First Week at NBC

January 13th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

This week was my first week working for NBC. I’m interning for credit through NYU, and apparently I’m required to write weekly journal entries about what I’m doing. This would otherwise be a pretty mind-numbing exercise, so I thought I would post them on the Internet as well.

My internship is in a department of NBC called Digital Media Systems, which is a fancy term for “editing systems engineering”. Our department takes care of all the editing gear throughout NBC New York, including WNBC, and all the shows that are edited at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. This includes both tape and computer-based equipment.
My first day of work was January 8th, 2007. I was supposed to arrive at 9:00AM, but to be on the safe side, I left early, putting me at 30 Rockefeller Plaza at about 8:30. I used the time to buy some coffee and sit on the concourse, watching people show up to work and tourists come and go. This is the same plaza I sat drinking coffee with my parents when I first came to New York at the age of fourteen. The thought that I’m about to start working there was hard to grasp. Actually, it still is.

At 9:00, I made my way to the visitors’ center, picked up a building pass, and headed up to the seventh floor, where Digital Media Systems’ offices are. Unlike when I interviewed for the first time, I didn’t get lost on the way. When I arrived, my supervisor showed me to my desk, gave me my login credentials for the network, and gave me the paperwork to get a proper ID card for the building. I was amazed at the level of efficiency here: this is the only company I’ve ever worked for that had a desk, a computer, and account information ready for me on my hire date. Usually, I’m left without a phone or a username for a least a day. NBC had it together.
It was at about this point that I began to notice how corporate NBC can be. My username for the corporate network is a nine-digit number–just in case I was worried that I was more than a number to GE–and when I had trouble with my email account, I called the corporate helpdesk, which naturally, is a call center in India.

Within a few minutes of showing up, I went to my first meeting, with the lead editor of Conan O’Brien and two other people from Digital Media Systems. Here, I had my first hint of what a steep learning curve I would be on. I was able to infer that the meeting was about having a couple of shows use the same editing hardware, but the language used at the meeting was foreign to me. I have a very technical background, in both media and computing, but never using any of this gear before. Being in a technical meeting and understanding nothing made me a little nervous.

Almost immediately after the meeting ended, I was ushered into another meeting, this time a daily staff meeting between the main staff of Digital Media Systems. Here, I was introduced to the other members of the department. At least two of them had previously done my job; they entered the company as interns and were hired to full time positions when they graduated. As in the previous meeting, I had trouble keeping up with the tech-talk, though I did get a minute or two to introduce myself to the group.

One my colleagues who had previously been an intern approached me that afternoon, and during the course of conversation mentioned that he, too, had been on the fast learning curve when he arrived, but he did assure me that “it gets better”, which has largely assuaged my fears of being constantly behind in terms of technical understanding. I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to pick up the necessary knowledge quite quickly, as it hasn’t been a problem for me in the past. Nevertheless, the first few days have been challenging as I’ve struggled to understand what all my co-workers are talking about.
In terms of actual tasks, my workload has been relatively light, and not too challenging. I’ve done some pretty standard excel spreadsheet work (which I managed to avoid mostly by writing a Perl script to do the hard bits for me), and walked around attaching labels to equipment for the maintenance department. For the most part, I’ve focused on trying to get up to speed on technology, and finding my way around Rockefeller Plaza, which is in itself quite difficult. 30 Rock is an enormous, old facility, which has been refitted many times, leaving the resulting layout a very confusing maze. You can always tell who the new guys at NBC are; they’re the ones who are lost. On my first day I got lost several times trying to find places that in most buildings would be easy to find, like the mens’ room. By my third day of work I had the basics down and was getting lost less frequently.

This internship is very heavy on engineering, which although I expected it, is going to take me a little while to adjust back into. Though my first exposure to media was through being trained as an audio engineer, it’s been quite some time since I’ve had my hands on equipment, and my time at NYU so far has taught me to look at the media industry from a cultural-studies and sociological perspective, not from a technical viewpoint. I also seem to be the only intern in my immediate department, at least at the minute. Next week I have an “intern orientation” to go to, which should introduce me to my peers in the company.

I still have far too much to learn about the entire experience to pass judgment on whether or not I like working at NBC, but so far, I don’t have any complaints. My co-workers are friendly, and the work is interesting, and I think it will get more so as I become more familiar with the environment.