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Turner’s Triple Threat

1/06/2006 7:00 PM Eastern

Quincy Johnson hasn’t wasted any time getting down to business at Turner Broadcasting System Inc. — and in fact, his job is to turn technology into a good business.

Johnson, who first went to work for Turner as a college intern, has been steadily rising in the company’s ranks, most recently taking on the job of director of technical operations for the company’s network operations division.

Despite being just 28 years old, he already has played a major role in several critical Turner technology projects, most notably helping bring online a new network origination center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the programmer’s 12 Latin American networks.

Based on that track record, Johnson has been named the 2006 SCTE Young Engineer of the Year. The award is sponsored by Multichannel News, Scientific-Atlanta Inc. and the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers.

INTERNSHIP AT START

Johnson’s journey into a cable technology career began almost by chance at Georgia Tech, where an advisor with Turner connections suggested Johnson apply for an internship.

“At the time I was just interested in getting through my first quarter, much less my sophomore year,” Johnson notes with a laugh. “But I went back about a year later and talked to him about it, and he helped me to get an interview. That’s how I got my foot in the door.”

He then pushed that door open. Johnson landed the internship, and worked part-time as a network transmission engineer at Turner’s transmissions and satellites/circuits department from his sophomore year until his graduation in December 1999.

The internship rolled smoothly into a full-time job in January 2000, and it led Johnson to yet another mentor, Turner executive vice president of engineering Clyde Smith.

“He sat me down and had a vision for how he saw me fitting in the organization,” Johnson says. “Because I didn’t have true broadcast experience from a maintenance engineering standpoint, he wanted me to get some of that. So I spent time floating around the different shifts of the group that maintains and responds to trouble calls for all of our networks.”

After about six to nine months of chasing down technical snarls, Johnson landed a job of as a new projects manager — again through Smith.

“He has always given me new opportunities,” Johnson says. “He’s come to me and said 'Quincy, I’m going to change your world. It’s going to get much more difficult.’ He’s given me challenging opportunities, but at the same time he’s been behind me to be the support when I needed it.”

HAS AN MBA, TOO

Johnson was not just focused on technology. He was learning about the business end as well, and that led him back to the books. While still working at Turner, he completed his MBA degree in information technology and management at Georgia State University. It also marked a milestone of a personal sort.

“The day I was supposed to walk to get my degree was the day my daughter was born, in August of 2004. It was, I guess, perfect timing,” Johnson says.

And a perfect fit for Turner, according to TBS senior director Michelle McGuire, who nominated Johnson for the award. Finding an engineer with the right combination of technical, business and emotional intelligence is a rare triple play, she says.

“Some engineers tend to be the slash and burn type, and Quincy is not that way at all,” McGuire adds. “He’s very even-keeled and will consider everybody’s opinion when he’s making decisions, and ensures that everybody has a spot at the table. Which is great, because having somebody in engineering willing to partner with operations and broadcast technology and senior management is such a skill.”

LATIN TRANSMISSION TANGO

One example of Johnson’s ability to fuse technical, business and personal IQ lies in the three-year project to shift operations for TBS’s 11 Latin American networks from Atlanta to Buenos Aires. The goal was to make it easier to offer services in South America by shifting the TV origination closer to the customers.

Johnson came to the project in April 2004, based in part on his work overseeing the international transmission operations at Turner’s 193,000-square-foot Techwood origination facility in Atlanta. He was assigned to lead the technical end of the Latin facility project, responsible for directing not only an engineering team in Atlanta but also a Buenos Aires team that had no experience creating a modern network origination center.

The end result was a cutover all 12 feeds in November 2005. The fact the cutover occurred with a scant 22 seconds of blackout “is unprecedented, in that it involved switching satellites and a third-party uplink,” McGuire says. “It was crazy. It was a fantastic end to this very long, exhausting project.”

Since then, Johnson has seen his own job cutover, assuming a post as director of technical operations. In that job he serves as a liaison between the engineering and operations camps at the Techwood network operations center, which oversees transmission of Turner networks including TBS, Turner Network Television, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, Turner South, and Boomerang, as well as video on demand, cellular content distribution and feeds for Atlanta broadcast stations WTBS and WTBS-DT.

He even takes his work home with him, but in a good way.

“I have an HD set, I have VOD, I have a PSP (Sony Playstation Portable),” Johnson noted. “I like playing around with all of that stuff. The fun thing for me is, we are working on some audio issues or things that were challenges with surround sound, and then going home and listening it to it on my television and then comparing it with other networks.”

Whether at work or at home, Johnson has plenty of opportunity to play with new advances in high-definition and VOD technologies.

'IT’S FUN TO DEAL WITH’

“That’s the future, and it’s just fun to deal with that,” Johnson says. “There are a lot of options moving forward, and a lot of new things coming out.”

So to are there options for Johnson in the coming years. In addition to working with developing server and HD technologies, Johnson says he also looks forward to the people side of his work.

“I just want to continue to do that, to work hard and learn more and grow as a leader — being able to work with people and influence people continually and try to make other peoples’ jobs better,” he says. “Everybody’s job is challenging, and everybody has good days and bad days, but whatever I can do to help minimize those challenges and those bad days, that’s my goal.”

 

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