Breaking boundaries

Maryanne Maina

Maryanne Maina

Meet MultiChoice's manager of product management: risk and support, Phil Nicholson, the man who contributed towards bringing the first dual view decoder to the market and who led the team that developed the world's first dual view personal video recorder (PVR).

"There are four main areas of responsibility handled by myself and several capable people in the team. We have a large influence over new decoders brought to market such as the PVR and dual view decoders which were recent success stories. The technology value chain in sourcing channels and content offshore then delivering it to our customers is fairly complex. Our team ensures that decoder software is continuously updated so that it can handle any changes to this value chain. We also add new features in the decoder software," said Nicholson.

"All technology projects are run by people in my department. This often involves major projects spanning many countries in Africa," he said.

With the release of the dual view decoder, MultiChoice subscribers were able to view two separate channels on two separate television sets simultaneously for the very first time.

Speaking about the revolutionary effect that dual view has had on South Africans, Nicholson believes that the most dramatic change was perhaps "the amicable resolution of the infamous battle for the remote control".

But the launch of the dual view decoder was just the beginning for Nicholson and his team. In 2005, they developed the world's first dual view PVR decoder, making MultiChoice's DStv subscribers the first on the globe to enjoy all the benefits of the dual view decoder, combined with the ability to pause live television, view instant replays, playback a recording of a show from the beginning while it is still being broadcast, and record shows from a third channel while watching two other channels on dual view.

What is it that drives the likes of Nicholson and his team to continuously push barriers and break boundaries?

Nicholson says he is driven by the fact that he works with great minds. "I am surrounded by a team of highly skilled, hard working people who leave me with little option but to lead by example. Furthermore, it is so easy to keep motivated when one works for a company that has a soul, which is demonstrated in the remarkable way in which it relates to its people. At MultiChoice people really matter. Everyone has a voice no matter where in the hierarchy they may fall. The bonds that are formed between people in this company go way beyond anything I have previously experienced."

It is essential to have certain skills and qualifications in Nicholson's job.

"Spend more time listening than talking and being action orientated. Experience in working with highly skilled people helps," he said.

"I have no formal engineering qualifications but am surrounded by highly qualified and very smart people, so we play to each others' strengths. Anyone entering the profession should be qualified if they want to get ahead. It is very complex and fast moving technology so a sound engineering qualification is a huge asset if not a necessity," said Nicholson.