The winners of TVNewsCheck’s 2018 Technology Women to Watch awards have something in common beside their field of interest. Both KIRO Seattle’s Deborah Adeogba and Dolby Laboratories’ Jaclyn Pytlarz constantly seek new challenges and opportunities to stretch their knowledge and satisfy their scientific curiosity.
TVNewsCheck’s annual Technology Women to Watch Awards shine a spotlight on women who show significant promise of advancing their industry technologically. It supports the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation’s Technology Apprenticeship Program, which places young engineers, who are women or people of color, in broadcast industry internships.
This year’s winners, who will be honored during the NAB Show on April 10 at 6 p.m. in Room N-243 of the Las Vegas Convention Center, are Deborah Adeogba, director of news technology at Cox Media Group’s KIRO Seattle, and Jaclyn Pytlarz, a senior engineer for applied vision science at Dolby Laboratories in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Deb Adeogba, KIRO Seattle
Adeogba traces her interest in technology back to her father, a systems engineer. “I think that I sort of have his brain,” she says.
At KIRO, she used that brain to oversee the launch of both audio and video on the Amazon Alexa platform, making it the first station to have an Alexa Flash briefing and Alexa show.
Her love of tech doesn’t just include TV and IT. She can be old-school, too. “I just got my ham radio license. That didn’t sound nerdy until I actually said it to you, but I am really excited about it.”
When she was a broadcast journalism major at New Mexico State University (class of 1999 with a minor in math communications), she never wanted to be on camera. “I was focused on the technical side. Monday through Friday, we put on a live half-hour newscast on our PBS station [KRWG Las Cruces] and … I did directing and technical directing and camera operation and all that. So even though it’s journalism, it was journalism which was focused on the technical side.”
Upon graduating, Adeogba went to work at KOB Albuquerque as a chyron operator and moved into technical directing.
She got out of broadcasting to help her sister open a bar, got married, but then decided she needed to get back into television. So she moved to WVEC Norfolk, Va., as a technical director, leading a crew of 12-15 on the morning news. While there she learned production managing and when, in 2005, a production manager position opened up back at KOB, she applied, got it and moved back to New Mexico.
From then on it was a steady rise up the ladder, fueled by her always wanting to learn new skills. “Automation came along and I was worried. I never wanted to be a director sitting in a room alone with a producer. I love the fact that we were a team of people putting a newscast on. So, I went to the engineers and I said how do I become an engineer and they said the first thing you should learn is IT. So, I went to the local college and got a couple of IT certifications.” When KOB needed a new IT manager, she got job and added assistant chief engineer to her title.
KOB was one of the first stations in the country to livestream its newscasts and Adeogba was instrumental in the integration and operation of the launch.
In 2014, she got a tip from a former colleague at KOB who had moved to KIRO that a job had opened up there that was a perfect fit for her.
So, in 2014, the by-then divorced Adeogba moved with her young daughter and son to Seattle as news technology operations manager. Three years later, the title was expanded to director of news technology. She is one of just eight who holds that title at the Cox stations. “We’re responsible for trying new equipment, trying new software, being forward thinking, being futurologists, thinking about Cox in terms of technology and where we are going.”
She leads a team of 40 photographers, editors, remote engineers and directors in the country’s 12th largest market. In addition to the Alexa launch, she has revamped the station’s workflows.
What’s on the horizon? “I am really into VR and how it’s going to play into ATSC 3.0. That is my kick right now. I am trying to learn more about that and how that’s going to [affect] local news.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if you are watching the news in VR and let’s say that there is a fire. We go out to the scene with the reporter and the reporter has a VR camera. You are not only listening to the reporter tell you about the story, but you are standing at the scene with her looking around. That’s cool.
“I think that ATSC 3.0 is a game-changer for our industry,” she continues. There will be more to sell because ads can be targeted. “That’s a whole new selling point for us.
“Local news will always be around. We will always have local television,” she says. Even with the proliferation of OTT, she says, “we will still have an RF signal that you can pick up on bunny ears and I think that VR [and augmented reality] is going to be a big part of it.”
When asked to reflect on her career, she’s thankful and proud of being a woman in technology. “I have been very lucky to have people who have supported my career and supported my passions and my crazy ideas. This is what I love. I also want to break that glass ceiling for little girls.
“I want them to know that it’s OK that you like technology.”
Jaclyn Pytlarz, Dolby Laboratories
Pytlarz has a colorful career, literally. As a senior engineer for applied vision science at Dolby Laboratories in Sunnyvale, Calif., she is immersed in technologies for High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut displays.
The goal of the company’s Dolby Vision is to enable displays that deliver what the content creators’ cameras have captured, first on the professional level, then for consumers as well.
Her main focus is developing color mapping and display management algorithms that take into account display under various ambient conditions. Dolby describes its Advanced HDR as “cutting-edge technology that dramatically expands the color palette and contrast range, and uses dynamic metadata to automatically optimize the picture for every screen — frame by frame.”
She came to this interest early. Her grandfather was an engineer, as were others in her family. “I always grew up knowing about engineering specifically, but as a kid I always loved to play around with my Mom’s video camera. I would make movies all the time just for fun.
“When I went to university I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do engineering because I love math and science or filmmaking.” Luckily the Rochester Institute of Technology offered a program called “Motion Picture Science, which was the engineering behind filmmaking. I got pretty lucky in that.”
She landed an internship at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2013 and by graduation the following year she knew “one of the things that I really wanted to do [was] color management.” One of her professors connected her with Craig Todd, Dolby’s SVP and CTO, who brought her in as an intern for three months then hired her as an R&D display engineer focusing on color and imaging.
She moved up to applied vision science engineer in 2016 and senior engineer in July 2017.
According to Todd, “Jaclyn has quickly become recognized by the best in the media industry as an expert in color science. She is particularly skilled at explaining new concepts that she has been involved in developing. She’s a whiz with computer tools like Matlab and PowerPoint and can turn data into images that clearly make her point and that can be understood by a wide audience.
“An example of this was her experience at the International Telecommunications Union where in the first meeting she ever attended she provided a very convincing lecture and demonstration of a new color encoding method, ICtCp, that is superior to the conventionally employed YCbCr method. She was so convincing that the ICtCp method was included in the new recommendation on HDR that was approved at that meeting.”
Like much of the TV tech world, the new transmission standard, ATSC 3.0, looms large. Her work is no exception. “This next year is going to be one of the first years where the most common type of TV you can buy is a high dynamic range TV and that’s very cool, but it also means that we are just touching the surface of what consumers are going to see and think about high dynamic range. I think there will be some sort of evolution once content starts really being produced using ATSC 3.0.”
Down the road, Pytlarz says she’s “not exactly sure where I want to end up, but I do know that I want to be in a place where I get to keep solving problems. If there is anything that I particularly love in a job, it’s when there is something new to solve, an area that hasn’t been explored, where it’s on the verge of research. I was very lucky coming into the industry when I did with high dynamic range because it was just barely getting past the research stage [and there were] those practical application problems to be able to go after.”
“I know virtual reality is somewhat the hype of today and that has a long way to go as far as actual technology, more so the optics and screen resolution behind it. Probably the most interesting to me, and it’s still in its infancy, is the concept of holographic display. That’s extremely interesting, but very much still a research project.”
Pytlarz is moving forward with her education. She’s working on a Master of Science in computational and mathematical engineering at Stanford that will keep her busy, she figures, for another three-and-a-half years. In the meantime, she lets off steam with rock climbing and soccer.
Along with Todd, Pytlarz’s manager, Robin Atkins, sees a bright future for her. “It’s unclear whether her career will take her into management or whether she will stick to technology, and there’s no reason she can’t do both. Although early in her career, Jaclyn has demonstrated the potential to be a leader in her industry. Jaclyn has that indispensable ability to find practical and robust solutions for challenging problems — the kind of solutions that are essential to long-term and broad use within her industry.”
Her potential is also clearly obvious to Todd: “I expect Jaclyn will make contributions in imaging science that will be broader than color science where she has excelled to date.”