Mark Ian Schwartz

"Countdown To The Video Music Awards"

What was this rookie assignment (the role, task or event)? 

My rookie assignment was to project manage a brand new interactive video technology for MTV. MTV wanted to get people excited for the VMA's (Video Music Awards) and create something totally new and engaging. My company,, was hired to use their incredible new video technology to showcase the nominated music videos, in a "cool" interactive way that had never been done before.

When was it? Set the scene of the time you were in.

It was 2010, Rhianna, Green Day, and Jason DeRulo were the featured bands at the time. Coincident was a small video technology start-up, that was getting bigger everyday, as was my role in the company. This was my first project as Senior Producer and I was put in charge of managing a team of 7 that was comprised of 3 engineers, 2 video producers, and 2 graphic designers. Due to the size of the company, and the amount of work, I needed to wear several hats, including regulating daily calls between my team and MTV's headquarters in New York. I found my comfort in the many burrito shops located just outside our offices.

What were nervous or worried about?

For the first time ever, I was in charge of a project that was going to have an extremely large global audience. I was worried about the timing of the project, and the amount of work that needed to get done. However, what scared me the most, was that our company had made a lot of promises about our technology, that had not actually been tested "in the real world". So, on top of the excitement of working on a huge project, we actually needed to build new technology. I was afraid that we were not prepared for this size of a project and may miss our deadline, or worse, the technology wouldn't be ready for a release to the public by the time the award show was ready to air. 

When it comes to building websites, or developing any new technology, there can be a lot of "bugs" and QA. When building something new for the first time, it almost always takes longer than anticipated.  Also, for those that do not work in the technology world, they may not understand that sometimes what seems like a really small change to the viewer, or user, can actually take hours upon hours to solve from the engineering point of view.

What were you hopeful about?

I was hopeful that if we were able to succeed as a team, this would open doors to all types of projects in the entertainment industry, and that we would gain an incredible amount of exposure.

What was the outcome?

I would request what I thought were simple changes from the client, and discover from my engineers that these changes could take several hours, days, or even weeks. I needed to start thinking like an engineer, and adjust the schedule and milestones of the project, so that I could ensure our delivery made it out on time.

We had our meetings with MTV every morning and I had my "Project Manager Hat" on, but as soon as the call was over, I headed over to the area we called "The Shark Tank", a part of the office where the engineers worked.  I needed to understand how they worked, and what they were prioritizing, so that I could have better insight and forecast what kind of problems we may run into in the future, in order to avoid them. I began learning how to code, and even took on the role as "part-time engineer" when needed, to help move things along.

Eventually, with enough foresight on how each department operated, I was able to keep the schedule on track and we delivered our project just in time for the Video Music Awards. The project was a huge success. We received accolades from the President of MTV Interactive, and soon our office was bustling with more projects than ever. We continued to work on several projects for MTV, including the VMA's following year, which lead to even more exposure and clients like Fox, ABC, CBS, Audi, and more.

What else would you like to tell us about your rookie story?

There is a rush of adrenaline that kicks in when you have to learn fast in order to succeed on time. Taking the time to learn from others provided me with both the tools and energy to produce my best work and with real results. 

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