In the Trenches With Warren Habib, Vice President-Engineering, Solbright
Warren was drawn to the field of technology in high school, but when it came time for college in the early '80s, degrees in software engineering were few and far between. "People didn't go to school for computers then; the home brew thing was much bigger," he explains.
So, Warren majored in History and German Lit. His choice of study subjects didn't preclude him from pursuing his tech interests, though. He took some time off from Thomas Mann to play the role of apprentice under the tutelage of Dan Samuel, a Silicon Valley software engineer. Eventually lured to the land of dot-com by the promise of riches--as many were during the last decade--Warren left his work as a consultant to blaze a new trail with Solbright, a leading application service provider of software for ad inventory management that serves clients including Terra Lycos and Weather.com.
Since Solbright has no official chief technology officer, Warren essentially serves as the company's tech chief, which means his job involves both broad conceptual planning and nitty-gritty problem-solving. On any particular day, he might meet with the development team to discuss future efforts, pow-wow with management to work out partnerships with complementary tech firms, and help clients implement the latest version of the Solbright's ad sales software. And then there are the requests for proposal letters and sales calls.
As his career has advanced, Warren's liberal arts background has grown increasingly important. "Ultimately, my ability to communicate with customers and phrase problems clearly and succinctly is more important for them then the technical explanation," he says.
When it comes to integrating online and print operations, publishers are still working out the kinks. Among other things, revenue reporting and billing issues are a major concern, especially with the inception of stringent auditing standards enforced under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Satisfying clients' needs in this capacity may involve, for instance, enabling revenue reporting based on a broadcast calendar in conjunction with billing based on calendar month. This sort of thing may cause headaches, but sorting out technical problems such as these is possible in the digital world, assures Warren, "because we have the ability to pull actual hard numbers."
And then there's the occasional run-in with a less-than-diplomatic client. It's rare, but when it does happen, Warren tries to maintain his "preternatural state of serenity in the face of adversity," as he puts it. He admits: "Advertising can be an aggressive business sometimes. It's a 'got to have it now' kind of thing."
The envy of countless Manhattanites, Warren has the pleasure of working near Union Square, where a park, outdoor market, and myriad restaurant options are right outside his door. "I like to stroll over to the park," says Warren. "It's very mind-clearing."
Being partial to private workspaces as opposed to what he refers to as "wide-open bullpen spaces," Warren is also pleased with Solbright's work environment of high-walled cubicles. "I don't feel every belch should be a communal experience," notes Warren bluntly, adding that "software development requires the ability to think through a problem in peace."
Like other facets of the Internet ad industry, standards are much desired by Warren when it comes to third-party billing. "I'd like to be doing some work on the issue of third-party billing data," he says. He wants standards established for matching up billing numbers from third-party reports with publisher data. "We should have information flowing back and forth," asserts Warren. "It's incumbent on us as technology providers."
Although he has yet to align with any industry organizations to facilitate a goal such as this, Warren predicts, "I can see in the future, if the right kind of issue comes up, taking some time for that."
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