A Day in the Life of an HBO Max Program Manager
In 7 Hours With, we explore the routines of leading professionals in their space to learn the when, why, where and how they work. In each diary, we will look at what they’re doing at seven different check-ins throughout their day. Karen Edgar is a Program Manager in Release Management at WarnerMedia where she works on HBO’s upcoming releases.
I typically wake up around 7 AM, jump in the shower, and start getting ready for my day. My son is 10, and wakes himself up at 7:15 with the help of Alexa. My husband wakes up a little earlier than us and helps out by getting breakfast ready for my son.
I don’t actually eat breakfast at home — most days it’s just about getting out of the door in time to get my son to school. After dropping him off, I get on the express bus to work. While I’m on the bus, I usually check Slack on my phone, so that’s when my day “starts.”
While I’m on the bus, I’ll check all my emails and Slack messages, and get started responding to urgent things. We work heavily with a team in Seattle, so I take a look at anything that may have spilled over from the night before and take care of it. When I’m done with that, I’ll listen to a podcast – I love the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast! He’s such a goofball. Conan is light and funny, and if I’m multitasking on the bus, I don’t have to give it my full attention. And if I’m not interested in the guest, I’ll just listen to my current favorite playlist.
Once I arrive at work, I get breakfast and start to settle in at my desk. I check email and Slack again — my department operates heavily on Slack, rarely email, and a lot of Webex video calls.
Typically, in the morning I’m doing more individual work. This morning, someone asked me for a QA build to test for Roku. A build means that some change or changes have gone into the master code that powers how the applications work on different clients or platforms. If there’s something new that developers are working on and need to make an update, my team helps to release that new version to customers.
I’ve been with HBO for over eight years, and was first on the IT side. In November of 2019 I started in a new role under HBO, which is now part of the WarnerMedia family. I’m on the Release Management team, which means I release code for HBO GO, HBO NOW, and HBO Max. For example, over the last few months, we have released builds for internal testing of HBO Max Beta versions. And although it’s only internal testing for now, it’s a big deal. HBO Max is launching soon!
Even if I just take a 40 minute lunch break, I really like to leave my desk at “lunch time.” Lately, I’ve been loving heading into the mall where I work in Hudson Yards to go to Citarella and read whatever book I’m currently indulging in. Books are my escape and a great way to unplug and turn the world off for a bit. I recently finished the Family Upstairs (I’m really big on psychological thrillers). I used to go back and forth between romantic comedies and psychological thrillers, but now I’m mostly into thrillers.
Once I get to Citarella, I usually grab any soup I love and a salad. Lately my lunch has been the same — I’ll put together a quick salad of kale, kalamata olives, quinoa, beets and maybe an egg or two, with balsamic and sunflower seeds. It’s amazing.
My workload changes day to day, and no two afternoons are ever the same. Sometimes I’ll have Webex meetings, or I’ll be cutting releases for different clients. For the next 10 weeks until we launch HBO Max, it’s going to be cutting new builds often for that platform.
At this time of day, I’ll also check in with my notes to make sure I’m checking off any to-dos I have. I’m not big on paper so I prefer to write myself notes and tasks in Slack or Asana — I have my own personal Slack channel, for my eyes only, and it’s great because I can go back to it every day and see if I took care of everything on my to-do list. It’s a way to check in.
Overall, though, Slack can get pretty crazy. In my job and in this new role, there are so many Slack channels. But, with time, you get accustomed to which Slack channels you need to pay attention to, and learn which messages you need to be on the lookout for. Sometimes people will ping me and they just have to wait for me to reply. In order to do the best job I can, I like to finish one task at a time so it gets my full attention. If you don’t set your schedule, boundaries and expectations from the start, people are going to take advantage of you. So it’s important to be mindful of what your boundaries are and how to message them to others.
I leave work between 5 and 6:30 on most days, but I’m always on Slack and checking email. Seattle is still working hard at this time, because they’re three hours behind, so it’s tricky to get offline at night. Folks in the Seattle office are pretty great at respecting boundaries with timezones, but sometimes it’s hard to completely disconnect.
Once I get home, it’s dinner time. Sometimes I meal prep for the week, but on those weeks I don’t, it can be more challenging if I’m getting home from work later than usual. But my husband and I will take turns cooking, so it’s not all on me. After dinner, I’ll also work with my son, check homework, and spend some quality time with him.
I start to wind down at 10 PM and watch a show with my hubby. I like to see what’s going on in Slack, but I only answer when it’s really critical. Part of the boundary creation is making sure that people don’t think they can reach me at 10 PM on any given night. I can wait to answer in the morning when I’m on the bus.
All in all — work hard, try your best and give respect to others the same way you want to be respected. And finally, what I want people to really keep in mind is that the most important thing for anyone’s career (or in life) is having soft skills. Be a human — we’re all human first. That’s honestly what has helped me get to where I am in life. It’s not 100% what I know, but the soft skills that have carried me. Having good relationships, and making people feel comfortable will take you far in life. Just be honest, nice and kind. That’s what will take you the farthest.