Accidental Technologist: How One Turner Employee Found Her Dream Job
Stacey Rivers is the director of Technical Skills Analysis and Development in our Global Technology & Operations (GTO) division. In this role, she is responsible for creating strategic programs to help Turner’s current employees continue to build their technical skills as well as help develop a pipeline of talent.
When Rivers joined Cartoon Network in 1999, she saw her entry-level role as a step to pursue her then dream career as a journalist. Dubbed “the accidental technologist,” she blended what became her passion into a role that is integral in our technology organization.
In an interview with Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) Southeast, Rivers shares insight on how she made her own career blueprint.
Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT): Describe your role at Turner.
SR: I am in the Global Technology & Operations Division at Turner; I lead strategic programs for skills development, and for building our tech talent pipeline. The purpose of these programs is to ensure alignment of technical skills with Turner's tech roadmap. I have implemented strategic initiatives for employee development, and our technology internship program, as well as continued to grow our partnerships with colleges, universities, and professional organizations to build our talent pipeline.
WICT: Have you always been interested in the technology space?
SR: I call myself “an accidental technologist” because when I joined Turner as a broadcast operations coordinator for Cartoon Network years ago, I didn’t know I would’ve enjoyed working with technology as much as I did. My original interest was journalism, and I saw my first job at Turner as a stepping-stone to becoming a journalist. Ironically, I got hooked on tech and have since had about six different roles in the technology division. Because of this experience, I always tell students to have a career plan but be open to different experiences because you never know what you will discover about yourself, hence, my personal acronym for BRAVE (Being Ready to Accept Various Experiences).
WICT: The technology landscape is constantly growing and changing. What impact does that have on what you do in your current role?
SR: In my current role, it's crucial for me to not only understand the existing skills in demand, but also what is trending, and what is on the horizon. While we know AI (artificial intelligence) will be a significant disruptor of jobs, what is not known is how profound the impact will be, how roles will change, and what skills employees will have to develop as this emerging tech is integrated into various parts of an organization. Block Chain is also said to be the next disruptor, but the impacts are also still unknown. In my role, I have to be prepared to expand current programs or create new programs to attract and develop these emerging tech skills based on the business strategy.
WICT: What does the future of STEAM for women look like and where do you see your role in it?
SR: I think STEAM is gaining popularity and is being adopted broadly, both academically and professionally. What is exciting about STEAM is it provides an outlet for technologists to pursue creativity as part of learning, fostering innovation. I can't definitively say what the future of STEAM for women may entail, but I think it brings another element that will give companies a competitive advantage for people who harness both tech and creativity skills.
WICT: What advice would you give women looking to pivot into technical areas within the cable/telecommunications industry?
SR: Now is a great time to transition into a technical role because there are skills gaps across various domains, and a great need to increase the number of women in technology jobs. My advice is; first, you have to be realistic and want to make the change because you are passionate about whatever role you choose, or else it will be just another job. Second, make sure you understand the barriers to entry, meaning, the expertise, experience, and even certifications required for specific roles. Third, create a plan to get the training you need, and be prepared to invest in yourself even if your company does not sponsor you. Finally, join professional organizations like WICT, meetup groups, or other communities where you can get the support you need to stay the course.
WICT: WICT Southeast’s mission is about creating leaders. What does it mean to be a good leader?
SR: As a leader, it is important to be self-aware then seek to be your best self, while you bring others along. Leaders are not selfish, but intentionally selfless, meaning, you have to have a healthy balance of creating value for the organization while developing people, and continuing your own professional development. I think great leaders do the following exceptionally well:
- Actively listen
- Engage people in meaningful dialogue
- Use their expertise to advise others
- Develop their people and themselves
- Encourage others to pursue their passions/career goals
- Give and get respect as a result of who they are as a person (not because of their title)
- Resolve issues so people can work, and
- Seek to provide a service to others because of the inherent power they have been given
WICT: This year’s WICT theme is “Be a Catalyst”. Why is this important to you and the industry you work in?
SR: There are so many women who had gone before us in unchartered territory and made personal sacrifices, which have now become perks to attract and retain women. These women were catalysts, a positive force that could not be ignored, and as a result, brought about change that benefits everyone. This is important to me because I think every generation has a responsibility to make conditions better for the generation to come. At Turner, our diversity and inclusion strategies are giving people a voice who didn’t have one before; and not only is it good for employees, it’s also good for business, to create the kind of content and services our fans know and love. It’s nice to be the recipient of these benefits, but we can’t sit back on our laurels. In the spirit of continuous improvement, everyone can contribute to making a better work environment, no matter how big or small. When employees speak up, they give leaders the opportunity to make positive changes. At the end of the day, it’s about what you do to help yourself and others while you have the chance.