When you were 17, what did you want to be?
When we're younger, we think, "Oh, I'm gonna be a teacher, I'm gonna be a doctor." And then, as we get older, we realize there are more and more possibilities. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I really liked math; it always came naturally to me, and I enjoyed it, so that made me think about pursuing a business degree.
I also had a lot of different hobbies. I realized quickly that sports weren't for me, but I really liked the arts. I played violin and I was in the orchestra. I was in all of the honor societies, and I did some math tutoring. And I got very involved in the theater department. I was building the sets, I was tech rookie of the year my freshman year, I was doing lighting and stage crew and also acting. And my senior year, I was the assistant director for our big musical, kind of overseeing everything. I really liked that a lot.
But in high school, I didn't have a specific job in mind. I mostly thought, "I'm going to college, what should I study?"
How did you decide to attend SUNY Binghamton?
I was deciding between NYU and SUNY Binghamton. It was a tough decision for a teenager to make. My parents told me that they would pay for half of my tuition. I have two older sisters, and my oldest sister went to Cornell and my other sister went to MIT. I saw that they had all these bills piling up, so that was definitely something I took into account.
This was also right after 9/11, so the climate in the city was definitely different. I visited SUNY Binghamton, and I really liked the campus. I thought that when I graduated, I could move to the city without any student loans. And Binghamton had offered me an academic scholarship, so I decided to go there.
I feel like I got a very good education, and the school was fantastic for networking because everyone there is from New York. When you graduate, you have this amazing network and you know so many people.
How did you choose your major?
I thought business would be my major, but I didn't want to lose the arts so I decided to do a minor in theater. I really liked the business classes, but I wasn't crazy about the theater classes. It was a lot of theater majors, and we had different goals - I wasn't looking to be a Broadway star. And then I took this really interesting class, Marketing for Theater.
That teacher helped me get an internship after freshman year for this Broadway marketing group. It really opened my eyes to the way that Broadway works. I was going to their box offices every day, running around Times Square, going to all their events, and chilling with Rosie O'Donnell. It was really good hands-on experience in that industry, but it made me realize that I didn't want to pursue theater as a career. So I dropped my theater minor.
At the same time, I was working at the TV station at my college, and I loved that. I had my own show with a friend called Culture Club where we did different sketches and stuff. And then I had another show where we did all sorts of different things, from going out to the courtyard and doing “man on the street” interviews, to doing live studio stuff. We even had a band and a theme song. It was very low production value but really fun. So I decided to put my energy into working at the TV station.
While I was in school, I did another summer internship at MTV. I was paired with a production intern on the team that does a lot of the music specials and the Movie Awards and the VMAs. I absolutely loved it, and I thought, "Yes, this is what I want to do when I graduate.”
How did you get from college to where you are now?
I graduated early in January, and then I did my executive MBA with Binghamton’s program in New York City. That way I was able to look for work while doing my MBA. I got a job right out of college with this big media agency, but I didn't last a month. It was too much on the business side of things, and I didn’t want to be at a desk every day. It just wasn't right.
That was an important lesson for me to take some time and get a job that was right for me. Then that summer, I got my first job as a production assistant for MTV. I worked on the VMAs, and then I worked on the Hip Hop Honors, and then I connected with this producer and worked on an episode of Unplugged with him.
That producer was starting his own company, so I went and worked for him for a while as an associate producer. He did a lot of music and specials like Unplugged and this amazing series for the Sundance Channel called Spectacle. I did two seasons of that, which was amazing.
The production world is interesting, because you can be a camera operator, or you can be an audio engineer, or you can be a producer. As a producer, you're the one getting it done. At the very basic level as a PA, you're out getting coffees. And, at the executive producer level, you're calling the shots and completely designing the creative of the show. And the producer role can be defined very differently depending on the production.
After that, I worked for this production company that did that Russell Simmons’s reality show. That's when I started getting into reality TV, which is a very different genre, so there are different challenges. Then I worked on Love & Hip-Hop for a while and I also worked for Sony for a little bit, and then I went to National Geographic. I was there for three years as a post-production supervisor.
A post supervisor oversees everything from the hiring of editors to the schedule and the budget, basically everything from the moment the footage is shot until it's delivered to the network. It's also a very technical role, making sure that all of the technical specifications for the network are adhered to. And a lot of the deliverables now are digital, instead of tape. There are a whole bunch of other things that need to go along with it, like behind-the-scenes moments.
I worked on a bunch of shows at Nat Geo. I did three seasons of Brain Games, and I loved that because it was science and fun and educational. And then I worked on a show called Continent 7: Antarctica, which was really interesting.
After a few years, I was just looking for something different, so I left my job at Nat Geo and moved to Denver. In my line of work, you can find work everywhere. There are a lot of production companies making television, and there's a huge need for content right now.
I like Denver a lot, but after moving here, I realized that I didn't have that same network that I’d had in New York. In my industry, most people are freelance contractors, so it's really important to have a good network. I belong to the Producer's Guild of America, and there aren't a lot of producers here, so they didn't really have events here in Denver. I was used to going to a lot of big events on the East Coast, so I started a networking group for women in Denver. That's been really important for me to have here, that community.
Since I've been in Denver, I have been working for Dorsey Pictures on the same series called Building Alaska, and now we’re working on the third season. We follow three builders in Alaska, building everything from the foundation all the way to seeing it fully furnished. And you get to see all of the challenges that go along with building up there. Like last season, we had a build in Cordova that was like a fly-in, fly-out remote location outside of Anchorage.
I get to go to Alaska at least once a month for the show. The best day is always our last episode when we get to show the finished product to the viewers. It's such an awesome feeling after being in it with these builders for months and months. They want to show it off to their family and friends, and we want to show off their work.
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
I think something I still struggle with is whether to take a job because it's your passion, or because it's practical for whatever reason, money, location, hours, etc. I’m still trying to find a balance with that. I think that that’s something to start thinking about when you're young, so that you have your values and your priorities, and you can start building your career based on that. And I'm not saying that you should always choose passion or that you should always choose practical, but you should find the balance that works for you.
And then the other thing is that it's so important to do internships, and to do them when you're young. Your friends are going to be hanging out at the pool and going to the beach all day and posting photos of it on Instagram, but it's so important to figure this kind of thing out early. For me, it took one internship to figure out what I didn't want to do, and then I was so grateful for my internship at MTV because it made me realize that that was exactly what I wanted to do.