Autodesk Shotgun Software GM Sarah Hodges Talks "New Normal" in Media

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

The new GM of Autodesk’s Shotgun Software, Sarah Hodges, reflects on the new normal in media & entertainment.
Tell us about your role at Shotgun Software, and how you got involved.
Sarah Hodges: My role is general manager of Shotgun, where I oversee all aspects of the team and business, including marketing, engineering, design and community support. I first met former Shotgun CEO and co-founder Don Parker six years ago during an Autodesk leadership course, where we discovered similarities in the challenges we were facing with managing teams and helping small companies achieve accelerated growth. We looked for opportunities to work together and take Shotgun to the next level. When Don made the decision to step back from his position to spend more time with his family at the beginning of 2020, I was officially brought on to lead the way moving forward.

What has it been like to lead the Shotgun team as the world has entered into a new ‘work-from-home’ era?

Sarah Hodges: This has been one of the biggest challenges that I have ever faced personally and professionally. However, this has also been an incredibly exciting and rewarding transition. I was relatively new to the role and team when COVID-19 hit, and I’ve had to quickly get up to speed and establish new relationships and a level of trust with the team during this period. The Shotgun team has long been geographically dispersed across different time zones, and now all team members are working from home and dealing with their own personal challenges that impact productivity, creativity and mental health. My objective has been to make the team feel comfortable, while also moving things forward in the best way possible. It’s been amazing to see how the team has come together during these unprecedented times, with virtual meetups and happy hours that happen organically. Their level of dedication to customers throughout this time has also been inspiring.  

What are some of the biggest challenges facing customers?
Sarah Hodges: VFX and animation studios have invested in massive on-premises infrastructure that offers security and protects intellectual property, while at the same time prohibiting employees from working at home. Now, facilities have been forced into rethinking virtual pipelines, completely overhauling the status quo and realizing the need to integrate secure, cloud-based tools to enable productivity for teams in remote work environments.

Many of our customers with local Shotgun installs are realizing the potential value for cloud, and in the case of several, we’ve seen this pandemic accelerate their decision to go virtual. Our extended access program has been extremely well received, and we’ve been able to support smaller studios with extended trials for commercial use and the benefit of accommodating additional users. For larger customers, our team has been accessible to help operations stay up and running and keep their teams productive from home. 

What is your background?
Sarah Hodges: I’ve primarily focused on marketing and management for technology companies. My first position was at a Boston-based VFX plugin developer, BorisFX, and from there, I transitioned to the AEC industry and have since spent over a decade at Autodesk. By joining Shotgun, I’ve transitioned back to my roots in the media and entertainment space. I’m based in Boston, where I attended university and have lived since moving from the UK at the age of 16. 
How are you personally balancing ‘work-from-home’ and keeping the Shotgun team motivated?
Sarah Hodges: During these challenging times, I’ve provided the team with increased flexibility to put their families and loved ones first, including reduced meetings, ample breaks and using Slack over email as the primary communication vehicle. I’m doing my best throughout the day to be a role model for the team and lead by example by exercising, taking walks outside, helping my daughter with virtual classes and keeping calm and patient.

What will the road to recovery look like for the visual effects and animation business?

Sarah Hodges: It’s hard to predict, but the entire world will be different. This will be a period of cloud acceleration, with VFX and animation tool providers continuing to innovate new ways to optimize pipelines for remote workers and enable collaboration for geographically distributed teams. On the production side, new technologies like automation and robotics, may have the potential to help teams accomplish physical production remotely, requiring less team travel to remote shoot locations and shifting jobs so that workers can collaborate from home. An overall reliance on virtual environments will become the new norm, and we’ll have to prepare and explore the best ways to move forward as an industry.

What has surprised you most about the Shotgun community?

Sarah Hodges: Shotgun really operates like a family, and I’ve been impressed with how empathetic and connected the team and community is. Not only does the team have a strong grasp of the industry and unique challenges productions face, but the community of Shotgun users themselves are so open and dedicated to collaborating and sharing best practices with one another to evolve the industry forward.
Sarah Hodges is the general manager of Shotgun Software, an Autodesk company. When she isn’t shaping ideas around how workflows can be disrupted and optimized, she’s finding creative inspiration in the kitchen exploring how unique combinations of precisely measured ingredients result in delicious outcomes.
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