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As VP of Digital and Project Management for NBCUniversal, Daniel Houlemarde manages the digital aspects of brands like E! Entertainment, USA Network, SyFy and Bravo, all while overseeing a team of sixty plus creatives whose processes and different languages come together to deliver every day. So when Houlemarde discovered the Master of Science in Integrated Design, Business and Technology (MSIDBT) program at the USC Iovine and Young Academy, he was hooked.
“I was immediately interested in the multifunctional aspect of the program,” he says. In a world where media outlets unleash a flurry of content across tech, business, news and entertainment, multi-disciplinarians are rapidly becoming essential assets. Houlemarde notes as much, seeing the rapid shifts occurring in the entertainment industry over the past few years.
“Old paradigms are being spirited away quickly!” says Houlemarde. “Companies big and small are looking for their workforce to do more or wear multiple hats.” It’s exactly for this reason Houlemarde pursued the MSIDBT program, not only as a way to further his knowledge but to help bridge communication gaps at work. “For years, I have worked in such a structured operational environment where execution was prioritized ahead of anything else,” he says. “Embedded in that paradigm was a lot of unnecessary competitiveness and group siloing - and in the worst cases, blame.”
During his studies, Houlemarde dove into human-centered design strategy, creative problem solving, cross-disciplinary collaboration and communication. It’s through these concepts that Houlemarde found ways to generate new ideas and inspire creativity, and he noticed the effects quickly.
“It has had a tremendous impact,” says Houlemarde, who proposed an Academy-learned approach to ideation on a new project at work. “I took a leap of faith with a few different departments and proposed doing a ‘design sprint’...The outcome was extraordinarily positive.” In the end, Houelmarde says his team’s ideas were better and even more successful than previous iterations. “Now, design sprints are a standard procedure when initiating ideas and design thinking is a big part of our culture.”
Houlemarde graduated in 2019, completing his degree while simultaneously working at NBCUniversal. Since then, Houlemarde has seen the value of his education in design thinking only grow. “I have learned approaches to design and the overall culture of design thinking that have had a tremendous impact on many aspects of my life...whatever problems I face both professionally and creatively, I can approach them with dynamism and confidence,” says Houlemarde.
As he sees graduates enter a workforce during an unprecedented time of upheaval and change, particularly in the media and content creation sectors, Houlemarde underscores the importance of a cross-disciplinary, collaborative mindset. “I already see it happening in my industry with challenged budgets and staff reductions,” says Houlemarde. “The best way to deal with all this to make sure you are extremely flexible...Students should give themselves the best chance by learning, and mastering more than one skill.”
Houlemarde alongside The Division Red bandmate Colin Fraizer
When he isn’t spearheading new projects at NBCUniversal, Houlemarde performs with the Los Angeles-based band The Division Red. He sees the creative outlet as a catalyst for developing a variety of skills. “Putting together and making music for the public takes a lot of coordination and planning....that aspect has helped me as a project leader in my career because I'm always trying to stay ahead of the lead times involved. It really has helped almost all aspects of my life in terms of organization and focus.”