In The Trenches With Jim Smith
After earning a physics degree in Montreal, Jim eventually made his way back to the states to carry on his learning at Cornell, where he received an MBA and Masters in Engineering. And then there was that minor business of converting 3,000 computers from DOS to Windows at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
Jim was originally hired by Ultramercial as a consultant for his tech know-how. It wasn't long, though, before his business smarts came into play when the firm realized that a shift in the business model would be necessary to enable profitability. "We tweaked the business model and came up with a cost- effective architecture," explains Jim. Now, readers of sites such as Salon.com experience Ultramercial ads in exchange for viewing premium content.
To Jim, being a CTO is just as much about developing new technologies as it is about educating. His goal is to communicate knowledge about the latest developments in Ultramercial's technology without burdening his colleagues with extraneous information. "The nice thing about my job is, I spend a lot of my time trying to keep other people from being distracted," he elaborates.
It's also important for Jim to ensure that Ultramercial viewers have a positive experience with the ads. When assisting with browser compatibility or firewall issues, he often interacts with site visitors as well as publishers and advertisers. "It's really rewarding to help readers understand the value that viewing advertisements brings to them," adds Jim.
Being such a communicative sort, Jim admits that working from home, as all five key Ultramercial staffers do, has its downside. It's hard not to get wrapped up in the familiar home/work space cocoon. "It's tough to get out and meet people who aren't in your industry," he says. "You have to continuously reinvigorate your business environment with input from the outside."
With a world as inviting as Jim has right outside his door in West Hollywood, there's always something close by to refresh his spirit. Unlike the stereotypical techie who spends his days hunched over a blinking screen in some gloomy cubicle, Jim delights in the splendorous view of his backyard, and often steps out to see his 80-year-old avocado tree up close. He's also quite fond of experimenting in his garden, and even tracks changes with his webcam. "When I get tired of controlling things inside, I can go out and control nature," quips the mad scientist.
As far as Jim's concerned, online advertising has gotten a bad rap, thanks to banner ads, pop-ups, and spam. As a consumer himself, he'd like to see advertisers rely less upon stale ad formats "that advertisers are forced to use more of as they lose their effectiveness."
"Turning up the volume doesn't make the message any clearer," contends Jim. "The industry needs to get advertising to consumers in a positive way that doesn't distract from the good parts of the Internet."
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