As a boy growing up in California, Rick Soto was always intrigued by computers. At first, the graphic-art capabilities appealed to him, but it was when he followed his dad around as he worked in a data center that Soto decided to pursue his own career in information technology.
Soto studied at a community college before going to the University of Phoenix to get his business administration degree in information technology. He jumped into the industry right in the middle of the dot-com bubble and he says receiving promotions and accepting roles with different employers allowed Soto to advance his career. Today, Soto brings nearly 15 years of experience and IT know-how to his current role as senior worldwide director of production IT at Deluxe Media. “I think I was at the right place at the right time in most situations, but in every position I put in the hours I needed to put in to learn as much as possible,” says Soto. “I focused on working with different teams to move my career forward.”
Even though Soto knew he wanted a career with computers, he hadn’t purposely sought out opportunities to parlay his IT services into the entertainment industry. He began as an intern for the global entertainment content company, Viacom, and then spent four years in the financial industry at Prudential Insurance before coming back to media and entertainment at EMI Music. “I have been in media and entertainment ever since,” Soto says, adding, “I spent time in broadcast at Univision as an IT manager but then went back to Hollywood post-production work when joining Ascent Media, now Deluxe, six years ago.”
Deluxe is the media and entertainment industry’s largest end-to-end services provider for features, television, and commercials. As a global IT leader within the organization, Soto is responsible for their traditional and digital services infrastructures within the United States as well as across the world. He says, “About 80 percent of my day is making sure the operation is up and running.”
Soto manages a team of 35 people, who are located within a handful of different facilities including London; Bangalore, India; Montreal, Canada; and the United States—both on the East and West Coast. A team lead in each region helps Soto effectively guide the group. Although scattered, the team remains in constant communication thanks to programs like Skype. “I host weekly meetings—it’s tough because we are in different time zones so I try to do it early in the morning or late in the evening. I typically visit the regions some time during the year, but otherwise I connect with my teams at least once a week, with the full team on a biweekly basis.”
Much of what his team does is support Deluxe’s post-production suite of services such as encoding, transcoding, and delivery functions. “The main group I focus on is Deluxe Digital Group, which takes the master of a movie and creates various versions of it for global devices—iPads, iPhones, Android phones—and these can be international as well,” Soto says. “We focus on the digital distribution so the movie can go through video on demand via cable systems or through hotel services.” Through this digital-distribution initiative, his team is able to create the content, host it, archive it, and distribute the finished product around the world.
The challenge of an IT role is keeping on top of the constant advancements in technology, but Soto finds that to be a reward, not an obstacle. “Technology is always changing, so my team isn’t stuck in one area of technology,” he says. “We are actually touching various areas of technology so our knowledge is constantly growing. My engineers are able to continually evolve their skillsets by being able to work in a research and development environment as well as a production environment that is fast-paced.”