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Keith Smith
Keith Smith, IT manager at Seattle International Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of Keith Smith)

Keith Smith calls himself a “very creative individual” who has more than a decade of experience in various industries and technical environments.

In 2016, he joined Seattle International Film Festival as manager of information technology without having had any prior experience around cinema.

“I tend to seek unique accomplishments and innovative solutions,” said Smith, who is our latest Geek of the Week. “I love an atmosphere where I can try out my creative solutions and bold ideas.”

At the time he was brought on, SIFF was seeking someone not only to be responsible for developing an enterprise level architecture, but someone who could be accountable for implementing it all and managing day-to-day challenges.

“I always believed that adversity defines true character and I’ve faced plenty of adversity in my life, so I wasn’t going to back down from this,” Smith said. “From my perspective, all the technical challenges weren’t insurmountable as long as I could have the freedom to leverage my creativity to plan, test, develop and implement my bold ideas.”

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Keith Smith:

What do you do, and why do you do it? “SIFF’s mission is to create experiences that bring people together to discover extraordinary films from around the world. It is through the art of cinema that we foster a community that is more informed, aware, and alive. I provide strategic direction and have overall responsibility for the planning, advancement, delivery, and operation of all systems, applications, and technology.

“I also oversee various architectures and manage technology planning, portfolio, project, solution delivery and operational management practices and processes. I didn’t choose IT. IT chose me. I discovered that I had a knack for technology at the age of 9; I dismantled a non-working analog clock and a working analog clock. I noticed that a wheel was missing from the non-working clock, I took the wheel from a sewing rotary cutter and installed that into the clock along with a AA battery. Then, voila, the clock started working. The rest is history as they say.”

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “To me it seems like everyone has a cloud-first outlook. Cloud solutions have their place, but they don’t fit every situation as the single solution. I believe that it is still important to perform bake-offs between products while looking at every situation and possible use case from start to finish. No one makes any real progress by copying what some other company did or deploying some solution because it’s trendy.”

Where do you find your inspiration? “I find inspiration in music. I’m always listening to one of my many playlists. Each of my playlists fits any task I could be doing.”

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “For me it would be headphones. Music is inspirational and energizing.”

Keith Smith
SIFF’s Keith Smith likes to keep his “whiteboard ninja skills” sharp. (Photo courtesy of Keith Smith)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “I have a few workspaces — one in each of our locations. Each one is tailored to the technology in that location. My main workspace has three monitors with multiple virtual desktops, and I like to organize my applications by the function which allows me to focus solely on the task at hand. I have one monitor dedicated to dashboards which display the health of applications, networks and other systems for quick analysis. I also have a dry erase decal on my wall to keep my whiteboard ninja skills sharp.”

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “Silence is very important. I’ve come up with many ideas while sleeping or while spending time alone without tech around me. We all need to allow the silence into our lives; there is so much noise around us day to day.”

Mac, Windows or Linux? “Mac.”

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Picard.”

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Time Machine.”

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “start an organization that provided education about why it’s important that we control our population to allow the survival of the environment instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population.”

I once waited in line for … “Nothing. If and when I want something I go get it.”

Your role models: “I don’t have any. I’ve always blazed my own path by doing successfully what others failed at.”

Greatest game in history: “This is for me is a split decision that comes down to ‘Chrono Cross’ and ‘Syphon Filter.’ In this case I would say ‘Chrono Cross’ due to the many alternate endings that are only achievable by doing certain things at very specific points in the game.”

Best gadget ever: “The Neato Botvac. My Neato does a great job every day cleaning the floors in my home.”

First computer: “A Frankenstein build with 80486DX2 CPU along with a 14400 modem which enabled me to explore the internet.”

Current phone: “iPhone 6+”

Favorite app: “Signal.”

Favorite cause: “Arbor Day Foundation.”

Most important technology of 2016: “Slack.”

Most important technology of 2018: “Artificial Intelligence (AI) that has the potential to revolutionize CRM and customer-facing systems.”

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “See first, Understand first, Act first. See first empowers you to act first with actionable understanding of what you’re seeing. As IT pros and as leaders there is a value in us being able to act first.”


Twitter: @_KeithIT

LinkedIn: Keith Smith

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