12 Questions with Robert Balmaseda
Robert recently wrote about SolutionSet winning five Interactive Media Awards and now he shares a bit of his story.
1. What’s your role at SolutionSet?
I, along with my peers Tim, Alex, and Frank, am responsible for business development and account management for a set of clients. It is an interesting balancing act, but one I enjoy. Once engaged with clients, my focus is to ensure that we help them meet their strategic business, marketing, and technology goals through the implementation of smart digital experiences. This is our strength: understanding how to plan, design, and implement solutions which integrate brand strategy, the written word, detailed experience designs, and creative visual designs with scalable technology infrastructure.
2. How long have you been with the company?
I’ve been at SolutionSet since its inception nearly seven years ago and I’ve been building websites at agencies and on the clients side for the better part of the last 18 years.
3. Where are some places you’ve worked prior to SolutionSet?
I began my career in Los Angeles at one of the first interactive agencies, Digital Planet, where we built ground-breaking web experiences for entertainment properties such as Apollo 13, Casper, 12 Monkeys and Burn:Cycle. It was a fun period where we did so many things wrong in building great sites. I moved on to USWeb/CKS, a leading professional services firm in the web space in the late ‘90s. I moved on to the client side where I ran the technology teams at several start-ups including HardCloud, an action-sports content/community/commerce site, and iGeneration, a pioneering education site. I moved back on the agency side at Carat Interactive where we built some great sites for RadioShack, adidas, and EA.
4. What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Working with a group of smart and talented people who are singularly motivated to impact our clients business gives me the most satisfaction. Knowing we had an impact makes it all even better. In the past year, we have had the honor to launch the redesigned California Lottery website (www.calottery.com), help rebrand and relaunch the website for Cord Blood Registry (www.cordblood.com), and work on several projects at Apple. It has been a blast working with our clients and having an impact on their businesses.
5. When you’re not at the office, where are we likely to find you?
One of three places: at home with my wife and daughter, out to dinner with my wife and daughter—red wine glass firmly in hand—or on my new road bike in Marin.
6. When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had far too many romantic notions from having my nose stuck in a book (Dumas and Tolkien among many others) and wanted to be an officer and a gentleman in the U.S. Army. I put all my efforts into this dream and was admitted to the United States Military Academy at West Point. I survived my plebe year and went on to resign my commission and attend UCLA.
7. What did you study in school?
History—everything from art history, to military history, to cultural history, and lots of literature. Studying history in all of its forms enables you to form a more well-rounded picture of the world.
8. How did you get your start in web?
I worked at a small marketing services firm in Los Angeles and we did book a promotion on the online services AOL, Delphi, CompuServe, Apple’s eWorld, and Usenet. We had such success on the Internet that we decided to do more work in that space; it was around the same time the web became more commercially accessible due to the development of the web browser. I built a website for our agency to promote campaigns for our clients and was asked to join Digital Planet as their Line Producer. It was fun and challenging. We had great ideas, but had so much to learn about both how to build the sites technically as well as the process of client engagements. Never a dull moment!
9. What’s something exciting you’re working on right now?
We are working on some excited initiatives with the California Lottery. Many of them are the logical evolution of a web property and how to best support their ongoing campaigns. Others are more operational and relate to the architecture of the underlying business systems. The most fun programs are supporting their mobile programs through Strategy as well as app development support.
10. What’s your leadership philosophy?
Surround yourself with smart people, provide them with context, and then get out of the way. And, be there for them when they need you.
11. What’s one of your proudest moments at SolutionSet?
Launching the redesigned California Lottery website (www.calottery.com). Just the scale of the site and the visibility during peak lottery draws. It’s a beautiful website, it’s very fast, and the infrastructure has been able to support previously unheard of traffic loads. Just a month after launching, the site supported 12 million jackpot enthusiasts in search of information and winning numbers for the record-breaking $640,000,000 MEGA Millions® jackpot.
12. What would you tell someone who wants to break into the industry?
I would tell them many things, but the most important being: don’t be afraid of failure, it’s how you respond to adversity that defines who you are.