Jody Madden is chief product and customer officer of Foundry, a global developer of computer graphics, visual effects and 3D design software. In that role, she’s responsible for delivering innovative solutions to the media and entertainment industry and ensuring that customer needs remain at the heart of the business.
She joined Foundry in September 2013 as its chief operating officer and has a long track record in technology management, having previously worked at Domain, Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic.
Jody, you have a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University, but very early on in your career, you chose the technology industry. What prompted your interest in this area?
The intersection of art and technology attracted me to the industry, and ultimately, it was the opportunity to learn from an incredible range of talented people that inspired me to apply for my first job at Industrial Light & Magic. Though I’m not an artist or an engineer, the opportunity to work with people who are passionate experts in their fields was extremely attractive.
You’ve held a number of high-profile, high responsibility roles at Foundry. How would you describe your leadership style and how do you get the best work from your teams?
As a leader, I’m committed to building the strongest team possible with complementary skillsets and I work hard to create opportunities for individual growth. My job is to provide structure, guidance and support, whilst helping to remove the blockers that get in the way of the team’s progress. On a great day, I get to accelerate the progress of everyone around me and watch them realise their contributions to our goals.
In April, Foundry launched Athera, a cloud-based visual effects (VFX) platform. What is the significance of this product launch and what is your view on cloud technology’s impact on the VFX industry?
Faced with the difficulties of moving large datasets and security concerns, among other challenges, the VFX industry was slower to adopt early cloud technology and worked with dedicated infrastructure in colocated data centres for many years.
The Athera launch is significant, as Athera leverages the cloud to provide flexible access to storage, creative tools and pipeline on a single platform, providing freelancers and VFX studios the flexibility of a completely cloudbased, post-production pipeline. It includes not only Foundry products, but also products from partners such as SideFX, 3Delight and more, giving customers on-demand access to their preferred tools.
Cloud technology continues to increase flexibility and access to the infrastructure and talent needed in VFX, while fostering greater collaboration.
What would you say to those users still wary of the cloud?
If someone is still wary of using Athera because of security concerns, I’d encourage them to dig into the detail, particularly the information available in the independent cybersecurity audit we had completed.
Working with the team at Google Cloud on Athera, it’s clear that security is at the top of the agenda. While there continues to be companies or projects that require all work be completed on prem, on locked-down systems, we continue to see an increased use of cloud.
What is your experience of being a woman in tech? Have you seen much change in the years since you’ve entered the industry in terms of more women moving through the ranks?
Early in my management career, I was often the only woman in the room and sometimes the only woman in the building. Although this was many years before we were talking about ‘male allies’ in the workplace, I worked with some men who did listen, gave clear feedback and I learned a lot from them about direct communication and healthy conflict resolution.
The mentors who encouraged me to take on new roles early in my career, before I was confident enough to push for myself, were critical to expediting my own growth. Though there has been some change in recent years – there are a few more women at the table and I’ve seen more women excel in technology roles – we still have a long way to go to create and foster a diverse pipeline of talent in technology.
The number of women and men I know engaged in developing a more diverse workplace and actively mentoring women is increasing, so I am hopeful that we are slowly moving in the right direction.
What advice would you give to those who feel inspired by your career path?
Surround yourself with people you respect and can learn from each day. Earn the trust of your co-workers and customers, work hard to keep it, and contribute all you can to a team that delivers work you are proud of. Invest significant time and energy in supporting and encouraging the growth of the people around you. You might find this is one of the most fulfilling parts of your day.
What are you excited about in the future of your industry?
There are more people than ever working at the intersection of art and technology to create content. As we evolve existing workflows and pipelines, I’m excited to see what is produced through new collaborations.