ABC News Program Operations VP Renu Thomas '90, M.Eng. '91, Uses Her OR Background Daily
When Renu Thomas '90 M.Eng. '91 was an ORIE student, the curriculum focused on manufacturing. After graduating she went to work for General Electric. There, she "fell into television" as the result of an internal transfer from audit and 'six sigma' work at locations around the world to the NBC subsidiary of GE. She subsequently joined MacNeil/Lehrer Productions and for three years has been Vice President (for) Program Operations at ABC News. There, "I manufacture television shows," she told M.Eng. students at a recent Enterprise Engineering Colloquium.
In the Colloquium, Thomas described the way in which she has been able to transfer her understanding of the application of Operations Research from manufacturing to TV. In her current role she works with raw material ("footage, graphics, talent"), distribution (the cable companies), budgeting, restructuring processes for effectiveness, and organizational effectiveness. In her talk she noted that "I deal with more labor than a Ford plant," and used coverage of the recent shooting in Tucson as case study in quickly marshaling resources to report on a news event.
Although "the world in media is changing" and television news is under financial pressure, Thomas urged attendees to consider working in nontraditional areas, such as news operations, where OR skills can find new opportunities.