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First Mover: Trevor O'Brien

Deutsch L.A.'s tech honcho still finds time to do some nighttime coding

Photo: Elizabeth Lippman

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Specs
Age 33
New gig Evp, executive creative technology director, Deutsch LA
Old gig Vp, creative technology director, McKinney


What does your job entail, exactly?
I oversee a team of animators, motion designers, 3-D artists, front-end developers, back-end developers, quality-assurance engineers. Part of my role is trying to create an environment where technology is part of everything we do.

You seem to have the skill set—a blend of creative thinking and technological chops—that’s in demand these days. What’s the creative part of what you do, and what’s the technology part?
We view technology as part of the creative group, so sometimes I’m working with creative teams. And it’s really important to make sure I’m keeping up with all these new technologies. I’ll sit in with tech reviews and look at where we are in a project and try and help solve problems when we run into them. It’s a perfect blend of what I grew up doing, which is coding, and what I wish I could do, which was be an artist or be a musician, and trying to bring all that together.

What’s an average day like?
A lot of my day is spent in meetings. I work a little in the evenings, too. There’s a phrase I love, which is “nighttime coder.” When you get to a certain point in your career and you still want [to code] and you’re passionate about it, you find time in your own time to do it. I’m a bit of nighttime coder right now.

What type of digital talent are you trying to bring on board?
People with the ability to design and create experiences that work across a range of mobile devices and the Web and tablets is where we’re focusing our energy right now. I primarily look for people that are T-shaped, that have a specialized skill but are broad across a range of other disciplines.

What are your favorite tech devices?
Whenever I travel, I have an “Apple sandwich” or an “Apple cake,” which is basically my MacBook Pro, my iPad and my iPhone. I have an HTC as well, and I have a ton of apps that I use on there. More than the devices themselves, the apps that come with them and what they enable you to do are amazing. One that I use right now is Uber [the car-service app]. The one I use most is probably Spotify. I have that running on the background somewhere on one of my devices all day long.

What are you listening to?
We Were Promised Jetpacks. They’re a Scottish indie rock band. It’s tagged really well in Pandora. I’ll go to Pandora if I want random stuff, but Grooveshark is one of those services where I love how easy it is to put in a band and get all their records. You basically watch a 10-second video before you get to listen to your music. I like the idea of watching something, then getting a bucket of time that I know is going to be just constant music.

Anything other tech trends you’re particularly psyched about?
The future planning or future check-in world. So if I were coming up to New York tomorrow night, I could check into my favorite pub, and then my friends could see where I’m going to be tomorrow night. There’s a bunch of different things you can imagine around that. You can invite your friends to come join you, and then people could sign up. I could say I’m looking for dinner and get offers from restaurants.

So what is your favorite pub in New York?
The famous one I always go to—P.J. Clarke’s. I love going to that place and having a pint of Guinness.