Posted 27 June 2019
Written by Rebecca Irvin

Meet Sky Creative Agency’s sole creative technologist, William Phillpotts

As a creative technologist for Sky, William Phillpotts, is proof that hard work and sustained self-motivation pay off. Having effectively tutored himself in the art of programming and coding, his reputation for industriousness attracted the attention of a manager at Sky Creative Agency, who offered William the role based on his creative and professional merit. Here, William discusses how he writes code to turn data and ideas into automated graphics systems like the Brexit countdown clock, and gives some advice on using your spare time to cultivate software and technology skills.

Outside Sky Creative Agency

William Phillpotts

Job title

Creative Technologist, Sky Creative Agency (2015–present)

Previous employment

Platform Solutions Specialist, Sky Technology (2011–2015)
Support Engineer, Sky Technology (2007–2011)
Stage Hand, GPSS, (2006–2007)

How would you describe what you do at Sky?
I am Sky Creative Agency's sole creative technologist. In a nutshell, I am responsible for the creation and execution of automated graphics systems – I write code to create automated workflows and systems that will take an idea from a producer or data source like AP and turn it into a visual product.

My work is usually visible on big data days like election nights, counters like the Brexit countdown clock, and lower thirds. I take physical designs from Sky's designers and make their visions a reality.

How collaborative is your role?
My role is highly collaborative – I am one person in a team of many who are all required to get the job done. I work predominantly with design leads to bring their visions to life.

“I take physical designs from Sky's designers and make their visions a reality.”

An example of Sky’s reporting during Trump’s election

How did you land the job at Sky?
I was approached for the role by a manager, based on my reputation for hard work and high standards. I'm effectively self-taught in my field and I felt that my work spoke for itself.

What have been your favourite projects to work on for Sky?
I loved working on the US elections ahead of Trump's victory – there was a lot of energy and buzz in the office and the result really could have gone either way. Another project I felt proud of was the conversion of all Sky News' graphics into a brand new automated delivery system. It was a lengthy process but rewarding to see the final outcomes delivered on time and to high standards.

Inside Sky's newsroom
Inside Sky Creative Agency

Where are you from originally and what did you want to be growing up?
I was born and raised in Bury in Greater Manchester, but have been down south in London since 2006. Growing up I wanted to be a car mechanic.

What are the positives and negatives of working at Sky?
Sky is a great company to work for, and the team I work with on a daily basis are a cool bunch. The gym, cinema and rooftop bar certainly add to the positive vibe!

Inside Sky Creative Agency
Sky’s campus

What skills and tools are essential to your role?
Knowing how to code is essential to being a technologist – it's also beneficial to have more than a working knowledge of broadcast systems in order to be one above the competition in an ever-evolving industry. All I need is a text editor and my computer and I'm good to go.

What recommendations would you give to an emerging creative wanting to do the same kind of work?
Start learning Javascript in your spare time – it's a great basic skill to build a career on. I am always educating myself on different programming languages in order to have that edge over Sky's competitors.

This interview is part of a studio feature on Sky Creative Agency, a Lecture in Progress partner.

Written by Rebecca Irvin
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Photography by Eric Aydin-Barberini