SoCal Women’s Leadership Summit 2022: MGM Cloud Transformation Created DEI Opportunity

MGM is one of the most iconic entertainment names with some of the most beloved movies and TV series ever created. But, after an extended period of manual asset processing, it was time to remake MGM Studios using the best modern content technology available, according to Jinsu Wang, SVP of business operations at MGM.

During the session “Using Cloud Transformation as a DE&I Opportunity” at the SoCal Women’s Leadership Summit 2022 on Nov. 4 in Los Angeles, she shared her experiences leading one of the largest studio transformations in the media and entertainment industry.

She also discussed the enormous opportunities that cloud, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and media supply chain technologies like those of Ateliere bring to M&E and the opportunities for women to lead an industry-wide transformation.

The Summit was co-located with the Infinity Festival Hollywood event, and held as both a live, in-person event and online via the MESAverse virtual platform.

Wang joined MGM in February 2019, she said, noting the company was a 100-year-old iconic brand. “And when I joined it, this is what I was facing: a 100-year- old technology,” she recalled, pointing out the temperature of the company’s servers had to be monitored often.

Also, “we had a lot of manual processes,” she said, adding: “The technology organization was ticket driven, meaning if nothing is broken we do nothing. And if something is broken, you come to me and fix it.”

The company had five female engineers when Wang joined it and “we had all the media assets stored at the vendors’ locations,” she said, noting “we are talking about hundreds of thousands of media assets [and] I didn’t know how many exactly…. It was hundreds of thousands of media assets and we never had a clear inventory of what we actually had. And then, to search for the media assets, that was 8,000 hours of work per year.”

And “that was what I came into” when she joined MGM, she recalled. “Throughout the years, we started to make changes and we started to build. We started to transform the technologies and our people.”

MGM “did a whole cloud migration,” she told attendees, adding: “We retired a data center and hardware and those fans, and we migrated everything into the AWS cloud.”

MGM went on to build a Salesforce center of excellence (COE) and, “up until now,” the company has more than 20 products running on Salesforce, she said, adding: “We use Salesforce as the glue to connect all the new and old technologies together so that they become one equal system.”

It was also a “journey to select” a partner, she said, noting Ateliere, operator of a cloud-native digital media supply chain and distribution platform, “eventually was selected.”

Now, “finally, we know how many hundreds [of] thousands of assets we have, and then we migrated all the digital assets and the physical asset records into the Ateliere Connect system,” she pointed out.

“We transformed the entire tech org and MGM business organizations … and now we also have the in-house delivery capabilities,” she said, adding:  “We no longer rely on the external vendors to deliver to our 14,000 end customers. And we created this vision of an integrated digital supply.”

In 2022, MGM has an automated digital supply chain, with all tech running in the Amazon Web Services cloud, integrated solutions, all media assets managed in-house and an in-house delivery capability, while agile methodology has been fully adopted, according to Wang. And the number of female engineers has grown from 5 to 13, she noted.

Women bring a lot to the table, according to Wang, explaining: “We are well organized. We have creative ideas and sometimes we jump outside the box … sometimes because we have different a perspective.” Women are now among MGM’s project managers, product managers, developers and system administrators, she said.

Wang told attendees she was going to “spend the next hour walking you through every single box” of the modern digital supply chain, eliciting laughs from the audience and her admission that she was just joking.

In addition to being a technology transformation journey, it has also “been a people journey,” she went on to say. “While we replaced all this technology, what do we do with the people who have been working on the old technology?” she asked. What is so challenging is that many people have been working 20 years at MGM and all they know is the older systems that are being retired.

The solution, she said, is “we don’t manage out our people, we manage our people so they grow with us and they come along,” she said. As an example, she pointed to a software engineer who was with MGM for 12 years and had been using an old system the company planned to retire. In his 12 years at the company, he never got a single promotion, she noted, adding he “was always worried” about what would happen when the company retires that software he was used to using.

“So we talked to him and we got him trained up on Salesforce and integration and now he’s actually leading our integration COE,” she said. He also “got his very first promotion in his entire MGM history,” he said

“Every day has been a good day, and that really means a lot to me,” she went on to say. “This is a people journey. It is also my own journey. I grow my people. They also grow me,” she said, noting she grew up in China, came to the U.S. when she was 28, then finished graduate school and got her first job, in consulting.

While in the U.S., it hasn’t always been easy to fit in, she conceded, pointing as an example to the time an airport security person gave her a hard time about arriving in the U.S., asking her what she was there for.

She’s now “more comfortable to be myself,” she said, telling attendees she has a  an eight-years-old son with ADHD. “As a mom, I always wanted to hide. Like when he went through the kindergarten interview,” she noted.

What she’s learned is “it’s okay to be different” like her or her son, she said. Although “sometimes I still face challenges, I’m no longer afraid. And I know with all of you together we are stronger and we can make more impact.”

The session featured an introduction by Arjun Ramamurthy, global chief technology officer at Ateliere, operator of a cloud-native digital media supply chain and distribution platform.

The SoCal Women’s Leadership Summit was presented by Ateliere with sponsorship by Amazon Studios, Softtek, Fortinet, Prime Video, SHI, Amazon Web Services, PacketFabric and Presidio.

To learn more about MESA’s events, contact [email protected].