As we continue touring the business meeting people from our many different teams, we took some time to talk with Darren Jones about his role as Broadcast Technology Operations Manager.
I manage the dock10 broadcast technology team which is responsible for guaranteeing and supporting the day-to-day operation of our studios and post production facilities – so every day throws up something different. I could be overseeing technology refresh projects, such as our recent scheme to install a new KVM system and SPG system. I'll chat with the operational heads of the business and discuss upcoming resource requirements and promote a technology strategy that delivers those business needs - I make sure the right skills and resources are in the right place at the right time to meet the demands of a multitude of production commitments. The technical challenges are equally as rewarding as keeping thirty engineers engaged and enthused. My staff are the most important thing in my dock10 world, and quite rightly they take up the majority of my time.
After graduating from Salford University, I wrote to every TV company in the UK explaining what a tremendous asset I would be. The one response I received came from Granada TV. Luckily a senior manager at Granada was keen to understand what ‘youngsters’ were up to and wanted to take a look at the latest university output. I was given two weeks unpaid work experience in the bowels of the famous Quay Street building. My manic enthusiasm landed me a six-month contract which eventually turned into a staff position where I earned a wonderful grounding in making TV from some of the best broadcast engineers in the business. I also got to work on iconic shows such as Stars in their Eyes and my all-time favourite, The Sooty Show.
I was (and still am) keen to expand my experience and learn new skills and sometimes you need to move company to progress. My first engineer role was at Granada Breeze where the team won an RTS for outstanding technical contribution. At MUTV I was part of the team that took the channel on-air and at the ‘My Travel’ satellite station I had my first exposure to a completely tapeless workflow from acquisition to playout. I also did a lot of work on the outside broadcast circuit, but I'd rather be in the football stadium than sat in a truck. When the BBC took the decision to locate to Salford and build MediaCity on my doorstep, there was only one place that I wanted to be.
I drifted into engineering because my best friend had. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship from National Nuclear Corporation and spent a great pre-University year with them. I was packed off to a very hands-on engineering foundation course in Risley before I was sent north and worked on the commissioning of Heysham 2 Nuclear Power Station. I had the free run of the place. I did drop my notepad in the reactor core but thankfully it didn't have any rods in it at the time!
It was then on to Leeds University to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering, but I quickly became distracted by music. I'd been in a band since my school days and suddenly everything took off as the Madchester scene went global. It was the perfect time to be 19 and Mancunian. Our city was the centre of the cultural world. My band released records and enjoyed our 15 minutes of fame, even getting a mention in Rolling Stone magazine. But a few years later, when I found I wasn't swimming in my guitar shaped swimming pool, it was time to head back to university, this time in Salford to finish my engineering studies. I had by now decided I wanted to work in a creative industry, so Salford was a good choice as their course focused on Audio and Video Technologies.
It is a great supportive environment for enthusiastic people and people with vision. I love solving problems, both with technology and people, and enjoy having to think of different ways to meet a challenge. At dock10 we push the boundaries, so you're called upon to think outside the box again and again. It keeps you on your toes. I've worked in many industries from an early age, and nothing compares with the television. I am acutely aware of how fortunate I am.
Grab every opportunity that comes your way and be enthusiastic - it's infectious and it's a good look. There are no stupid questions, so ask away! Be nice to people and be interested in people - you'll get the most out of them. The technology can sort itself, make sure you look after your team and colleagues – people are the most important part of any business.