Welcome to our recurring column, Meet Our Team, where we spotlight some of the integral members of the Casting Networks team who are dedicated to keeping our platform running smoothly and efficiently for our customers and clients. For our second installment, we speak with Chris Holbert, Chief Operating Officer at Talent Systems. Learn what drove Chris to pursue a career in operations and management, what he loves most about working at Casting Networks, what he is excited to work on this year and more!
1. What is your role at Casting Networks?
I am the Chief Operating Officer at Talent Systems, parent company to Casting Networks, Spotlight, Cast It and Casting Frontier. This role includes responsibility for all of our lines of business.
2. What is your favorite part of your job?
The never-ending challenges to solve. We have numerous technologies, many important customer segments, we are spread throughout a host of markets, we have team members in many countries in nearly every time zone, and we have aggressive performance and growth goals. On top of that, we have a deep list of things we would like to improve! So, what excites me each day is the never-ending source of new challenges that come from every angle.
3. What are you most excited about working on this year?
2022 will be the first year that we can focus on running our businesses excellently. This means that we can organize our teams to maximize excellence and efficiency, we can spend more time growing new skills and capabilities in managers and staff, we can talk to our customers more to build their needs into our roadmaps, we can institute processes that improve our execution while evolving our ability to work well asynchronously, and so much more. I am excited about all of the improvements we will make by just having the time to focus on these activities.
4. What are some interesting areas you get to focus on at Casting Networks that you didn’t in previous roles?
I have served in similar roles for privately held and publicly traded companies since 1998 though this is the first time I have worked in the entertainment industry. For me, that is a new challenge and I find it really interesting and fun to learn about a new industry, the markets that underpin the industry, the customers and their needs, and all that comes with a different industry.
5. What’s something interesting or unexpected about your role that people would be surprised to know?
I am not sure this is interesting, but it is generally true that I find my job to be incredibly exciting and invigorating, and perhaps it is because I focus on the challenges and the relentless pursuit of excellence. The ironic part of that is that many, if not most people, find my job, and others like it in operations entirely boring and absent of creativity. I can see why many see it that way because after all my job focuses a lot on process, metrics, and the like. I can see how others see it as boring if you only focus on process mapping or role definition or structure and such, but if you see it for the opportunities to improve and drive excellence in and across teams then, I think, it brings it to life and makes it fun!
6. What drove you to pursue a career in operations and management?
I think I naturally gravitated towards operations and management from a young age. I have always had a bit of an engineer mindset though focused on how groups work. The idea of how people, process, and technology come together in a way to support great results. In high school and university I led some large teams in music, sports, and community service. That wasn’t the goal it just happened over time after being involved and passionate about the teams I joined. So, these experiences from high school through graduate school provided me a foundation and a perspective from which to see how teams learn together, work together and succeed together.
7. Tell us about a mentor or person who inspired you to get to where you are today.
There are two: 1) Michael Mertens (music instructor in high school) and 2) Sally Campbell (first manager I had after graduate school). Michael was only 24 when he took over the music program at my high school. I was a freshman (9th grade in the US – 13 – 14-year-olds). Through music, he taught me how to define success. Then, we would take that and build plans and practice regimens to ensure we succeeded. That could be something as simple as learning a new piece of music in specified period of time or having our orchestra being invited to attend a renowned music festival or competition. He was relentless in his pursuit of perfection and he taught the building blocks of what it takes to achieve success.
Sally was my manager in a tech and management consulting firm where I worked after graduating from the University of Chicago with a Master’s degree in Finance. She saw potential in me that I didn’t see and gave me opportunities to learn and grow that pushed me in ways I would not have pushed myself. She showed me the value of hard work and team building in context of large, complex projects that brought together 200+ engineers, analysts and others for engagements that consumed 6 to 24 months. Creating a sense of team with so many people who didn’t know each other and had different or competing goals was a challenge and she had a system and it was fascinating to see and learn from her.