Unless you’re a member of his department, you may only know Peter Watson, associate director, Media Production Support Services, from his heartfelt and often amusing contributions to DELTA’s email chains. But there’s more to the man behind the screen.
In June, Watson celebrated his 16th anniversary as a DELTA manager. When he joined the team in 2003, he brought with him wide-ranging experiences that stretched from coast to coast.
Originally from Idaho, Watson majored in electronic media at Missouri State University. He moved to Seattle, Washington, after college and earned a position running the city’s government television channel, where he witnessed countless press conferences and government hearings.
Later on, he relocated to Tampa, Florida, and was production director for an educational channel until he applied for a new position at DELTA, which brought him to North Carolina.
“I got a job here at NC State. It was wonderful,” he says. “Each place I’ve gone, I’ve been able to see and be a part of major improvements to the way things work, and that’s really gratifying.”
How would you describe your position to someone unfamiliar with DELTA?
“I’m in charge of a department that manages online course content, specifically video-based courses that are recorded in video classrooms. Now, they’re also recorded in mini-studios, and instructors can record with their laptops.”
His department works closely with Video Communication Services (VCS), whose team records course content for online and distance education students.
“What they record, we manage,” says Watson.
When he first joined DELTA, his position looked very different from how it does today. Back when he held the title of media distribution manager, course content was recorded onto videotapes at the slowest possible speed to maximize each tape. In 2005, Watson made the switch to DVDs until Mediasite was adopted four years later. Today, all course content exists online.
“My skillset and the skillset of my department has evolved along with technology. It’s really cool.”
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
As a manager, Watson’s day-to-day tasks revolve around his team members and their success.
“What I do, and what managers do in general, is connect the dots, provide information, resources, and make decisions. My mission is really to give my team everything they need so they can do their jobs.”
His department serves as a tertiary help desk for Mediasite inquiries that have passed through the NC State Help Desk and the LearnTech Help Desk. These days, rather than record and distribute lectures on tape, they now coordinate security permissions, direct the movement of content and handle various formats and servers.
Watson’s role to oversee the department means he’s no longer completing the hands-on work that he used to, though he finds it tempting at times to step back into production, which affords a palpable sense of accomplishment that is often stripped from management. However, he knows to prioritize his team members’ success above his own satisfaction.
“It’s like a teacher who becomes an administrator. They’re not teaching, but the things they do enable teachers to do their jobs,” he says. “You deal with a lot of intangibles when you’re a manager, and the people who should be getting the accolades are the people you manage, not yourself. At best, you’re serving your team members so they can do their jobs.”
“If I am stepping into a production role, something has gone horribly wrong,” he adds with a laugh.
What has been your favorite experience at DELTA?
“There have been a lot of them, but one comes to mind from when I first started.”
As Watson entered his new position, he encountered a production workflow emblematic of the early 2000s. VCS recorded classes in RealMedia, a video streaming technology requiring broadband internet access, but many students had not yet transitioned from using modems in 2003.
“Those students were shipped digital files on CD’s, which sounds like stone knives and bearskins today. But we transformed the whole workflow and saved the university $150,000 in the first year alone. That was gratifying. It was a team effort with tangible benefits.”
This experience would set the tone for his new job and demonstrate the expertise he was bringing to DELTA.
“It comes down to communicating and problem solving. I like finding solutions. I look at a production workflow, and I can identify the sticking points and say ‘this is where things need to improve.’ And that’s what I did when I first got here.”
In other words, Watson makes critical connections between the human and the technical aspects of production. He facilitates communication between different groups, translates management objectives into straightforward instructions and asks for clarification when it’s necessary.
“I pride myself on not being afraid to ask the dumb questions.”
What makes your job special?
Watson wants to make it clear that the success he found early on in his role can also be attributed to the entire team at DELTA. In fact, he says the people here are what make his job special.
“We have incredible people here. Almost anything is enjoyable. We have very intelligent, skilled, innovative people who love what they’re doing. It’s a unique place. DELTA’s the best place I’ve ever worked.”
He also feels the passion that makes DELTA great is imbued at every level of the organization.
“The people I get to supervise are wonderful. The people to whom I report are wonderful, reasonable people. The colleagues that I get to work with are just awesome, wonderful people. That’s what makes it a great place to work.”
Not only do the people make DELTA special, Watson says its foundational mission to better the lives of NC State students is something to be proud of.
“On a good day, nobody knows we’re here. That can have its own challenges. But when you get down to it, we’re helping them, and that’s a wonderful thing. You impact the world in one way or another just by being here.”
What do you like to do outside of work?
“Well, I always say I don’t have any spare time, because we live in a 30-year-old house, which means continuous home improvement. But if I could swap ages with it, I’d have hair again, and I could bulldoze the house.”
When he’s not working on his house, Watson reads as voraciously as possible, listens to music and tries to devote time to writing. He’s also an animation aficionado, and has a large collection of “classic cartoons.”
Most of all, he likes to spend time with his family. He and his wife, Tina, met in college at Missouri State, and they have two kids, Madeleine, 22, and Daniel, 19. Madeleine will join NC State in the fall as a Spanish major, and Daniel will soon start classes at Wake Tech.
“Two years at Wake Tech, and then they transfer to NC State. That’s the plan for both and so far, so good!” says Watson.
“The pro and con for all of us is that we’re around each other more than if they went elsewhere, and like any family, we can drive each other crazy, but we also genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Our time is really the only coin of the realm we’re given in life. When all is said and done, it’s best spent with people you care about.”