Disney restructures & expands tech team
May 26, 2021
Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution (DMED) Technology has added several new leaders to its ranks and realigned itself to support Disney’s growth, the ways in which it connects consumers with its brands and content, the collection of technological talent, and the needs of the DMED segment and The Walt Disney Company – both today and tomorrow.
The realignment creates eight core groups within the DMED Technology group: Advertising Platforms, Business Operations, Consumer Experiences & Platforms, Content Operations, Content Platforms, Design, Engineering Services, and Media Engineering.
Along with the structural changes, DMED Technology’s Executive Vice President and CTO, Aaron LaBerge, welcomed three new highly-accomplished technologists – Oke Okaro, Jen Schwarz, and Mike White – to his senior leadership team, and elevated several existing leaders into new roles.
The new organisational structure aligns the team, comprised of thousands of technologists, to create further connectivity and collaboration between software, platform, product, and service teams at all levels; enable the development, management and operation of a scalable and flexible combination of distribution technologies; support the DMED segment’s multiple lines of businesses; focus resources in critical areas; and reinforce a culture of imagination and innovation.
“DMED Technology is among the most talented and innovative collection of people on the planet and I am inspired and privileged to work with them each day,” said LaBerge. “This new alignment recognises where our Company is today, where it is going tomorrow, and positions us to continue Disney’s legacy of using technology to bring amazing stories and products to consumers everywhere, drive businesses and power innovation. I’m energized to be welcoming new, talented colleagues to this incredible team as we ensure Disney remains at the forefront of the evolving future of media and technology.”
In addition to the new members of LaBerge’s leadership team, he has tapped other key leaders for updated and expanded roles in DMED Technology, including Mike Andrews, Tagu Kato, Chris Lawson and Michael Pollard, while Jeremy Helfand continues to lead the group’s Ad Platforms team, managing the development of advertising technology and products in collaboration with Disney Advertising Sales.
Along with these changes, John Heerdt (previously Sr. Vice President, Media Engineering) will move into an advisory position to LaBerge and Pollard until the end of 2021. For over 20 years Heerdt has helped the Company stay steps ahead of the industry and prepare for the future of television and media by advancing its strategic development of facilities and innovations in systems engineering. Having left an indelible mark, he will retire at the end of the year.
More detail about DMED Technology’s updated leadership and strategic alignment:
Andrews will lead the new Content Platforms team as Sr. Vice President, Content Platforms, DMED Technology. For nearly two decades, Andrews has led some of Disney and ESPN’s most challenging engineering projects, and he will now lead a team whose work is a critical piece of the transformation of DMED’s distribution technologies and the Company’s direct-to-consumer evolution. Before Disney’s content reaches the homes and screens of hundreds of millions of consumers it passes through DMED Technology’s Media Supply Chain platform. The Content Platforms team is responsible for building, advancing, and maintaining that global Media Supply Chain, enabling delivery and monetisation for The Walt Disney Company’s unmatched collection of film and episodic content. Already storing processing and delivering tens of millions of media assets, the platform includes an array of technologies, experiences and tools to support Disney’s businesses and functions including Platform Distribution, Content Sales, Programming, Production, and Marketing.
Kato has been elevated to lead a new, centralised Design team as the Vice President, Design, DMED Technology. Great design blends form, function, aesthetics, and user-experience. Disney’s consumer-facing products have long benefited from world-class design. With the creation of a unified design team, DMED Technology will continue to advance those efforts, while also applying the same attention and creativity to DMED’s internal and enterprise business tools and platforms as well. Kato and his team are responsible for product design, user experience, creative direction, production design, motion design, service design and more across the consumer and enterprise portfolio for DMED Technology. Kato previously led efforts around the creation of unified design frameworks within DMED Technology, and led extensive efforts at Nike before joining Disney in 2017.
Helfand continues as Sr. Vice President, Ad Platforms, DMED Technology. He and his team partner closely with Disney Advertising Sales to deliver on an ambitious vision for a technology-powered advertising future at Disney. He and his team develop standard-setting products, technology, systems and tools that extend and accelerate Disney’s advertising business, drive advertising innovation and performance, and ensure the Company’s position at the forefront of the advertising industry’s transformation.
Lawson has been elevated to the newly created role of Sr. Vice President, Content Operations, DMED Technology. He will lead a unified Operations team with responsibility for live studio operations, broadcast and transmission, network and production operations, content preparation, mastering, asset and media management and packaging and distribution functions globally, as well as the technology and operations for DMED in APAC, EMEA, and Latin America. The Content Operations team will help streamline and modernize linear and digital operations, positioning DMED and Disney to accelerate its ongoing transformation and ensure it stays at the forefront of the industry. He and his team will partner closely with Disney’s content divisions, regional business leadership, local production teams and other platform and engineering leaders to drive a global strategy that also balances local needs. Lawson previously played an integral role in leading the technology transformation and integration efforts over the past two-plus years as Sr. Vice President, Technology Operations.
Okaro joins as Sr. Vice President, Business Operations, DMED Technology, leading the team that will partner with DMED businesses, to deliver global program and project management, capital and portfolio management, investment and resource prioritisation and planning, tracking and communication of performance, administrative services, and other key functions critical to the operation of DMED Technology. He returns Disney after 11 years at Verizon, Bloomberg and Burner Wellness, where he served in key business, product, and technology roles. From 2004 to 2010 Okaro helped develop ESPN’s mobile business and platform.
Pollard has been elevated to Sr. Vice President, Media Engineering. He will lead the team responsible for continuing to drive the industry-leading team responsible for the design and engineering behind DMED Technology’s global infrastructure and production facilities; programming & distribution of digital and linear networks worldwide; global fiber networking; linear content protection and infrastructure; production and content management systems and services for Disney’s media networks and radio stations; video encoding; media processing; interactive graphics & animation technologies; and the testing and adoption of video formats and standards. Pollard steps into the role with a strong pedigree as a technologist and leader, having spent over a decade in the media operations and engineering world for ABC and Disney Cable Networks, as well as having been Vice President, Technology Operations in DMED for the past two and a half years.
Schwarz joins as Sr. Vice President, Engineering Services, DMED Technology. The newly-created role will lead a team that provides connectivity and services across all of DMED Technology. She and her team will be responsible for quality assurance; Tier 1 support; code and release management; performance monitoring, management of our cloud computing infrastructure and security partnerships (working closely with Disney’s corporate Information Security & Risk Management team). Schwarz brings both deep technical expertise and leadership experience to the role, having most recently served as CTO of TicketNetwork where she oversaw all aspects of technology for the secondary ticketing company. Previously she held technology leadership positions at Accenture, RPX Corp and The Gap, and has expertise in areas including architecture, data, consumer-facing products, digital marketing and e-commerce.
White joins as Sr. Vice President, Consumer Experiences & Platforms, DMED Technology. The newly-evolved team unites the engineering and product development teams responsible for the creation, development and growth of DMED Technology’s digital product portfolio of more than 90 sites and native applications that reach more than 380 million consumers worldwide each month and includes the industry-leading brands including ABC, ABC News, Disney.com and Disney Now, ESPN, FX, Marvel, National Geographic, Star Wars and more. White joins from Disney Parks, Experiences and Products where he led the team responsible for product development, engineering, and deployment of the Parks’ industry-leading products, apps, games and experiences. He previously held technology leadership roles at Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, Apollo Group, and Yahoo!