Michael Gliedman, CIO of the NBA, talks to TechRepublic about his passion for basketball, music, and pushing the limits of technology.
Michael Gliedman compares playing in a band on stage to playing on a basketball team. When all the pieces come together perfectly, the result is greater than the sum of its parts. It's a magical moment, like when a play is perfectly executed on the court.
And for the CIO of the National Basketball Association, the magic of basketball is now intertwined with the magic of technology. It's lucky for him, because his passion for all of these things — watching basketball, playing music, and learning about everything tech-related — shines through when he speaks.
"It's been a very exciting ride keeping up with all of the innovation during my tenure here," he said. "This innovation chain that's fostered over the years has led to a much bigger world, a much more mobile world."
The move to digital video has been the most exciting aspect of Gliedman's job. When he started 15 years ago, he said the only camera view was court-wide, like those you see on network television. To see low-angle highlights and intense visuals, they had to wait until the video was on tape. Today, the NBA has digitized 21 petabytes of video from those tapes, including full games and highlights from games throughout the league's history. And, live NBA games are now available on tablets, smartphones, and the web in more than 200 countries.
"We have a massive digital media management system here that we've built," he said. "You can look up any play, any clip, it's all logged live merged video with that. It's really cool to be able to deliver great content to fans immediately."
Gliedman oversees everything relating to the collection, cataloging, storage, archiving and retrieval of NBA data. He helped implement the first high-speed video data network in 2008, and has since created the NBA's statistical database, which has information all the way back to 1946, its inaugural season.
After graduating with a degree in computer science from Brandeis University, Gliedman worked as a computer programmer for several years and was Senior Vice President of Application Development for Infoworks, a Viacom technology service. He later went back to school and received an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Having a solid grounding in business principles has been essential in his role with the NBA. "I'm involved in sponsorship deals and partnership deals," he said. "I like being involved in those things"
Every day is exciting and unique, Gliedman stressed. New challenges are always presented, new bars always set in the world of sports and entertainment. He is constantly finding more innovative gadgets and equipment to use for the NBA, and the obsession with high tech gadgets translates to his home life too.
"My house is wired to the hills," he said. "I have a lot of computers, great wireless, I'm a musician so I use a lot of apps that help me compose music or keep chord charts together."
Don't let him fool you — he is more than a casual musician. Gliedman is in a band called The Normal Now, which plays around New York. Their setlist features an "eclectic mix" of covers from the 70s and 80s.
Gliedman has been playing guitar since he was 12 years old. He has played in several bands throughout the years, and has acquired quite the collection of electric and acoustic guitars as well as a variety of amps, some from the 1960s that he's had restored back to their original state.
In true CIO fashion, he relates it all back to tech. Gliedman has a sound system in his house that syncs to all of the rooms and his devices. Music is always with him, he said.
But that's not even his favorite tech tool. The one that has changed his life: YouTube.
"If I had YouTube when I was starting, I would be Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen," he said, laughing.
In his own words...
How do you unplug?
"I'm a tech guy, so I never unplug! It makes me feel uncomfortable to unplug. But I play tennis, go to spin class, which is a good way to get the out the tension of the day or the week. I play tennis with my kids a lot. I like to exercise and that helps me keep sane."
What advice would you give to those just starting out in the business and tech world?
"What's made me successful has been doing things I am really passionate about. I tell my kids to do what they love. [Also] understanding the alignment of business and tech as opposed to being a techie for technology's sake. There's value in the fact I understand what business drivers for technology are."
What's your favorite type of music?
"Anything with great guitar in it, I like it. I'm not a snob in any way, but I tend to lean towards good guitar-oriented rock, like Foo Fighters and that kind of thing."
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