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Entrepreneur--Vice President of Technology

John Hutchinson

Tell us about your work---what do you do? The company I work for develops, installs, and manages private television networks for health clubs. Our two largest customers are Gold's Gym and Powerhouse Gym, with over 700 facilities between the two. I manage the Technology department that is responsible for product development, systems fulfillment, and customer support. We've developed an Internet website that our customers use to specify the entertainment preferences for their club; in other words, they use the web to define what type of music videos to play in their club. More specifically, my job includes the following responsibilities: strategic planning and tactical implementation of technology-based solutions, definition of functional requirements based on business and customer needs, organizational planning and people management , the development of processes and procedures, and the establishment of strategic partnerships with technology companies. What skills are needed? A thorough understanding of the following technologies: internet development (ASP, COM, HTML, XML), the Microsoft platform (Windows, Visual Studio, SQL), PC architecture (CPU, memory, hard drives, network interface cards) and MPEG audio/video file format, encoding, and encryption. Familiarity with network topology and technologies such as T1, TCP/IP, and broadband. Experience with the software product development life cycle , project management , and customer support are always beneficial. Another important aspect of the job is the ability to learn, analyze, and understand business processes, then be able to define and develop technology solutions that streamline these processes, resolve customer problems, and/or provide entertainment products. What was your major? Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics How did you get started in your career? Right out of college I worked for Shell Oil company as a Data Processing Analyst that consisted primarily of software development. After five years with Shell I joined a small technology company that developed Windows-based document management applications. I worked as a software developer for ten years before transitioning into management, which has led to leadership positions that require strategic planning and organizational development responsibilities. I would strongly recommend working for a large corporation early on in ones' career. Large companies tend to have deeper budgets, more complex and varied projects, and advanced training programs for employee career growth. They also have well-defined infrastructures, mature management systems, and effective workflow processes and procedures. What experience do you need in this job? In my current job, my most valuable experience is my understanding of technology, the operations and life-cycle of a small company, the ability to secure and align resources to solve business problems, and the ability to manage projects, namely those pertaining to product development. I also have experience in the fitness and health club industry, which is invaluable in understanding the solutions our customers are requesting. Describe your "typical" workday: A typical workday includes the following: meeting with our strategic partners to direct resources and monitor the progress of various technology-based projects, managing the product development department to ensure development schedules are being met, defining functional requirements for future versions of our product, and supporting the department staff by providing a productive work environment and the required development tools. What is the hardest aspect of your job? The hardest aspect of my job is getting consensus on new product functionality from the various sources of input. Each person, department, and customer can have a different idea and opinion about what should go into our product. The challenge is to assimilate all of these ideas into an effective solution that satisfies the needs of (if possible) all interested parties. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? The most rewarding aspect of my job is the reaction of the customers (club owners and club members) when we install a new system and they realize the positive effect it has on the club environment, both from an entertainment and revenue generation standpoint. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? I would say the field that I am in is Technology Product Development. There are two primary roles in this field, that of a developer and that of a manager. I consider myself in the role of management. My suggestions are that people learn as much about computer technology as possible, preferably from being a software developer, systems designer, or network engineer. Another valuable skillset is that of project management, defined loosely as the ability to acquire and manage resources within the framework of well-defined project objectives. And finally, an understanding of how businesses work is invaluable, including as many of the following business units as possible: accounting, finance, sales, marketing, operations, customer service, product development, manufacturing, and fulfillment.