TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND
I’ve been a journalist, photographer, video producer and speaker, and have worked all over the world in the media, tech and entertainment industry. I cherish the diversity of experiences I’ve had, because there are very few people who can say they’ve worked as a reporter at a major newspaper, been on a Hollywood set with Taylor Swift and Jay Z, and worked inside a tech company as influential as Facebook. Although I’d love to have a master plan, I also love shifting and re-strategizing what is possible and which direction I could take, because each time I do, I’m able to stretch further and higher than I ever thought was possible. My life has been a testament to the fact that if you’re just a bit gutsy and brave and tune out preconceived notions of what you should be doing, you can do some incredible things.
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT OCCUPATION AND CAREER?
I currently work as Senior Creative Producer at MasterClass.com in San Francisco, which is an online education company that creates classes with the best in the world. For example, current classes we have up on the website include Christina Aguilera teaches singing, Usher teachers performance, Serena Williams teaches tennis, Kevin Spacey teaches acting and more.
In my role, I work to see an entire class from development to the finished product that you see on the website. This includes working with the instructor, their team and our team to develop what topics are covered in the class, how they want to teach it, developing a curriculum and course book to go along with the class, helping with the production and filming of the class.
Ultimately, we want to capture the knowledge of some of the best minds in the world for generations to access.
WHAT DROVE YOU TO TAKE THIS CAREER PATH?
I’m constantly intrigued by amazingly talented people, and understanding what contributed to their success and genius. Were they the kind of person that got up at 5 am every morning to work on their craft? Did they experience a significant and serendipitous break in their career? Did they ever almost choose another career path for themselves? These are just a few of the questions I get to help answer with our instructors that sign on to do a MasterClass. As someone who is constantly searching to understand the height and expanse of my own ambitions, it’s humbling and amazing to hear from those truly great in their fields on how they did it all.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A LARGE OBSTACLE YOU HAD TO FACE?
Biggest obstacle in life and your advice on how to tackle roadblock on the way to success. In mid-2014, my father died very suddenly. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and dropped my entire life to be at home with my family. The next few months after that were such a haze: writing and delivering the eulogy at his funeral, cremating his body, dealing with the fact that my father was no longer in my life and was never coming back, losing some very close friends, feeling alienated to normal life, and having no job was very difficult to deal with all at the same time at 26 years old. In many ways, I am still dealing with it. But what got me through was to continue pushing forward with my life. I had heard a quote that went something along the lines of “you can’t die while you’re still alive.” My father sacrificed a lot for our family so we could have a life with options, with the ability to achieve amazing things. The best way to honor him was to continue running with the baton that he passed on to me, to continue building the road he began to pave for us. Three months after his death, I picked up the pieces and move to New York City to start a new job at Facebook.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT SOME TRIUMPHS IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER?
- At 16, began the Peel Environmental Youth Alliance (www.peyalliance.ca), a youth environmental organization based in Mississauga and Brampton that celebrated its 10th anniversary recently.
- Attending the University of Toronto on a full scholarship and receiving an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies.
- Joining the Toronto Star and writing columns for the paper at just 19 years old, initially as member of its Community Editorial Board, and later as a reporter, writing several front page stories. Launched the Toronto Star’s first climate change blog, and traveled to Poland and Denmark to cover the United Nations climate change negotiations for the paper in 2008 and 2009, and to Namibia to cover its HIV/AIDS crisis.
- Being named one of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 years old
- Being featured in Glamour Magazine as one of their Top 10 College Women in America
- Giving a speech to over 400 people at the Royal Ontario Museum.
- Moving to New York City to complete a Masters degree in journalism at Columbia University. My thesis on embryonic sex selection was published on Slate.com and was the #1 read story on the site for a week.
- Moving to Los Angeles to begin working in the music video industry, including working on music video sets for Taylor Swift, Jay Z, and casting tabla players for Selena Gomez’s ‘Come and Get It’ music video
- Photographing Taylor Swift in concert during her Toronto dates for her 1989 World Tour, photographing Cage the Elephant during their United Kingdom tour dates.
- Working at Facebook in New York City
TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A MENTOR
Many of the amazing experiences I’ve have had come by making the mental choice to be bold. This sounds a lot easier to say and can be terrifying in action, but I count it as the single most important thing that has helped me achieve what I’ve achieved so far.
Shyness, fear of rejection, cultural and social expectations, lack of experience – the vast majority of people I think do a lot of work to talk themselves out of idea, actions, events to attend, questions to ask, people to reach out and options to consider. It’s something I still do to myself a lot of the time, and I’ve had to continue to vigorously train myself to stop thinking that way.
I began working for a famous music video director simply because I had the audacity to write him a letter. I began writing for the Toronto Star in the same way. I had never photographed a concert before, but I created the opportunity to photograph my first band at the Air Canada Centre by emailing the band’s manager. Many of the awards I’ve received have come about simply because I applied. I was able to work remote for Facebook in Paris for two months because I asked.
Very rarely do cool things just get presented to you. Especially in the beginning of your career, you have to ask, constantly put yourself in front of other people, carve out opportunities, and raise your hand and say “Me.”