Net, Wireless Skills Hot Commodity At WWE

IT leader Jon Zerden says communication, team work skills are key skill ingredients he looks for in new hires.

January 16, 2007

4 Min Read
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If you're looking to get hired onto the Internet/wireless tech team at World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc don't think the only qualifier is good technology skills. As Jon Zerden, VP of Interactive Technology at the Stamford, Conn.-based integrated media and entertainment company says, new staffers must have strong communication skills and be a good personality fit to work in his department.

Zerden's group, which is responsible for Internet and wireless strategies, which includes messaging technologies, has nearly a dozen staffers and he's anticipating doubling that staff count within the next year or so.

"We work in a start-up type of atmosphere, a team effort in which everyone typically wears many hats," says Zerden, who joined the entertainment conglomerate nine months ago. He's excited about the wireless tech efforts taking place as WWE sees a huge customer need for messaging and texting capabilities around its entertainment products, similar to the American Idol text voting that takes place at the end of the weekly shows.

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WWE, in business for over 25 years, delivers its entertainment product through four distinct business lines: live and televised entertainment, pay-per-view, consumer products such as magazines, video games and toys, digital media via the company's ecommerce, mobile device services, and feature film projects. The digital division is where Zerden sees exciting business opportunity and development."We're aiming to provide cell and handheld device content to viewers on WWE performers, new shows, and upcoming monthly packages. For example, they'll be able to vote for their favorite performer via the phone, we're also developing ring tones and wallpapers all built around WWE performers," explains the tech leader.

All that innovative product delivery requires streaming video and scalable networks and creates a workforce need for front-end creative staff as well as back-end developers.

"We'll be looking for people with experience and skills for developing code for the cell phone and Web delivery, as well as IT experts to help with workflow, managing content and network engineering expertise," says Zerden.

And none of those professionals are easy to find given the technologies are all still pretty new.

"It's easy to find junior level people and we have done that in some cases. We hire them on as they have the other important skills and we hone their tech skills on the job. There is a big learning curve for everyone coming into this field as it's so new," says Zerden.That's one reason the tech leader looks for new hires who illustrate a clear desire to get immersed in the Internet and wireless technologies.

During the initial interview process a candidate's technical background is examined and their project experience is the focus of interview questions. The second round delves into what the job seeker is hoping to do and the depth of their soft skills.

"On that first round we find out whether you have the needed background or tech potential to learn the skills. On the second round we're looking to see if the candidate is team player and if they're curious and interested in the cutting technologies we're using," says Zerden.

Candidates that illustrate interest by taking courses or spending time learning the emerging technologies are of great interest because it's clear "they're looking to expand their horizons and learn from what other people are doing already.

"We can teach mobile technology skills, data warehousing and Web development but they also need to take on the commitment to keep learning as things develop," he says.Candidates can show job interest by attending trade shows, trade conferences, reading the trade press and keeping tabs on what's happening with standards and technology developments.

And contrary to some enterprises that require certification achievements, Zerden doesn't see much value given the emerging aspect of the technologies he's focused on.

"The best engineer I ever worked with had no degree or certification. He was self-taught and had hands-on experience. I don't care about the education aspect of a candidate but their communication skills, level of interest in what we're doing, technical ability, and whether they're comfortable and able to work in a group atmosphere."

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