How to Manage a Large Team With a Global Impact [A Conversation With Turner's Ben Plummer]
Ben Plummer is the Senior Director of Application Development at Turner Broadcasting. He’s been with the company for over a decade and got his MBA in Management of Technology from Georgia Tech. Ben holds a wealth of knowledge about technology and managing a global team, and we were excited to sit down with him to learn more.
Tell us about your role at Turner. What does your day-to-day look like?
I manage two teams. The first is a development team of about 25 folks. We’re responsible for providing about 182,000 live-scoring games per year for BleacherReport.com, NBA.com, PGA.com, and NCAA.com. I also manage the group that runs quality assurance for Turner’s Sports and Entertainment digital brands like TruTV.com, CartoonNetwork.com, AdultSwim.com, and more.
That’s a lot of eyeballs keeping track of your team. How do you manage the stress?
I have a lot of help. I have three great managers underneath me that I couldn’t do anything without. I directly manage about 45 folks either here in Atlanta, up in New York, or out in India. My goal is to set everyone up for success and empower them to do their jobs.
The stress is real, especially during major events like March Madness. It’s part of the gig, and you learn to manage it. You can’t be in this position and freak out about something that is relatively small, even if it’s out in the public. If something does go wrong, you learn to temper your reactions a great deal because the people that work at Turner are so great. They punish themselves more than any manager possibly could. They feel so bad if something goes wrong because they’re so proud of the brands they work with and they’re so proud of working at Turner.
I also have five kids. So, I like to go home, lie on the ground, and have five kids jump on top of me. That gives me some perspective as to what’s important.
The only constant is change, especially in the world of technology. How do you stay on top of the latest trends?
You rely on other people a great deal. When it comes to new trends, we have product people that are constantly pushing the edge. We also have plenty of third parties that will come to us with new ideas. We’re constantly bombarded with what’s new and exciting. The challenge is taking those things, sifting through them, finding the diamonds, and monetizing it.
What are you reading right now?
I have RSS feeds that feed in Mashable, TechCrunch, Wired, and just about every other technology blog that’s out there. The hard part is reading it all. I try to filter out things that aren’t interesting to me and consume as much as I can. I also get alerts from CNN, CNN Tech, and Bleacher Report—go Falcons!
How do you foster a culture of teamwork and innovation at Turner?
Back when Ted Turner started the company a bunch of years ago, he believed in competition. So, all of our brands are in competition with one another. They’re not taking resources from one another, but they’re trying to get the largest market share they possibly can. Collectively, it’s an impressive unit. The challenge for us as a shared service is that we have to be really cognizant of what our culture is.
There’s an old saying that says great fences make great neighbors, and it’s true. When you have a fence, you know exactly where your line of responsibility is. I spend a lot of time making sure we all know where our fence is, where we need to expand, and where we need to contract. It’s always a negotiation, but when everyone knows where they can go and where they can stop, it makes people a lot more comfortable.
Any other words of advice for our readers that you’d like to share?
Either you’re going to manage your culture as a technical leader, or your culture is going to manage you. The companies that do it right are those companies that are transformational: Apple, Google, Turner. If you find a leader that cares about the culture of the team and will go out and protect the team, that’s a team you stay on; that’s a team you stick with because that group is going to be together for a long time.
You can connect with Ben Plummer on LinkedIn right here.
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