Jan Zika graduated from IES’s finance and banking program in 2007. He started his professional career in investment banking but soon switched to media. He has a varied background in television production having launched the Czech Republic’s first business news channel Z1 as Managing Editor and Head of Programming. In addition to programming strategy for the channel he also managed development of on-air graphics systems and data-driven financial graphics. At Czech Television, the Czech Republic’s national broadcaster, Jan oversaw graphics production for the Evening News, revived the on-air presentation style, and later served as news anchor and host of the morning news programs on the CT1 and CT24 channels. He has also consulted on the production and content management systems and user experience design. Due to his broad array of experience in television and product development he was hired by NBCUniversal, the world’s largest mass-media company, to support its growth in real-time graphics.
|You have devoted almost your whole career to media production. What was the most beneficial thing at the IES for you career path?
That’s a good question :-), because you probably would think there isn’t much of an overlap, but actually there is. Knowledge of finance and markets of course came in handy when I was a business news anchor, but the most important skill throughout the different positions I have held was the ability to understand and solve abstract problems.
You have worked for private as well as national public television in the Czech Republic and now you work for a leading U.S. mass media group. How would you compare those different environments?
They are very different, not just in size, but also in their nature. My private sector experience was an ambitious start-up, where you couldn’t take anything for granted. If I wanted to perform, I had to learn how things worked end-to-end, and then often had to train people as everything was built from scratch. It was challenging, but it also gave me the freedom to create and quickly move from one area to another. In a start-up there’s always more work that there are people to do it, so you have more opportunities to choose what to do. The sky is the limit. I loved that.
You are working as a Real-Time Graphics Production Manager at NBCUniversal, can you describe the scope of your job?
Real-time graphics is an increasingly important part of today’s television. Thanks to platforms from companies like Vizrt, many of the graphical elements that you see on-air are rendered in real time based on programmed logic and various sources of data. For example social media posts, stock market data or weather forecasts can now be seamlessly integrated into interactive scenes that update automatically. Real-time graphics also enables very different production workflows compared to traditional approaches.
You are living in New York, how would describe the life there? Is it more hectic than in Prague?
Yes, it can be (laughs), but I’ve learned there isn’t just one New York. What’s most interesting about it is the huge diversity – every ten blocks it changes. From an economic perspective, for example, once you live here you realize that New York is basically a working class city, but at the same time it’s a playground for the wealthy.
What are you hobbies? What do you do to relax completely?
Let’s start with the hobbies I neglect but find extremely relaxing. I like drawing and painting, that’s one of the activities where I can reach a flow state. On the other hand I have been surprisingly disciplined at regular exercise. I enjoy going to the gym. I like movies and some television shows, mainly scripted ones.