No one’s ever too old for a field trip, and our class did just that when we visited The Weather Network‘s headquarters in Oakville. We were blown away by the hospitality and kindness of all the employees who work there. The Vice President of Design & UX, John Gallant, welcomed us with open arms and gave us a thorough presentation about the company’s work. We were even treated to a pizza lunch, tour and gifts. We couldn’t ask for more, and we certainly got more than we expected! The trip opened my eyes to the hard work involved in delivering the weather every day.
The content produced at The Weather Network affects everyone, and in some situations, it can even save lives. It is one of the most influential brands in Canada, and has millions of users worldwide. Owned by Pelmorex Media, the network is surprisingly young, but it has accomplished a lot in such a short time. They are one of the best weather networks in the world, and are quickly branching to global markets. Their design and development teams build apps and sites for various platforms including mobile, tablet, desktop, smart TVs and more.
We were treated like VIP guests and got to sit in a gorgeous board room. The presentations were very well structured, and you could tell that everyone worked hard in putting this together. (Photo courtesy of Carson Chen)
OPTIMIZING USER EXPERIENCE & ANTICIPATING NEEDS
One of the first topics that was discussed was the importance of optimizing user experience and meeting the needs of a large demographic across the nation. The Weather Network strives to integrate the consumer within their design process by anticipating their needs and addressing problems before they arise. We were guided through their complete design process that ranged from concept testing, to design & user testing and experience mapping. They showed us the evolution of their website, and emphasized the point that user testing is their main priority, and it happens in multiple phases throughout their agile work process.
This is a brief glimpse of how much work is involved with delivering the weather every day! Now I won’t take it for granted. (Photo courtesy of Carson Chen)
The company’s “agile” approach to getting things done struck me as a growing trend in many fast-paced digital workplaces. Agile means that they define (but not completely) where they want to go, and develop small pieces of it early on. It’s a parallel stream of work, rather than a “waterfall,” linear approach. This allows them to get to the finish line earlier, while making many iterations along the way.
SHERIDAN WEB DESIGN ALUMNI
Sheridan Web Design’s very own alumni had a chance to talk about their roles in the company. Dayana Gonzala spoke about her role as a designer, Andrea Mendis talked about mobile and app design, and Derek Woolam spoke about sponsorship takeovers and integration. I was pleasantly surprised to see how far our program’s alumni have come, and I’m excited for their careers. Currently, Derek and Vlad Gulyy are the only designers focused on sponsorships. Their line of work requires strong communication and compromising skills, and their workload consists of about 5-20 productions at a time — talk about working under pressure! Sometimes they also work on pitches for sponsors. I feel like the heavy workload that must be done in our program is preparing us for the even heavier workloads in our future careers.
After the presentations and pizza lunch, we had a fun tour through the building. All the staff were friendly and happy to give impromptu speeches. For instance, when we poked our heads into the Beat The Traffic studio, the lady managing the station was more than happy to talk about her work. She was also very generous in letting us cram into her small studio–although, some heads were banged against the overhanging lights.
I kept hearing about “Beat the Traffic” on television, but I never knew that The Weather Network was a part of it. It’s interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes.
We then moved through the cubicle areas, which looked to me like a labyrinth. Apparently, the company is still looking to expand the building, which I think is shocking because it’s already large enough that one could get lost in it (particularly me). I guess this just shows how fast the company is growing.
AND NOW HERE’S FATIMA WITH THE WEATHER
The trip to the green screen room was one of the highlights of the tour. The weather woman was very accommodating and let us play around with the green cloth (dubbed “the Invisibility cloak”). It was fun to see Giuliano and Yuhan Hu‘s bodies disappear in a blanket of green. Fatima certainly has a knack for doing the weather, and joked to me about it being her new dream job. It was a hilarious experience that I will never forget.
Pointing to non-existant things behind you on a green screen is harder than it looks! (Photo courtesy of Carson Chen)
This was by far one of the best field trips I’ve ever had. Everyone was so open and inviting, and extremely generous with letting us see parts of their studios. Prior to coming to The Weather Network’s headquarters, I thought the company was just one small channel on TV that I rarely visited. But now, I can turn to the channel and think of the company and all the work that goes on behind the scenes. I enjoyed my conversations with Andrea and Vlad, and appreciate them talking to me about how they got to their positions, and where they see themselves in the future. Both told me that they love working at The Weather Network because there are many opportunities for growth. The company has a nice, friendly culture with a strong work/life balance, and it shows in the happy, smiling faces of their employees.
Until next time!