The greatest gift that this new era of technology gives us is the ability to activate change BEFORE it’s critically needed, allowing us to stay ahead.
—Katie Linendoll, TV personality, writer, tech expert and global tech consultant
Katie Linendoll is an Emmy Award-winning TV personality, writer, tech expert and global tech consultant. In those roles, she spends as much time in the field as she does on her laptop. Linendoll has interviewed hundreds of celebrities, tech entrepreneurs, CEOs and sports stars. She introduced Google Glass to the NFL via the St. Louis Rams (a piece that went viral), detoxed (and survived!) in digital rehab, won the Guinness World Record for performing the most “high fives” in 60 seconds, and shared the stage with Lady Gaga—all in the name of tech! She also serves as a technology consultant and has co-designed and developed three apps, including “Al’s Weather Rokies,” created with her good friend, Al Roker. When she’s not working, Linendoll is a committed fan of WWE’s Monday Night Raw—in fact, she’s never missed a single episode. She volunteers regularly at NYC Candlelighters, a non-profit that serves the families of children who are undergoing cancer treatment.
Linendoll has been tech-minded since childhood, earning her networking certificates before graduating high school. After graduating from RIT, she went on to launch her professional career with ESPN, where she worked on shows like SportsCenter, NFL Live and Outside the Lines. At age 22, she won an Emmy Award for her work on SportsCenter. Still at ESPN, she transitioned to the business side of the company, working for ESPN The Magazine on client red-carpet events. After a successful run as an on-air technology expert for Home Shopping Network (where she moved $20 million in gadgets), she also hosted A&E’s We Mean Business show, where she received another Emmy nomination. For the past few years, Linendoll has presented technology and gadgets on NBC’s Today Show.
Linendoll graduated from RIT in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in information technology. She was recognized as the 2011 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, presented by RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences.
- What led you to choose RIT?
I’ve been obsessed with technology my entire life. As a kid, I loved things like electrical wiring and was drawn to networking classes—where I earned my networking certs during special high-school courses. Also, the boutique size of RIT appealed to me; coming from a small town, I was looking for a more personalized and hands-on approach, and RIT was a natural fit.
- Was there a specific course at RIT that set your career in motion?
My professional passion was discovered through RIT SportsZone, which is a sports magazine show that features the student athletes, coaches, clubs and events at RIT. This hands-on, applied training was the launch pad for my career, as it enabled me to understand how to work as part of a team of editors, graphic designers, producers, directors, and reporters. My mentor, Mark Fragale, had a Hollywood background in camera work, and helped me master the technologies and techniques of broadcasting and behind-the-scenes software — skills that I was able to put to immediate use when I started working at ESPN. I would also like to mention Dr. Jim Watters, who was extremely instrumental in helping me define the direction of my career. I’ve also admired the career of RIT alumnus Sean Bratches, EVP sales and marketing at ESPN, and very much enjoy staying in touch with him.
- Can you still apply the skills you acquired while at RIT?
The blend of computing and design training along with the broadcasting skills that I acquired at RIT is what set me on my career path. It has helped me appreciate what’s under the hood of today’s technology, while finding interesting ways to present it to a mass audience. Staying on top of the latest technical innovations is a full-time job, so I need to keep on my toes — this drives me to continually develop my skills.
- Which current technological innovation is the most disruptive?
Smartphones. It’s an obvious answer, but who would have thought we would be so tethered to this little computerized square box? And that scores of companies would be vying for our attention through it? Then there are the Jetson’s technologies, which are already among us and can only get bigger. 3D printing is a huge disruptor, and I’m not just talking about gizmos and figurines, but 3D prosthetic hands – something RIT students are working on with e-nable! Additionally, wearable tech and The Internet of Things (i.e. connected everyday objects) aren’t going anywhere.
Also, I can’t leave out how transformative social media has been in both the business and media landscapes. I think many companies are now realizing that they must factor social into their operations, or risk being blind-sided by the online remark of one person. Interestingly, what I’ve noticed is that the larger and more powerful the company, the less nimble it is to make changes and adapt to the latest innovations and shifts in the market.
- What are the key ingredients of your career success?
Persistence, drive, and passion. You may have heard this advice in other forms and permutations before, but ultimately, I think it’s really about cultivating an unwavering personal drive and love for what you do. To make it in an industry like mine, you have to be willing to try, fail, learn, and try again. You can’t let missteps discourage you. Also, I see everything through 100 percent. I don’t—and can’t—do anything half-baked, it’s part of who I am.
- What does it mean to you to be an agent of change?
I think a large part of my job is to help people understand and prepare for technological change. So I try to inspire people to embrace and encourage change by making it real and relatable, not overly confusing! I am also lucky enough to have the opportunity to raise awareness about stories of change for the better through technology. A good example is the piece I recently did about World Reader, a non-profit that’s expanding literacy in the world’s poorest communities by giving students access to thousands of culturally relevant books through low-cost e-readers.
- What are you doing to grow/develop as a leader and an agent of change?
I check in with myself a lot. I need to be able to see, year over year, that I’m doing something greater than the year before, pushing myself further. Without that, there is no growth. Success comes with constantly pushing yourself. Be grateful for your accomplishments, never become complacent. Never stop trying harder.
I also make sure I am constantly giving back, and I do that with the help of gadgets and technology. I volunteer with Candlelighters, a non-profit organization that works with kids diagnosed with cancer, and try to be a big-sister figure to them. Legos, a Nintendo 3DS or a day at a 3D-movie does wonders to get their mind off things, so they can just be kids. For me, this is what life is about.