TVNewsCheck’s 2017 Women in Technology Leadership Award honoree spearheaded Imagine’s IP transition strategy while coaxing staffers and customers to embrace momentous change. Her mantra for company insiders: “It’s OK to fail. If you try to protect yourself and focus only on what you know, you’re not going to enjoy what’s coming.”
Connan-Lostanlen Sets Pace For IP Transition
The phrase “uniquely qualified” gets thrown around a lot among the platitudes people use to describe standout professionals. But in Dr. Glodina Connan-Lostanlen’s case, it’s probably the rare time it’s completely true.
Connan-Lostanlen, this year’s TVNewsCheck Women in Technology Leadership Award honoree, is at the locus of a enormous change. As chief marketing officer of Imagine Communications, she is at the point of the spear, helping broadcasters navigate a transition from their legacy, hardware-based technology systems to IP-enabled, software-defined and cloud-based technology.
Technically, culturally and emotionally, it was probably easier when broadcasters switched over from black and white to color.
“Our number one objective is to make people feel comfortable with the transition and show them the path,” Connan-Lostanlen says. Given she holds an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, a Master’s in microwave and opto-electronics, a Ph.D. in signal processing and telecommunications and an M.B.A. to top it all off, that’s where the “uniquely qualified” bit comes in for this particular task of path-showing.
“I work probably closer than anybody with Glodina on a day-to-day basis,” says Brick Eksten, Imagine’s chief product officer. “She’s really driven. She makes me feel tired sometimes. She has this tremendous mix of technological and market understanding and has a good sense of the customer, which she brings all together in her role to promote how we message and market.”
Connan-Lostanlen has been with Imagine since 2001, when the company was in its previous incarnation as Harris Broadcast and she joined to support worldwide sales for its terrestrial radio and digital television projects. As global evangelist for the multimedia possibilities of Digital Audio Broadcasting, Connan-Lostanlen led groundbreaking, multimillion dollar rollouts of digital TV and radio services in the UK and helped Harris become the world’s leading supplier of DAB solutions.
Her ascent from there was steady: she moved into business development for IPTV and mobile TV in Europe and the Middle East in 2007, moving to Toronto to be Harris’ director of product marketing in 2009.
When Harris became Imagine in 2014, Connan-Lostanlen rose to VP of strategic solutions management, where her mandate refocused around helping the company move from traditional broadcast roots toward the industry’s IP future. She led virtual teams in the design and execution of Imagine’s most complex solutions and commercial strategies, overseeing dedicated cross-functional resources and coordinating with strategic technology partners like IBM, HP, Microsoft and Cisco.
Connan-Lostanlen established a global strategic plan to pursue more than 80 key broadcast, media and telco customer engagements on new cloud- and IP-enabled solutions for playout and distribution. She oversaw dozens of related proofs of concept and strategic trials, developing a sales funnel of more than $300 million in nine months.
In 2015, Imagine named Connan-Lostanlen CMO.
For Connan-Lostanlen, there’s nothing in her unique career path that has exactly surprised her. Growing up in Brittany, France and initially studying at the University of Rennes, she couldn’t make up her mind at first between pursuing an engineering or business career.
She opted to pursue her studies with the former, figuring that she could pick up the necessary business skills along the way when she landed in the market (the M.B.A. was a late edition to her c.v. in 2015, when she graduated first in her class from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management). For her, balancing the highly technical with sales and marketing has been long intertwined, starting in earnest with her Ph.D. project, which she presented widely at conferences and required her to sell a highly-complex idea to varied audiences.
Connan-Lostanlen’s engineering background ended up helping her launch in sales. “A lot of the credibility I had at the time being a young woman in sales was because I was an engineer and I could understand and speak to the operational guys and the solutions architects,” she says.
From those early days on, she brings what she calls “a technology view and a business view to every given challenge.” That means switching between heady discussions of interoperability and standards to focusing on the business model changes her work is heralding and the cultural and organizational changes they, in turn, will precipitate.
Powering Connan-Lostanlen behind this change management is her certitude — and Imagine’s — that this transition is both inevitable and necessary for broadcasters’ long-term survival. While traditional advertisers are still spending the bulk of their money on conventional TV advertising, she says a perfect storm of dynamics is conspiring to change that.
Consumers’ habits toward mobile and audience fragmentation are chief among those dynamics, compelling broadcasters to adapt to new multiscreen behaviors. Then there are the new entrants to the multiscreen space. “Broadcasters’ competitors are no longer the other stations or the other networks,” Connan-Lostanlen says. “It’s Netflix. It’s Facebook.”
The competitors also include the telcos, “who have traditionally always had a very strong relationship with users through their bills for phone and data,” she says. “They have that connection already.” And players like AT&T — via DirecTV Now — are fast moving into the space.
Against that competition there’s some urgency for broadcasters, and managing the right pace for change amid the enormous infrastructural and corporate-cultural transitions it requires is at the heart of her day-to-day work.
Having well-honed professional empathy skills helps a lot.
“The best way to do it is to look at it from the perspective of our existing and new customers,” she says. “What I’m trying to do is put myself in their shoes.”
Those shoes were often quaking in the first days of the IP push, leading Imagine and Connan-Lostanlen to fine tune its messaging in the face of reticent broadcasters. Imagine’s support for hardware and traditional broadcast infrastructure wasn’t going away any time soon, she began to assure them. “But for you to stay relevant, we have to anticipate that you’re going to need those solutions that are IP-enabled and available from the cloud,” she emphasized at the same time.
Broadcast clients weren’t the only ones needing assurance during the changes. Internal teams, too, needed help moving from creating bespoke platforms to more software-based solutions, and Connan-Lostanlen has been helping the transition on that end, too.
“So my encouragement to the people I work with is it’s OK to try something new,” she says. “It’s OK to fail. If you try to protect yourself and focus only on what you know, you’re not going to enjoy what’s coming.”
That Connan-Lostanlen is making headway with these assurances is no surprise to CPO Eksten, who sees them bearing fruit. He says her essence is “taking the input from the technologists and the input from the market and spinning it into a point of focus that we can all rally around. She tends to make it very easy for us to all find synergy in the way that we execute on our development strategies and our product strategy.”
Debra Huttenburg, VP of sales and customer care, Americas, for Mersen, who worked with Connan-Lostanlen when she was VP and GM of radio at Harris, concurs.
“She’s able to earn the respect of the most technical person, but at the same time have that right level of interpersonal skills,” Huttenburg says. “She’s approachable, she’s confident, she’s competent and has the right mix of those skills to represent the company well.”
And Imagine CEO Charlie Vogt, whose vision has driven the company’s IP direction, reinforces that read. “She’s been more prepared for this job than anyone,” he says. “I’m a very fast-paced leader, and she runs right alongside me. That’s a rare find.”
Connan-Lostanlen’s skills are being put to the test not only internally and with clients but across the industry itself via the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS), which Imagine launched with competitors Grass Valley and Navo in 2015 to help establish IP industry protocols. It has been a cat-herding business to do so, but she and her peers have been motivated to do so by looking at how clients have been affected.
“We just saw our customers’ pain irrespective of us being competitors,” she says, and the common cause of amelioration has given AIMS some early success on the production side. The next focus will be on streamlining the number of compression techniques and, perhaps more importantly, focusing on the business case — how to justify the investment for the IP transition with CFOs, and AIMS will bring together case studies to do so
All of this means long hours and lots of travel for Connan-Lostanlen, who has a young family in Toronto including a husband in the telecom business who’s often on the road himself, managing a team back in their native France.
“I’m really lucky because he’s my coach,” she says. “We are very fortunate because we understand each other’s priorities on the career side and we have a very fair share of how we take care of the kids” — a 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter.
Taking them on travels away from work is an important, ongoing bonding experience through which she tries to impart her own intrepid values. “We like traveling for the sake of discovering the world,” she says.
That same attitude carries over to her embrace of diversity, be it gender or otherwise, which she says is essential to help push her industry forward. “Usually people with different backgrounds, different origins and different perspectives are the ones most likely to succeed in driving change,” she says. “The more we are influencing that change and how it can be done, probably the better.”
Connan-Lostanlen is making that argument be example as her career continues to move upward. Vogt expects to see it continue right to the top.
“She’s got CEO material,” he says. “I would not be shocked to see her as a CEO at some point in her career.”
Connan-Lostanlen will accept TVNewsCheck‘s seventh annual Women in Technology Leadership Award on Tuesday, April 25, at a 6 p.m. ceremony and cocktail reception in room N227 of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Presented at the height of the NAB Show, the award supports the NAB Education Foundation’s Technology Apprenticeship Program, which places graduating engineers who are women or people of color in industry internships. Here’s more on the awards program and more on the NABEF TAP.