Careers: Interviews
IT Media Productions

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Ronait Tynan, project manager with SmartForce’s e-Media group. Ronait is an international authority on IT and media productions for SmartForce, the world’s largest e-learning/training services company.

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Q: First of all, thank you Ronait for agreeing to this interview. Your experiences as a respected and widely known project manager would be of benefit to many veterans. What personally prompted you to enter the computing field? What led you to become a project manager in e-Media?

A: Growing up we always had access to computers in the house and in school, so I was quite comfortable using them. However, it wasn’t until I was doing a dissertation for my master’s that I really became aware of the Internet and how it was going to influence the way we learn, do business, and see the world. My research topic was how translators and terminologists could use the Internet to learn and do business more effectively. Needless to say, I came to the conclusion that this new tool was going to be a great resource for them in the future.

I liked SmartForce because they combined computers and learning. New types of learning are something I remember talking about with my dad; he is a lecturer and researcher and has influenced me in a lot of ways.

The opportunity to work for the newly established e-Media group came up about two years ago, and I jumped at the opportunity to do something new. SmartForce had never done online seminars or workshops before, this meant we had quite a bit of freedom in the group to experiment, do research, and shape the product we were offering. Naturally, the group expanded opening up management roles and allowing me to further my career.


Q: With your world leading position, what are the hottest of the upcoming topics of your seminars?

A: The e-Media group is working on seminars that will be part of several new learning paths to be released next year, for example JAVA2, Commerce Server, and CSA.

In December of 2001, we also intend to broadcast a seminar on Microsoft .NET My Services, which Microsoft intends to release in spring next year. By broadcasting a SmartSeminar this early, we plan to give our audience a head start on what to expect in the line of Microsoft products next year. We are also planning a seminar on the new wireless networking standards, and another hot topic next year will be cyber crimes and what you can do to protect your enterprise.

On the business skills side, we have several seminars in the pipeline with an LA based company that specializes in sales, team building, and project management training.
We do research and plan ahead as much as we can, but IT trends and software advances are quick to change. Our group can turn around high quality seminars at a very fast rate so we do have the freedom and capacity to adapt very quickly to meet those changes.


Q Ronait, you are a consummate professional providing a much valued service to the IT, business, and health communities worldwide. What ten tips would you provide to professionals to have the success that you have experienced?


A: Here is a list of thoughts that come to mind right now. They are in no particular order and I’m sure they are not that original!

 
  1. Take the initiative, it allows you to be creative and keeps your mind active.
     
  2. Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your ideas with the members of your team and management.
     
  3. Listen to your customers. They use your product so they can tell you what you can do better.
     
  4. Change is the nature of business. Take advantage of it because it always brings opportunity.
     
  5. Think ahead, a successful project is fruit of an organized and well-prepared mind.
     
  6. Mistakes are sometimes inevitable but you can often learn more from them than from successful projects.
     
  7. Have fun at work with your colleagues, even for just 10 minutes a day. It keeps the team spirit going and makes you look forward to going to the office every morning.
     
  8. Listen to everyone in your team and keep them well informed, that way they will do their work better.
     
  9. Patience is definitely a virtue, and diplomacy a definite must.
     
  10. Move to California!

Q: SmartForce is well known and very much respected for their high quality services. What processes do you implement in the e-Media department on a daily basis to continue to produce such high quality services?

A: In e-Media, we have a highly qualified team of individuals who care about how their products are perceived and used by SmartForce’s customers and by the organization itself. We are constantly reassessing our development cycle, our training needs, and our efficiency in order to improve events. The trick here is to view your product through the eyes of your customers without jeopardizing the team’s development processes and the company’s standards. For example, after each broadcast we collect feedback from individual viewers and study each suggestion very carefully. Team members are encouraged to participate and help make decisions based on the customers’ comments.

Throughout the past two short years of our existence as a group, e-Media has successfully built and maintained multiple partnerships with key companies. We value our partners, seek feedback from them, and try to make their daily working experience with us as pleasant as possible.

In SmartForce, the e-Media department has earned a good reputation for being creative, innovative, hard working, and dynamic. We have developed numerous seminars for internal use by different parts of the organization, such as HR and Sales. This contribution not only enhances our position within the organization, it has also opened channels for communication and collaboration between e-Media and other departments.


Q: Can you share some tips for those thinking of getting into the computing field? Can you describe your role with your company and how you plan to shape the company one year and two years into the future, and in the long term?

A: The computing, software, and Internet world has been put to the test the past year with the downturn in the U.S. economy. It has been really noticeable in the Silicon Valley; however, I don’t think it has been quite so drastic in other parts of the world. This slowdown may have put some people off the computing field, but I think most of us realize that this industry is a market that will continue to grow in response to a global demand. At SmartForce, we also see great potential for further growth and expansion within the e-Learning industry.

For the future, I plan to contribute to the company’s growth in the areas of innovation and research and stay on top of customer and partner demands. It’s very exciting to work on new learning concepts, put them to the test, change them, reassess them, and then see them through to fruition. The best part of the job for me is to be a part of a team that helps enhance people’s skills in so many different industries. It’s like being a teacher without having to repeat the same lectures every year and in the same way.


Q: You have a reputation for being plugged into the stream of computing consciousness about where it’s going now and in the long term. You’ve also done a lot of research. Can you comment on the studies that you’ve performed, what you have learned, and your experiences?

A: In e-Media, we strive to produce the best online event a customer can experience. We constantly seek feedback from our users and try to improve events. To this end we have researched and developed several media types: SmartSeminars, workshops, roundtables, and soapboxes. Each event type is designed to satisfy the different learning needs of our customers.

SmartSeminars are ideal if you are a visual learner, soapboxes allow you to listen and chat with other students, workshops walk you through how to code an application, and roundtables bring several experts together to discuss a particular topic and offer you different points of view. Interactivity is the main feature in all of the events, and our research shows this to be of primary importance to our users.

The main lesson for me while doing this research and actually developing the events was the realization that there is always room for improvement. Just when you think it is perfect, a new idea or suggestion comes from either the team or the customers. For example, we added flash introductions to the seminars to make them more visually appealing. We also moved our polls to the question-and-answer session portion to avoid distracting our audience. In addition, we designed e-vites to notify our audience of upcoming events, etc. Room for innovation and change are one of the reasons why our work in e-Media is so dynamic and creative.


Q: What are your views on top four programming environments and their future?

A: In this category, the main areas of interest for SmartForce next year will include site development, .NET, EJBs, J2EE, and web services.

As the year has progressed, Microsoft .NET has been attracting more and more attention. It is clearly one of the biggest changes in programming in the past few years so it is impossible not to address it. In fact, the interest it was generating prompted us to begin a series of SmartForce workshops and seminars about .NET way back in February.

Enterprise JavaBeans or EJBs, as they are commonly known, have been around for a while, but they are winning more and more supporters all the time. Developers like them because they are scalable, flexible, and increase their productivity. At the enterprise level, J2EE is very important for the development of multitier applications. It will be crucial for transaction management and security. The ability to architect enterprise applications and integrate services using J2EE will one of the big challenges for Java programmers in the future.

Web services are the new buzzword in the industry. There will be plenty to talk about in the next year about this new architecture and its impact on e-business and e-commerce.


Q: For those relatively new in the computing field and for seasoned veterans, which areas should they target for future study, what are the high-growth areas?

A: We have been talking about J2EE, EJBs, web services, etc.; again, those are definitely areas of interest for veterans and newbies alike. Some other topics of interest are scripting languages, XML, object oriented UML, and C#.

In addition to developing events that cover those topics, we are planning webcast events on MPEG-4, which is based on object-oriented technology, and the Real-Time Transport Protocol, an Internet protocol for transmitting real-time data such as audio and video.


Q: What changes do you see for the future of computing, conducting business, and the use of the Internet?

A: I think computing, business, and the Internet are intrinsically linked and will be more so in the future. The Internet has opened up a whole new world for businesses and people in general. Once you are used to the online world of shopping, learning, business transactions, quick access to information and communication, and so on, it’s very difficult to give it up or to imagine life without it. There are so many advantages associated with doing business on the Internet that they outweigh any disadvantages. For example, people don’t like traveling that much anymore, with an Internet connection they have access to a whole set of services from their home or office. Clearly, people will take advantage of this opportunity and the demand will grow. The market for Internet businesses is still expanding, and it’s exciting to think of their global reach. One of the biggest challenges is to introduce the technologies we have been talking about into less well-developed countries. I believe it can only benefit everybody in the end.


Q: What would be your recommended top references for the serious developer, and the serious IT professional?

A: Well obviously, one of the best places to look for information on technology is the Internet. I visit some web sites regularly to look for information on upcoming developments in technology and to get ideas for new events. Here is a short list:
 
Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you like to give to enterprise corporations and organizations?

A: It’s been great talking to you Stephen, and thanks for the opportunity to tell the IT and business community about SmartForce and its e-Media group.

We are always looking for speakers for our events. SmartForce is a great way for them to gain exposure and there are no costs to them or their companies. If any of the readers would like to participate in one of our SmartSeminars or workshops please feel free to contact us at event_center@smartforce.com


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