Diane Williamson has been working in digital media in Canada since the early days of the Internet. Her work at CBC Radio in the 1990s helped to bring audio streaming to the web. She currently runs her own digital media consultancy company, Digital Wizards, and is in her second term as Chair of the Digital Media sub-committee for the Women in Film and Television (WIFT) board.
Williamson is also Chair of the International Women in Digital Media Summit (iWDMS), which will take place in Stratford, Ontario on October 23rd to 25th. I asked her about how she became a pioneer in digital media and what advice she has for young people who are entering the field today.
How did you get your start in digital media?
It really started through experimentation. I was working at CBC Radio in the early 1990’s, where I focused on licensing content and was looking for new market opportunities. In 1992, I was contacted by a group of scientists who were experimenting with streaming audio online. They were looking for big media partners, like the CBC, to provide the content for these tests.
Through these initial experiments, the CBC.ca website was established. We were essentially the first broadcaster in the world to put audio on the web. We streamed popular shows like Current Affairs and Air Farce on the website. I could see that audio on the Internet was the future. That’s really where I got my thirst for digital media.
Tell us about your company, Digital Wizards.
In 1995, the demand started growing for independent web producers. So, I decided to leave the CBC and start my own web production company. I ran my business for eleven years with a team of staff. During that time, we worked with most of the major broadcasters in Canada.
I now run the business as a sole consultancy and enjoy being a board member at WIFT and Chair of the iWDMS.
Who were your mentors as you were learning about digital media?
I was lucky to have a boss at the CBC who really let me experiment and do whatever I wanted. I guess that during that time, I was pioneering in digital media in my own way. I really am self-taught because there were no true mentors or people who were “experts” when I was learning early on.
I was lucky that TV producers put a lot of trust in me to build their brand online. However, it really was a collaborative process where we learned from each other.
What advice do you have for young people who are entering the field today?
I recommend that they open their minds and experiment. Through the expression of ideas, you’ll find what it is that you truly love to do. In my career, I was blessed with a lot of variety. I recommend that young people always push the envelope and don’t be afraid to try new things.
I’m currently part of a mentorship program at the University of Waterloo. We work with teams of third and fourth-year undergrad students, across multiple disciplines (i.e. arts, science, and technology), to produce interactive digital display projects. This exposes them to new career opportunities and to see digital media from a different angle. The project is supported by industry partners including Christie Digital and Intel, and has in-kind financial backing.
Williamson will be moderating a panel at iWDMS and introducing a number of the keynote speakers, like Arianna Huffington. To find out more about the speakers at the summit, visit the conference website.
Stay tuned for more stories about amazing women in digital media in the weeks to come.