By Sarah O’Grady
It’s not every day you receive a company email inviting you to audition for an “extreme” video series to be published across social media for the whole world to see. It’s even less likely that said video would capture the “lucky” employee under duress – in a way undisclosed to them prior – while they attempted to explain a tech topic as eloquently as possible. But, here at Lenovo, we like to do things differently. Different is what drives our Extreme I.T. series.
As the project lead for the Extreme I.T. content series, I reconnected with our brave “talent,” each of whom were exposed to extreme—and dramatically different—conditions for their videos. Meet our bravest bunch yet: Betsy Eble (Senior User Experience Designer), Ray Chen (Hardware UX Engineer), and Mark Delaney (Manager, DCG Global Supply Chain).
First, thank you for still speaking to us. I was worried you wouldn’t after what we put you through. So tell me what you were thinking when you auditioned for Extreme I.T. What prompted you to do it?
Betsy: Honestly, I auditioned because the first time I saw Mukund’s Extreme I.T. video on 5G, I laughed so hard I cried. I thought: that’s a really smart way to get people to learn about (often) dry tech topics. And since I’ve been a true blue VR believer since the first time I put on a headset, I figured the Extreme I.T. series would do a great job getting the word out about VR, which it desperately needs.
Ray: I signed up for it because I felt like I knew each of the topics pretty well. The interview was only 15 minutes and it seemed to be a good opportunity to talk about some topics that I’m passionate about. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, though. I had seen the previous round of Extreme I.T. videos but for some reason didn’t make the connection!
Mark: I was in China at the time of auditions, so I auditioned at 10:00pm from my hotel room via a Skype video call. I was all hopped up on jet lag and had practiced my elevator pitch on the flight over – a 22-hour flight proves to be ample time for practice! I was working on a blockchain implementation project at the time—YES we use blockchain in our supply chain! I am very comfortable with the topic and thought this was a cool way to get out from behind my computer screen for an adrenaline fix.
You had no idea what was going to happen to you during your filming. What were you thinking might be your challenge?
Betsy: After my interview, I thought I was headed for something really muddy, dirty, gross. I certainly got the gross part right!
Ray: Well, after the interview and getting selected, I thought it was going to have something to do with cars but I wasn’t sure if I’d be the one driving. So my initial thought was, maybe they’ll have me drive on a racetrack and talk about gaming processor speeds. Another thought was that it’d be with a professional driver. I assumed it would just be a regular racetrack though—like an oval or something. Didn’t really expect all the drifting.
Mark: I was armed with very little information. I had a plane ticket to Ottawa, Canada and a handful of cryptic emails from the production team leading up to my trip. I tried to Google extreme things in Ottawa and found the only thing extreme in the country’s capital is the cold temperatures. Upon arriving, I was treated to a nice dinner (a last supper of sorts?!) and a few playful jokes centered around my angst for the unknown-to-come the following day.
If you could go back to that day, knowing what you know now about what we were going to put you though, would you do it all over again?
Betsy: Hmmm…. I’m not sure I could handle the bugs again! When I tell you they make weird noises and crawl in weird areas, that is an understatement! On the flip-side, seeing how creative the team was and how talented the production staff was, I would totally do it again… sans bugs.
Ray: Yes, I definitely would. Out of all the Extreme I.T. videos the only one I’d be scared of doing is the VR (bug) one. The race car one was very enjoyable and one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I definitely was a little anxious before the shoot but I don’t think it could’ve gone any better.
Mark: I could do with a lot less of the blindfold—it was close to 5 hours of being blindfolded leading up to the jump! As far as the jump and the overall experience—yes, I would do it again. I am very thankful to be selected and think the team did a great job with the concept and production. Out of all six Extreme I.T. episodes, the hot salsa would have been the worst for me. I am weak when it comes to spicy food. Toothpaste is where I max out on the spicy scale!
What was your favorite part of the experience?
Betsy: The part in “the box” went by so fast, I’d have to say meeting everyone and learning about their roles in the production process. There were literally three handlers JUST for the animals placed in the box with me, and they accounted for almost every. Single. One of those bugs after the shooting was over (minus the ones in my shirt and the one I accidentally crushed… sorry, bug.) Then there were the lighting teams and the camera people, and the wardrobe and makeup artist and… just so many interesting and talented people contributing their expertise to make it all happen.
Ray: The racecar! Well, the cameras were kind of cool too, having at least one follow you throughout the day. I felt like a celebrity, but more so the 15-minutes-of-fame kind where the cameras are only temporary. I’m glad I’m not someone super-famous like LeBron because that’d be annoying. Back to the car though; it was very exhilarating. The first turn I remember thinking to myself ‘uhmmm sir, we’re about to crash into a wall….’ and then we drifted and I realized ‘oh sh*t, this is going to be the entire day, isn’t it?’ He told me it was just a warm-up lap, too, and to buckle up and get ready.
Mark: The jump. It was unlike anything I have ever done and great to have a professional video to go alongside it as proof!
Why did you choose the topic you did? What’s your background in it?
Betsy: I LOVE the potential of VR and everything that contributes to creating a VR experience. As a User Experience designer, I love the idea of engaging all of the senses in an experience, and I cannot wait for it to become mainstream. I have designed experiences for the commercial real estate and medical fields using VR. I’ve only been at Lenovo for six months, but hoping to flex some of those VR muscles here for the products we build very soon!
Ray: I had a hard time choosing between the three topics but ultimately chose gaming processor speeds because I work on gaming at Lenovo. I’m the UX representative for all Legion products, and led the gaming research for the redesign of Legion this year. It felt like a natural fit given what I do on a day-to-day basis.
Mark: Blockchain has fascinated me for a couple of years now, and I have been fortunate to work on blockchain strategy and implementation within Lenovo’s Supply Chain. Anytime something is described as “the next Internet,” you need to pay attention. Blockchain is on the precipice of the emerging technology hype cycle. We are at a pivotal time where the technology is rapidly moving from a concept to an applied reality.
What would you say to someone thinking about trying out for a future Extreme I.T. video?
Betsy: DO IT! It’s a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to merge your I.T. life with the wildest imaginations of the Lenovo Worldwide Social Media Team!
Ray: Have fun and expect the unexpected. I definitely didn’t think I’d be in a racecar when I first auditioned. I’m sure the team has some cool things in store for the next few videos in the series. Just trust them with your life (you have to sign a waiver!) and you’ll be fine.
Mark: Pre-book with a psychiatrist. You will have PTSD in the name of explaining tech, but it is 100 percent worth it.
OK, experts… What topic(s) do you think we should cover next?
Betsy: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and Augmented Reality (AR)–mixing tech for innovative solutions.
Ray: Displays, AI, and AR.
Mark: IoT / mesh networks, drones, 4D printing, edge computing / supercomputing–Lenovo is the leading provider of supercomputers!
To see these (and more) Extreme I.T. videos, click here.