UCL Careers


Transcript: Future Talk – Clive Santamaria, Chief Architect at ITV

Clive Santamaria is a Chief Architect at ITV and a UCL alumni. He joins Future Talk to discuss about why he pioneered an internship programme to support future engineers, the benefits of working for an established employer for a long period of time, how graduates can overcome current challenges to the recruitment process as impacted by Covid-19, and details why he has been impressed by the quality of work from UCL STEM interns.      


ucl, itv, career, technology, learn, people, projects, internships, engineer, company, engineering, skills, helped, societies, role, podcast, work, placement, students, demo

Clive Santamaria, Amy Lourenco

Amy Lourenco  00:06
Hi everyone, this is UCL careers podcast future talk. My name is Amy Lourenco, senior careers consultant at UCL. On this podcast which is powered by UCL Minds, we will be talking with professionals in different sectors about their career journeys and insights in relation to employability topics. This series is packed with guests who are change makers and innovators in their respective industries, and was created by the engineering careers team to help our students and graduates find out more about various professional experiences. Each episode will have a guest who will share their professional insights and provide valuable information relating to careers. The episodes will be available on Spotify, Apple podcast, and SoundCloud on a weekly basis.  On today's episode, I'm so pleased to be able to introduce our guest Clive Santamaria. He is currently chief architect at ITV, having started at the company in 2004. As a development engineer, he has led the development of distribution technologies in his role and has been part of the evolution of streaming and cloud technologies. He has a BS in mechanical engineering from UCL and MSc in information technology from Kingston University. Welcome to the podcast. Clive, thank you so much for joining us today.

Clive Santamaria  01:18
Thanks. Thanks for having me, looking forward to having a chat about UCL and all things tech.

Amy Lourenco  01:24
Fantastic. And it's great to welcome UCL on back to the podcast as well. So first question, you studied Mechanical Engineering at UCL from 1997 to 2001. And after graduating went on to work for Carlton TV as a development engineer before joining ITV in 2004. What helped inform your choice on the path you decided to take for your career? And how did you find that transition from the academic environment to a professional work environment?

Clive Santamaria  01:53
Yeah, well, I guess when you say it like that, it's quite a long time ago, isn't it when you went to the words Carlton TV is the company that I am in that period. But yeah, I guess being at UCL shaped a number of things for me, not just from what I learned at UCL in engineering, which is design and building and architecting things. But it was I also when I was there, I was a member of the film society. And we also had a local communications station called Bloomsbury TV, at the time, and it basically ran is this pre Facebook and things like that. So we had to, we ran comms for the rest of the University via that outlet. And so doing those two things, which, for me, was quite a creative angle. And also understanding technology, but how you, you get things out to people to see, doing the engineering degree, and also getting involved in some of those societies, which UCL has got a great range, which is one of the attractions or guests of the university, and kind of led me down a path of wanting to get into technology around film and television. So that kind of shaped my aspirations at that point. And then I did, as you mentioned, I did a master's in it. So it's kind of software development. And what they did that was they had a placement as part of the MSC. And I did the placement at ITV or Colton, that then to do a small project in my summer. And so that kind of fused together my skills and my interests in one go. And that's what I guess I would advise some of these students applying for for jobs and careers is to try and merge your skills. And obviously, what you you want to do, because I think without that drive, it's hard to see a career through unless you've got that inkling that you kind of want to do something. And luckily, I had that from from my university days.

Amy Lourenco  03:53
Oh, that's fantastic. So it was really about getting involved in clubs and societies that informed your sort of career trajectory.

Clive Santamaria  04:01
Yeah, that's, that's right. I think you don't know what you you do and don't like I think, you know, especially early on, I didn't know exactly what I did and didn't want to do. But those societies I think triggered off my interest in the types of people I wanted to work with the type of things I wanted to do, which is either like, you know, you're doing now putting a podcast together, putting a piece of material out or creating something. I got that from the societies. So that's what I kind of enjoyed. And then also as an engineer, you know, the the chance to do something in an engineering field, which is what ITV has got in its technology department, which is quite a big department that's got a lot of projects and opportunities to solve problems. And that kind of triggered my interest. So yeah, so the society's was the thing that should have triggered off a lot of that

Amy Lourenco  04:56
really nice fusion of like your technical skills, and your And your interests as well.

Clive Santamaria  05:01
Yeah, I mean, yeah, as I mentioned, I think you kind of need that, you know, you can join companies where you just love the technology or just love the engineering. And maybe you can do that to develop your skills and your career, but it might not last if you don't have a passion for the wider product or the industry that you're involved in. And I had opportunities to join engineering companies in different fields, from automotive fields to aviation and, and other aspects like that. But they didn't, they weren't as interesting to me personally, on a personal level, as the broadcasting and TV production aspects did. So I think, yeah, not everyone's got, luckily, and loves their industry as well as their profession. And luckily, that was something that I had. But yeah, try and seek to try and see what piques your interest in terms of what do you want to do every day ITV, we reach millions of people every day, and people talk about our shows every day, it's quite a popular product that you can people understand. So therefore doing something engineering around something that people understand for me was was a draw in my in my choices.

Amy Lourenco  06:14
Fantastic. And obviously, you've been there for a long time. So you must have kind of really enjoyed it. And you've kind of worked in a kind of various different roles. What have been some of the benefits you found to working with such a big organization? Yeah,

Clive Santamaria  06:28
I think, I mean, because it's a big organization, I've had the opportunity to work work on five or six roles, actually, in that time. And it did, it did. I did have to think about what type of size company I wanted to join in my career, especially early on. And there was a lot of opportunities for joining startups, for example, or joining really big companies, American companies and things like that. And it was sort of in the middle, it was a, it was a good sized company where I could learn a lot of things do a lot of roles. And that that was really appealing. So that's kind of why I've stayed and moved within the company, because there's that opportunity has been there. So if you're at the moment applying for jobs elsewhere, I think you got to think about where you learn the most, quite often startups, I think you might not learn as much as what you would think, especially engineering or technology wise, you might get thrown into the deep end and, and work really hard. And you might really enjoy that and everything else. But which company will give you the opportunity to learn over the next few years, I think that really should inform your choice. On the on the other side, joining a really super, super corporate international company, you might not be given the responsibility to work on certain roles, especially early in your career. And therefore I think, again, that might not be the right choice. So maybe mid size, or starting. And then you can you can kind of choose as you get on. And you know, we're talking about internships and graduate schemes. I see they offered me an internship in that summer. So that's why I think that is a good way of you learning about what you want want to do, why these internships and whether that company fits what you got in your mind about what that company is? And does, I didn't really know how much engineering ITV would have, you know, I thought we just made shows, and that there was some tech around the broadcast stuff. But as we've seen in the last few years streaming and iPads and iPhones, all of that stuff got launched within the last 15 years or so. So that sort of the industry is evolved quite a lot. And therefore the engineering challenges have evolved quite a lot. And that's kind of why I've said, because all of those things have happened within that period of time.

Amy Lourenco  08:47
Fantastic. And so I think our listeners will be interested to hear a bit more about what you do on a day to day basis. Can you tell us a bit about what the life of a chief architect is like?

Clive Santamaria  08:59
Yeah, it's quite a broad title. I mean, I guess, you know, architecture, technical architecture, technology, strategy, engineering around things that we create, is all about, I guess, understanding what we're trying to develop and where we're trying to go. So one of the early things I did I did a lot of project work in my early career as a kind of project engineer. And that's where the requirements were quite well known. How do we get this content out on that platform? So, you know, when the iPhone was launching, we were how do we get the streaming format that the iPhone needs? How do we do it? Well, we needed a transcoding solution. So what in that in those days I had to learn about what technologies I would need to achieve that requirement. And there were a lot of projects in that field where things came out and PlayStation came out and version and sky brought out new boxes. We had to develop new solutions for those new devices. So the role of an engineer or an architect is about understanding the landscape and translating how we would do what we need to do. And often putting forward a budget and understanding what type of project team we need. So in the past, I've put together teams that needed a lot of software engineers, or other solutions that required us buying a service from someone to achieve that requirement. I guess in my role, now, it's it's, it's more a management role. Now it is looking at the direction of some of the things that we're doing. So a lot of talking actually a lot, a lot of working with stakeholders. And I think in terms of career choices, you probably should decide how technical you really want to be. And how good at communicating you are, because there's two, there's balances there. And I think, you know, you either want to do software development or work on certain technologies day to day, or you want to communicate the benefits of those technologies, or work with stakeholders on what they need. And I've actually, as I've, as I've gone through my career, I've gone towards the stakeholder side of things, because I really enjoyed working with people working with a variety of teams. So ITV, we've got a number of teams in marketing, and commercial, and production and broadcasting quite a big range of teams. And that's quite, that's quite interesting. You know, I think diversity is something you want in your role, isn't it, you kind of want to work with lots of people trying to achieve something together. And that variety is what I've kind of enjoyed.

Amy Lourenco  11:43
Fantastic, yeah, it seems like such a sort of varied career path you've had that really having to kind of future sort of forecast in a way and be like really aware of kind of what's happening, what's changing and keeping up to date with the kind of new technologies and then as you've moved more into management, then kind of using more of the sort of communication skills and stakeholder management, really interesting. Would you say that as you move into management in sort of a technical area, it's quite common that you would then do less of the technical stuff and more, sort of the stakeholder management stuff is that common if you become a leader? I think

Clive Santamaria  12:26
I think that is common, right. And I think it's very hard to know where your skills are actually, until you try some of these things. And, you know, as I started as a, as a, as a technical person, when engineer, especially at UCL, I never thought I wouldn't do anything very, very technical report. Now, I don't either always program something or build something. But then I guess your your enjoyment, and your skills changes, things move on, right. So maybe you want to do bigger things or try different things. And I think for me, moving to that broader field allowed me to try and work with a wide variety of things rather than a very specific thing. So I think that's sometimes those things evolve. But if if you're an engineering student at UCL, or computer science student, I think what you really want early on as you want to get involved with real projects that do things. And that's what you should be aiming for. Maybe you can go into consulting and work for certain consulting firms. But I think you really get credibility by doing things. And I think that's what you really should be doing. You should be working drawing companies where you get to work on certain projects that have defined things that you either launch into the market, or you've really got good experience of doing those things. Because going into management without that experience is quite hard. Actually, I think, really, I think you need to really understand the dynamics of getting something done and into market.

Amy Lourenco  13:57
Absolutely getting that practical experience first. And so my next question is, obviously, we've faced a challenging time, the last year, what do you think students and recent graduates can be doing now at a time where the job market is challenging?

Clive Santamaria  14:15
Yeah, it is challenging, not, you know, not only to get new jobs, but to keep new jobs. So to keep your job. I think, especially in that, you know, it's quite apt that if you're a university listening to this, you're, you're obviously learning a lot, currently. And what I would say is that doesn't, that shouldn't change as an engineer, that shouldn't change. So maybe, you know, a while ago, you would get your degree and say, now I'm qualified, and now I will do this role. But it doesn't work like that. Really, at the moment, you actually have to constantly learn about what's changing now in the market and that learning never stops. So I think as long as you're demonstrating, and you're continuously I think at the moment, you're giving yourself targets and projects, maybe you're, you know, taking some online courses, maybe you're using YouTube videos to learn. I think if you've got that appetite to keep learning, then I think you have to that that will put you in good stead in your career is the same thing with other professionals like legal and otherwise, you can't just learn the law once and expect that it never changes. They have to constantly re learn how things are happening in the market. And the same thing goes for technology, you have to always want to learn all the time. So it doesn't mean I think the exams might stop. I didn't quite enjoy my UCL exams. But the learning doesn't stop. I think and that's that's a good thing.

Amy Lourenco  15:45
Absolutely, that sort of continue professional development is important in so many different sectors, probably in every sector.

Clive Santamaria  15:52
And yeah, it's not a linear thing is what I thought, you know, I thought you would do you're learning at UCL and you're you're prepared, it's not like that actually, you keep you keep learning. And that's a good thing, I think you want to keep learning. So right now, as long as you can demonstrate, I would say my waspy, as long as you can demonstrate that you're doing that now during this pandemic, then, as an employer, you want to hear about people that say they enjoy learning all the time. That's what I want to hear. When we interview, we want to hear from people that say, I really taught I taught myself this, and I didn't know about it, but I threw myself in I learned about it, I tried it out and I did it. That's what had to do when I got my job here. I didn't know anything about streaming, yet, I had to build a platform that streamed content from one place to the other, I didn't know anything about encoding video, I had to take something from a show that actually is almost celebrity, that was one of the first things I did that had to transcode it and put it into a new format. I didn't know anything about that. But because I show that I could learn how to do that. I got put on the project. And the same thing here, I think I want to hear about that. In interviews, I want to hear from people that can talk about how they want to learn.

Amy Lourenco  17:07
Yeah, it's really important, I guess, particularly in technology, I guess, skills are going to expire, go a fashion, there's always like a new programming language, a new way of doing that thing. And you have to kind of keep up to date. And always be learning that that thing.

Clive Santamaria  17:22
I mean, a while ago, people thought that you are kind of categorized into one topic as an IR software programmer in Java. And that's it right away, and have to retrain to be something else. It doesn't work like that, actually, you're a software engineer, and you will really learn the language that is most appropriate for getting that job done. Or, or for your next project. You know, it's take iPhone, that the software language from the first iPhone apps has evolved, you know, into swift and, and other languages, you as long as you can demonstrate you're an engineer that you can really learn the language that's important, rather than I just do Java, we're just to do c++. So I think that's, that's, so we're looking for good engineers, not good. Java engineers, or good, x, trained engineers, we're looking for people that can show that they can really learn showed their problem solving skills, and what to do it and keep going. You know, the languages that were available when I was at UCL are not the same. We don't do those in market now. And that's that's the way it should be and always be.

Amy Lourenco  18:29
Fantastic. So talking about good engineers, you've contributed to promoting the future of engineers from UCL by pioneering an internship program, which we're very grateful to you for and it's offered to select universities, how important was it for you to provide future engineers with these opportunities to gain industry insights? And can you share a bit about the internships and the success stories we've had?

Clive Santamaria  18:54
Yes, yes, great. So So we do a couple of things at ITV, we do some internship placements, where you work with us for eight weeks. And for a number of years, that was, you know, exclusive with UCL actually bringing people in, and we also do a two year graduate scheme. And that, in that one, you get put on rotation in the different technology departments that I'd mentioned before. So eight and nine rotations, which is quite a broad place to get experience. Those are the two things that we kind of offer. And the internships that we've been doing with with with UCL with targeted the mats, the engineering, engineering discipline as a whole and computer science and also some of the data science aspects and we brought in a handful of placements every year, where that we've got a few problems to solve. And the successful candidates have shown that they want to learn those topics and that they've been enthusiastic. And we've basically been on a learning journey together on those topics in the summer. So we've had a number of things we've had. A couple of years ago, we had Ralph, who was looking at IoT. And it was helping us with the sensors and the booking system to help understand who was in the meeting room, you could, you could ask via a chat bot, whether someone was in there or not, and book it. So quite, quite a new thing that we tried out, Addy was looking at machine learning for images. So we helped scan images and find out where the images were similar. And that helped us look at how we will do our catalogs for for ITV and the images that we've got here. We've had Sherine has been looking at automating workflows, you know, we've got a big partnership with AWS and GCP, Google Cloud Platform and this year, and was looking at Google workflows. So we've actually got experience of connecting things together and allowing our, our teams to automate some of their tasks. And we also had Benedict, who was looking at something called object based streaming, where we were working actually with the industry. And he helped help demo things to the BBC, and others on putting together a demo and a demo, where you could adjust the audio track on other other sports events using IP based internet technologies, rather than doing it in video in the broadcast side. So that was quite a nice little prototype that we work with other people on. So quite a range there, you know, different problems that we've been working on. And it's just been really enjoyable. So they've learned a lot from their placement. And we've learned a lot from those technologies. And we've also been keen on helping them develop their speaking skills, so that those demos have been shown at our show intelligence internally. The one that Benedict did was shown externally actually on on a international website. And so we're very proud that we've we've been able to help people in their careers and learn things along the way.

Amy Lourenco  22:10
Amazing and and why is it so important to yourself and into ITV to sort of do that to, to help people's careers and help their career journeys?

Clive Santamaria  22:21
Yeah, I mean, I mean, on a personal level, when I was at UCL, I didn't, I didn't maybe I didn't get enough help with placements and helping me choose my career. And I kind of wanted to help promote that back at UCL. That's why I got in touch again a few years ago, ITV in general, you know, we're a great company that develops people, you know, where people currently, we reach a massive audience across the UK. And I think that that kind of sums us up that we want to help people develop their careers, enjoy themselves whilst they're at ITV. And it's just a positive thing. So the sun placement feeds the graduate scheme. And the graduate scheme feeds the current company that we've got, and all the different departments and teams. So it's just a really positive thing around we've got a lot of value from it. And all of us, hopefully, I'm pretty sure all of the students have really enjoyed their time at ITV. And so it's been a win win all round, really. So it's kind of really fit with us as a company, to to help people and also to be a diverse company. That's one of the things I know UCL is proud of, is the diversity angle of the university itself. And that's one of the reasons I joined ICB, it's quite a diverse place. It gave me a lot of opportunities to move around in my career and develop as at a young age. And our our graduate schemes and our internship schemes have been actually one of the highest in terms of female male ratios that we've had, especially in recent years we've had more female or male candidates. So for technology placements, that's and graduate schemes, that's pretty good in the market. And we're just proud of that fact. So yeah, it's been a really mutually beneficial scheme to have this with UCL and we want to continue it for many years.

Amy Lourenco  24:11
Fantastic. One thing that you said at a careers panel really sort of struck me and stayed with me was that you always look for people that were smart and kind and I just thought that was such a lovely, lovely thing to say and to look for in candidates. Yeah,

Clive Santamaria  24:27
I wish I had coined that phrase a chap called Tom Clark coined that phrase ITV and I've kind of used it and and, you know, we the kind part is that we want to look for people that fit in and that want to work with people, you know, we've got a very smart person that doesn't really it's not very helpful to fit in. It's very hard going really hard graphs. And at the same time, we trust that the people that we get from UCL and we and that's demonstrators are very smart, and they can definitely learn lots of new things and everything else. So that's kind of why that that's how mantra has continued with us. So yeah.

Amy Lourenco  25:05
It's a good mantra. And is there one thing in particular, you would encourage students and graduates to keep in mind when applying for internships or graduate jobs?

Clive Santamaria  25:13
Yes, I think maybe, for me, it was a personal surprise that the thing to think that your degree is enough to get a job interview or lambda role, it's not enough. You need to do your own projects personally. So you need to, you know, all of these accounts, like getting a Google account or getting an AWS account, they're free to get and get certain number of credits. So why why not use that and show me projects or, or do projects in your own time, that not only solve your, you know, a curious interest that you've got, but to show that you're learning things, you know, teach yourself how to create a skill on Alexa or something that automates your home or a simple workflow that you've created. Just to show that it works and and to solve a problem, I think, you got to keep doing that. You got to keep demonstrating that. And I think just having a good CV and a good degree from UCL, I don't think is enough, I think you need to show that, that drive that you want to do things like this would encourage you to do those things and then talk about those things and interview.

Amy Lourenco  26:30
Right and, and what I really like about that is that anyone can do it. I think a lot of times employers say, we agree is not enough, we're looking for people who've got internships, work experience, you know, clubs and societies, Duke of Edinburgh volunteering, the list goes on, but actually doing your own personal projects. That's something anyone can do. And it's accessible to everyone.

Clive Santamaria  26:51
It's accessible to everyone. It's not It's not about spending money. It's about, you know, doing things. I guess, also to the same guys that I've just been saying here is that you should be doing things that are interesting to you not just do a personal project just because of the interview, I think, follow your interests and and do lots of things do a variety things. But yeah, it's really important to show that. Yeah, I definitely would encourage it is definitely the thing that we look for.

Amy Lourenco  27:20
My final question I have is, what would you say are the key skills necessary to succeed in your industry?

Clive Santamaria  27:27
 Key skills? So I guess we touched on some of them before about about learning that you need to demonstrate that and you need to want to do that. I think the second thing is, how do you present that information? And what are you doing to improve that? So I guess early on in my career, I didn't do a lot of speaking about the technology, I just did the technology. So when it came to stakeholder demos, or demonstrations, or even presenting the work, it was something I was quite rusty on or wasn't probably good enough on at the time. I think now you should also challenge yourself, you're doing these projects, or getting involved with things or hackathons or company things that people are doing. Maybe put yourself in a position where you need to present that work or talk about that work. Almost TED Talk style, you know, we can talk about what you've learned and how that thing helps you. And it's surprising how much you need that to develop your career, you need the speaking and demonstrating aspect. How do you show the data around what you've done? How do you use data to make a good presentation, run run well, or good demo work? Well. So I would, I would challenge yourself and try and get to things where you have an opportunity to speak or show something get involved with a test or a some kind of like I said a hackathon event that someone's running. And then just improve and prove that aspect of your skills. Maybe it's natural to you maybe it wasn't it wasn't initially to me, but a lot of people, it's not natural to speak about things in front of an audience of 510 20 people, 30 people, and I think should just do that. Just do that as much as you can. And then when it comes to interview, when it comes to demonstrating things, you can say that you've done that and where you've done that, and that really helps. Maybe some might have seen you, I might have seen you on a on a YouTube video speaking at some events or testing out something, you know, I think you just need to try to improve that aspect as well as the technical aspects of your of your reps are.

Amy Lourenco  29:34
Fantastic. So it's really being able to sort of communicate your technical knowledge and sometimes to urge sort of non expert audience.

Clive Santamaria  29:41
So yeah, so the plenty of courses about what makes a good TED talk and how to speak and everything else. And what's going on, of course that taught me I'm not sure if you know this, but did you know that Barack Obama is introverted? Did you know he was introverted?

Amy Lourenco  29:58
I read Michelle Obama's autobiography and yeah, I think she might have mentioned it in there.

Clive Santamaria  30:04
Yeah, it's so basically he's taught himself how to speak. So it's so when he's taught himself how to control what you're saying, and everything else. And when I when I heard about Apple, okay, that means that, you know, extroverts I guess it's harder to contain what you what you know into it into a story and everything else. But if that level and he's quite an expert, expert speaker, if it's something you can learn, why not do that yourself so why not try and learn how to hold a five minute demo or to do a small TED talk of 10 minutes and and just practice all with different people at all different events, I think it will really help you.

Amy Lourenco  30:44
Absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much Clive for joining our podcast and sharing your valuable insights, the audience really great to hear about all your professional experiences. And a big thank you to our audience for listening to this episode. Keep an eye out for more episodes, which will be released weekly on audio platforms such as Spotify, Apple podcast and SoundCloud.

Clive Santamaria  31:05
Well, thank you very much. Thank you for having me. And it's obviously great to talk to me from UCL about these different options. I guess if you want to read more about what ITP is doing. We've got a blog post on medium. You can find us there ITV technology, can hear about some of the stories that we've written about. And yeah, I look forward to speaking to you more in the coming months and years. Thank you very much. 

Amy Lourenco  31:28
Thank you, Clive.