What does a production manager do?
Carolena is a New Media Production Manager for the Australian Children's Television Foundation. "My job is a few jobs stuffed into one. I'm a production manager, web developer and trainer," she says. Her primary role is to manage the production of an educational software package called Kahootz. "It's 3D multimedia for children aged between seven to 15," Carolena explains. The Kahootz website is also an online community where students and teachers share information in a creative way.
What does a typical working day involve?
Typical tasks involve monitoring and maintaining the Kahootz website by checking the helpdesk, managing content and building the website community. She also produces a monthly email newsletter, and checks the Kahootz statistics. "It's very Big Brother," she laughs, "but I check to see if new teachers or schools have signed up and how the site is being used - like what people have been downloading or uploading."
Carolena consults with graphic designers, printers and CD replicators (companies that burn CDs) to maintain the supply of CDs and work out the cheapest ways of producing the software without the quality suffering. She also visits schools to demonstrate how Kahootz can be used in conjunction with the curriculum.
How did you become a production manager?
Carolena's background is a patchwork of careers. She studied art, design and ceramics, before working as a stage manager, and then a lighting operator. She started a children's theatre company, worked in the French circus, lectured in web design and worked as animator. "Having a planned path doesn't work for everyone," Carolena says. "Having the guts to give things a go and try different things is part of it too."
What are some of the pros and cons of the job?
"Visiting the schools and talking with the kids who are using the software is really fun because you see the end result," Carolena enthuses. "There's also lots of variety - I'm not just stuck at a keyboard all day." Travel is also as a positive and she mentions upcoming trips to Tokyo and London. Lowlights are few, but Carolena says: "It can be stressful. You've got more responsibility and accountability as a manager and pressure to deliver deadlines".
What are the people you work with like?
"I work with designers, programmers, Heads of Departments, marketers, teachers, students, the Department of Education and parliamentarians. We have to present the software to pollies quite a lot," she says.
What sort of skills and qualities do you need?
"You need to be able to multitask and be organised," Carolena remarks. Other useful qualities include being an effective communicator, a capable public speaker and having strong writing skills and an understanding of budgeting. "Budget skills don't have anything to do with being good at maths. It's based more on thinking creatively about planning, costing and time-lining."
Are there any tips for getting a job as a production manager?
"It's impossible to say 'I'm going to get a job as a production manager'. It's a ladder up and an accumulated skill set." Carolena suggests doing anything that involves planning a project and working it out from inception to production. "When I was at the theatre company I was the production liaison person," she says, "But jobs like being a production assistant in TV or radio, or a media producer will get you in. Even doing layout for the student newspaper or working on the website. All the skills will eventually add up."
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).