The XOJET 10: Dermot McCormack, MTV Digital Guru
Although music is his business, Dermot McCormack has made a career out of innovation. After earning an engineering degree in his native Dublin, Ireland, he moved to New York City and began working in technology in the early ‘90s, back at the dawn of the Internet boom. The rest is digital history. Following his tenure as an executive at iVillage.com, he founded and was chief technology officer of Flooz.com, and then SVP of Interactive Product Management at CableVision before moving to MTV in January 2009. Now executive vice president of digital media for MTV Networks Music & Logo Group, McCormack counts among his many accomplishments leading MTV from 5 million Facebook “likes” to more than 100 million, securing its place as one of the foremost brands in the world.
Full of wry humor and colorful salt(y)-and-pepper adjectives that we can’t print in a company blog, McCormack has been known to pour a Guinness in an interview (not ours, fortunately or unfortunately), while discussing his passions for music and technology. When he’s not traveling across the United States with rock stars, McCormack’s innovative ideas and consummate professionalism have landed him on The Hollywood Reporter’s Digital Power List of 2012, and have garnered him kudos for the books he’s written, including Web 2.0, Ten Technologies Every Executive Needs to Know and Outsourcing. With this in mind, XOJET asked Dermot a few questions about his travels in the digital age.
1. Growing up, what was your first dream destination?
I always had a fondness for Paris. From early on, I liked French culture. And I like literature. Maybe I was a born romantic, but Paris always seemed like a place where wonderful, magical things happened.
2. Tell us about the first time you flew on a plane.
To England, I believe, when I was 12 or 13, flying on a family vacation. On Air Lingus.
3. How many days a year do you travel now, approximately, and what percentage is for business?
Well, I definitely travel more than 100,000 miles a year, but on average, a few days of every month. I’d say, oh, 73.2% of that is for business.
4. When you travel for business, what’s most important to you?
Getting there. Not getting there—or getting there late—means you’re going to miss your meeting. If you’re traveling for business and you’re like me, you’re working on a very tight schedule. So Job 1 is to get there on time in one piece.
5. What’s the biggest difference between how you travel for leisure and how you travel for business?
When I travel for business, I don’t have all my kids around me, so the biggest difference then is that I’m not carrying dolls and crayon books. When it comes to what’s most important to me, it’s having a space that’s conducive to work. It’s crucial to what I do.
6. What was your most luxurious travel experience?
The one that pops to mind is Upper Class on British Airways: it was a 747, so it’s on the top of the plane. They had a butler and a dude who was polishing your shoes and getting you your own bottle of wine—I remember landing and thinking, I kinda wanna hang out here a bit with Jeeves. No, the butler’s name wasn’t Jeeves, but you can imagine how enjoyable it for an Irish man to be served by an English butler.
7. What’s the most important aspect of travel in terms of your business needs?
Travel affords me time to think. I realize that’s an old-fashioned virtue, but it’s one of the old-fashioned virtues I actually embrace. And since I don’t have much time to think at the office, because my days are usually crazed with phone calls, meetings and running around, it’s only when I fly that I can really sit and think through ideas, work out strategies, concentrate. So having that time and space is invaluable.
8. How do you spend your time in flight?
I mainly do one of three things: First, I love to listen to music. Music is a big passion of mine, which is good, since I work for MTV. Second, I try to catch up on reading. And third is a mixture of business: a) preparing for my meeting, or b) using the time to start writing up some strategic thoughts, because I rarely have the time to do that in the office.
9. What’s your dream destination now?
One place I haven’t visited is Argentina. I’ve always heard interesting things about it, and I’ve always found Easter Island to be a very interesting place.
10. What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you about traveling?
There’s a quote that goes something to the effect of “It’s not really about the destination. The great thing is the journey.” I’ve always embraced that idea for both my career and my life. Destinations are just excuses to have journeys.
THE XOJET LIST
Favorite city: New York City.
Favorite hotel: The Montage in Beverly Hills.
Favorite restaurant: Raoul’s.
Favorite bar: Johnny Fox’s in Dublin. It’s a pub on top of a mountain, basically in the middle of a field with sheep running around.
Favorite resort: One&Only in the Bahamas.
Favorite museum/gallery: Museum of Natural History in New York.
Favorite publication to read on a plane: WIRED
Favorite travel device: My iPad.
Favorite luggage (maker): Floto.
Favorite new technology: In this particular moment in history, I really like Instagram. I’m kind of a photography buff, and I like Instagram because it allows you to see others’ work and tell a story with simple pictures. And this one other thing called, This Is My Jam. It’s a site where you say: “Here’s a song I’m listening to or that I’ve got in my head.”