow, and Featured Sections), based on data analytics, insights, and network priorities.
HR: What is your day-to-day like?
HEATHER: In my current role at Crackle, every day is a snowflake -- you never know what's going to pop up. The industry is evolving at such a fast pace that it is necessary to be nimble and pivot at a moment's notice. The first thing I do when I get in the office is check the network and make sure it looks good and that everything is working properly -- always. Daily, I am in a lot of cross-functional meetings to align strategy and business solutions, and I answer emails and field questions from my team that pertain to the daily and monthly schedules.
I also manage a three person scheduling team to create and implement data-driven, curated network schedules across OTT and VOD platforms including desktop, mobile, connected TV (e.g., Roku, Amazon FireTV), and gaming consoles (Xbox, PlayStation).
HR: What do you like most about your job?
HEATHER: I love that programming is the information hub for the network. We are the center of the wheel, and all work starts with our planning. I had always wanted to work in entertainment, but I wasn't always sure in what capacity. Programming sort of found me, and it is the perfect blend of creative and business -- working within a corporate structure affords me job stability and business experience. What I like about Crackle is that it has opened up all sorts of opportunities. While running the network, I have also produced a short form series, acquired a wealth of tech knowledge, and gained a lot of exposure to acquisitions, development, and marketing that wouldn't typically happen at a larger, more established entity. It has given me a 360 degree perspective on the business. I also really like working on a studio lot, but that is a unique characteristic of Crackle. Typically, programming teams work out of headquarters.
HR: How did you get your current job?
HEATHER: I was referred by two separate colleagues for this position. My skill set from my linear programming days really lent itself to this role, as they were looking for someone with that background.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood?
HEATHER: My first job in the industry was an unpaid internship at a small production company called AXIAL Entertainment. I was an office PA, and we produced one of AMC's first unscripted original series called INTO CHARACTER. I loved it, but I wiped out my savings while paying my dues! That's the business though...at least it was when I started. My first paying job in LA was with Nickelodeon -- they relocated me across the country to run the programming division on the West Coast and provide a communication bridge from network to studio. I worked closely with the executives in charge on both the animation and live action teams. It was probably one of my favorite roles I've had in my career.
HR: What are the skills someone would need to succeed in your position?
HEATHER: Programmers are the most detail-oriented people. We are the information center for the network, and it is our job to ensure communication is flawless. One mistake could risk violating a contract and cost a lot of money. Programmers are the network police, and customer experience is our number one priority. A great colleague of mine used to say, "Programmers cancel shows," but what she meant was that if our audience doesn't want it, we won't keep it. If they love it, we will. Her words may have been little callous, but also true -- we make business decisions based on data.
To be a great programmer, you need to be a strong communicator, hard-working, strategic, analytical, and above all -- you must love content. Programmers can be a little nerdy -- we geek out on TV and movies...it's our passion. It's the core of our business, and it's what we live and breathe.
HR: If you don't like _____________, you won't like my job.
HEATHER: Offices, Excel, meetings, or politics.
HR: What’s something you do in your job that an outsider wouldn’t expect (and maybe you didn’t expect before you took the job!)?
HEATHER: There is always a misconception when I say I'm a programmer. I'm not writing computer code or script. Additionally, programmers are on the receiving end of the production/acquisitions timeline -- we receive final projects and put them on the air. It's broadcasting, business, data, budget management, crisis management...and a lot of team management. My mom always asks me why she can't see my name in the credits -- it's because I didn't produce the show.
I also am heavily involved in app development and have gained significant knowledge on back-end product management. I never thought I'd be working with tech in this way, but it's a big part of this job. Engineers and programmers need to collaborate in the streaming universe a lot.
HR: What’s a mistake you made early on in your career?
HEATHER: I let others determine my value. It took me a long time to give myself the credit I deserved and take my career into my own hands. If I had to do it again, I probably would have left my last job sooner to develop my career a little faster. But I worked through two major recessions -- I was lucky to have a job, and security was important to me. I don't have regrets -- it was circumstantial.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice to someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
HEATHER: There isn't one track, and there is no "right way." Hard work pays off, and networking is critical. But just because you are somewhere for two years doesn't mean you will be promoted -- that said, everyone's path is different. Be patient with yourself and the process. Sometimes you have to sidestep before you move up. From my experience, you have to do the job before you get the promotion or the position. But -- it's a passion industry, and we do it because we friggin' LOVE it! :)
HR: Thanks, Heather!