Five Questions For … SXSW Chief Programming Officer Hugh Forrest

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did your 25-year-old self know that you have forgotten?

HF: He was a lot better about athletic leadership-related things. I am not allowed to play basketball anymore. I had more bones then … I know that when I was younger I was much more committed to doing a lot of different things, and I remember always I had this idea that I was never going to stay in a job for more than four years, and then do something else. I still think that’s a pretty good idea but … I’ve been at SXSW for 23 years so I haven’t really followed that.

By comparison, I’m a lot more comfortable with myself now than I was at 25. I was much more of an introvert then than I am now. I was not as confident in my opinions, direction, leadership then. For me, at least, a lot of the confidence is simply repetition. There’s the Malcolm Gladwell saw about doing something for 10,000 hours. The more I’ve done SXSW, the more comfortable I’ve been in this role. I read about tech; I’m talking about it, and thinking that my opinions are relatively coherent.

It is somewhat daunting when I see someone who is now fairly established in their career, and I remember when they were volunteering at SXSW and I think, Gosh, is it really that long? I certainly tend to see early stage companies and? early stage individuals at SXSW. They use that platform to? grow, to get more experience, to get more contacts, to get the word out.

X: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned about managing people?

HF: The more I manage people—the more I struggle to manage people—the more I realize how much of a labor-intensive thing it is. The best management comes when you meet with people a lot, and allot time to do that, and that is not necessarily fast or time-efficient. But that is the best way to better understand what your people are doing, the problems  and successes they’re having, and how you can help them. I’ve gone through periods where I’ve been very good at that and other periods where I haven’t been as good at it.

Certainly, I think the more I set aside time to meet with people, the better my management skills are. One of the ironies of where we are is we have so many more machines, gadgets, computers, interfaces, whatever you … Next Page »

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