Rob Dean has over 23 years of experience in TV. He holds A Levels in Film Studies and Communications, and an HND in Advertising. He has worked on location and in studio, on both live and pre-recorded shows of all genres. He is an Executive Producer at 12 Yard Productions and oversees BBC2's Eggheads.
After obtaining your HND in Advertising, what was it like transitioning from being a student to taking the first steps in building your career?
Rob: It was a huge step, particularly as my first job was at researcher level - in fact, I kept my Saturday job for a few weeks in case things didn't work out. Although I didn't really ever enjoy being a student, and was keen to start having money to spend, the change from simply caring about yourself to being employed to do a job for someone else was massive. Especially when it's a job that you don't have a clue about, and you don't really have any life experience to fall back on. I'm not ashamed to say that I was a pretty awful researcher - I made plenty of mistakes and almost got the sack. But I learned from my mistakes, I attempted to sort out my attitude from "selfish student" to "responsible employee". Thankfully, the people I was working with didn't want me to fail.
Before stepping up to more senior Producer roles, you initially started out as a Researcher / Casting Researcher, working on shows such as Blind Date, Ready Steady Cook and Children In Need. What were some of the key lessons you learned during these early years?
Rob: Never say you want to work on Blind Date because you want to travel. Always wear smart clothes on studio days. Getting on well with people on a team is a real bonus, but it's not the end of the world if you don't. Engage your brain before opening your mouth and always follow a few key steps when it comes to interviews:
1) A firm handshake.
2) Look people in the eye.
3) Be prepared for the questions you might face.
5) Be enthusiastic.
6) In an iPlayer/ YouTube world there's no excuse for not having seen an episode of a programme you might be interviewed for.
7) After your interview, always email the people you've met to thank them for their time.
8) Think what the role entails and tailor your experience - it's about selling yourself.
9) Make sure your CV is attention grabbing and...
10) Don't have a silly email address.
Tell us more about your current role as Executive Producer with Eggheads - what does a typical day look like for you?
Rob: As I'm very hands-on with Eggheads, I don't really have a typical day - it's more like typical periods within a year. For example, I'll have periods of pre-production which will involve me working closely with the contestant and question writing teams - where I might be looking at potential teams all day or checking batches of questions, then there will be a period when I'm in the studio whilst we record a batch of 50 or so new programmes. I gallery produce every episode, and then this will be followed by a period of editing all the new eps we've just recorded - I oversee every ep in the edit before it's delivered to the BBC. Usually, once that period is over, it will be time to start the whole process over again. Interspersed amongst all that, I might be contributing to other 12 Yard productions, answering viewers queries, dealing with the BBC, making changes to repeat programmes where necessary, re-viewing every episode a couple of days before it transmits, liaising with ITV (who own 12 Yard) about Eggheads-themed games and quiz books, the list goes on... The other day I was speaking to Jeremy Vine (host of Eggheads) and all the Eggheads about sending a card to a viewer who was turning 100. Our viewers are very precious to us.
A lot of people seem undecided whether a University degree is useful in a media production career. As an established professional working in high positions who does not hold this particular qualification, what's your opinion on this?
Rob: Life and real work experience are all-important as far as I'm concerned. No media qualification can prepare you for dealing with a contributor who's having a panic just before a crew is about to arrive on location - that's a skill learned only through experience. I'd much rather interview someone who has a degree in landscape gardening and wants to get into TV than someone who has a media qualification. They're much more likely to think outside the box when it comes to finding contributors or coming up with ideas. If you've been to university then I want to know about the life experiences you've had whilst studying - at the end of the day, I'm going to be working alongside the person, not the qualification.
Finally, thinking back to your school days, what advice would you give to your younger, student self, or to anyone else who is looking to work in a role similar to yours?
Rob: Don't worry about everything so much - it's going to be fine. Be more confident - regretting not doing something can eat away at you. Not doing well in exams isn't worth the panic - you can always achieve things if you put the effort in. Always shake hands with a firm handshake whilst looking people in the eye - first impressions in interviews are hugely important.
You can follow Rob on Twitter: @eggheadproducer