How She Got There: Christine Weber, Senior Vice President, Engineering at Sling TV

Name: Christine Weber
Job Title and Description: Senior Vice President, Engineering at Sling TV
College Name/Major: University of Wyoming, B.S. in Computer Science/Electrical Engineering 
Website: sling.com 
Twitter Handle: @Sling
Instagram Handle: @sling

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

CW: We’re creating an entirely new entertainment experience – live TV over the internet. Not movies, not movies on demand – which are basically just downloading a file to your computer or your device – we’re taking live sports, live news, live broadcasts and getting them to you instantaneously so that you can use our experience as your main TV-viewing experience. That’s quite hard to do, as it turns out, because you have to rely on a whole lot of things outside our control.

Getting live TV over the internet doesn’t find you well if all of a sudden there’s a problem on the internet that’s outside of our control, and your news broadcaster that’s giving you breaking news – his face goes away. So, we’ve had to dream up a whole lot of new solutions, employ a lot of really good, disciplined methods, work in a little bit of bleeding edge technology to create this experience that people really like. And we’re leading that market, we’re really creating that market. So, I work on fixing problems, I work on dreaming up new ideas, I get to help others dream up those new ideas, and I get to work with everybody in the organization, all levels, to achieve really their highest potential. At a strategic level I focus on where are we taking this product? Where do we want to define this market space? What are our consumers going to want, not just tomorrow but next year and beyond to make us a mainstream experience for TV delivery? The only typical nature of my day is that it’s fast-paced, and I get to learn every day.

What is the best part of your job?

CW: On the technical side, I love to solve problems and fix things. I always have. And I love to see a dream or a concept become the reality that consumers really like. I love to see social media reviews that say, “Wow, that’s cool!” and know that we created it.

On the people side, I get to help others realize their goals. I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring folks in my organization from a college intern all the way through becoming leaders in our organization. My organization is about 225 people today, and that is made up of all levels of engineering staff, managers, architects, supporting staff, and it’s absolutely gratifying to see someone come into our organization, regardless of their past experience, and realize their aspirations that they may not have even known existed when they joined us. They may realize a part in our business that they want to work in that they didn’t even know existed when they came to us, and that is just a fun part of my job.

I try to emphasize to them all along the way, it doesn’t matter what your title is, or how long you’ve been with us, if your idea has merit, we run with it. We try to foster that environment that allows everybody to have that voice that allows us to realize this innovation that’s gotten us this far. Really, both of those tie back into my main mantra of never stop learning. The more I lead and mentor people, the more I learn about people. And the more technical problems I solve, the more I learn about technology.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

CW: I got hooked on technology in the mid-70s. I got introduced to a mainframe when I was pretty young. That mainframe filled up an entire room somewhere in a data center, it probably had less power than my iPhone. But, I was hooked. I was absolutely fascinated. My real first paid job in the field was actually working as an intern on a very rudimentary database design in the corporate offices of The Denver Post after my freshman year of college.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

CW: One of my favorite phrases is, “We’re making it up as we go along.” I actually use that to remind all of us, myself included, of the creativity and the innovation in us. Engineers, we tend to be very methodical and logical and that’s critical for what we do. But sometimes that thought process can inhibit creativity and risk taking. So, I use this phrase to remind everyone to use their innovative skills and to work through the challenges and realize our great ideas.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

CW: I’m human, and mistakes are a part of that game. The most important aspect of any mistake is owning it, learning it and helping others learn from it – you have to be accountable. One thing that I really try to push is that no matter where you are in your career, never stop learning from your mistakes. I try to foster that environment, and really I think that any mistake I’ve ever made, I try to make the absolute best of it and show people it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you’re learning from them.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

CW: In my company, I was given the opportunity to create and implement what is essentially an anti-hacking system for our service. After months of working on it, deployment night comes, and there’s tension there, because the system I created had the potential if things went wrong to negatively impact our customers. The night comes, and hackers on their blogs start complaining. They couldn’t find a workaround, and I thought, “It’s working! It’s making a difference!” The reason it was so surreal for me because up to that point in my career, all my projects were consumer facing, they were really internal to the business. So when I could see the system I had been working on for months and the results of it posted on public forums, I was just thrilled.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

CW: Interest in the product, for sure, and knowledge about the company. That someone has actually researched us before talking with us. Attention to detail, really in anything that they do, the questions that they’ve asked, jobs that they’ve held and the tenacity to stay up to date on technology.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

CW: Make your own opportunity. If you see a need, go for it, and most importantly, deliver on it. But, if you encounter delays in what you’ve committed to deliver, be up front. Keep those who are counting on you informed. Let the folks you work with see you know how to contribute without waiting for someone to just hand you the instructions. Know your skills, know your weaknesses as well, and be confident. Don’t be afraid to be confident – confidence doesn’t have to come across as arrogance if you know your skills. 

What's the one thing that's stood out to you the most in a resume?

CW: It relates back to passion of a candidate's interest in their career field. When a candidate uses their skills and training in something beyond a paying job, like volunteer work where they’re using their career path and their skills to help someone out in their own time. Any top performer or athlete will tell you that practice is vital to forming your skills and fine-tuning them. It’s no different in technology. If you’re passionate in what you do, you won’t just do it for a paycheck. So I like to see where people have really branched out and benefit others, not really earning anything else but the satisfaction.