BRIEF HISTORY, BACKGROUND, UNDERTAKINGS, AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
I’ve known I wanted to be in journalism since I was in grade school, so that meant doing job shadowing, school newspapers, producing yearbooks, launching a high school newscast, anything that would give me experience – and an idea of what it’s like to work in the industry. I was very lucky that despite it being a somewhat unorthodox career path (at that time), my parents and family were very supportive and encouraging. After studying Political Science and International Relations at UBC, I moved from my hometown in B.C. to Toronto to do my post-grad in journalism at Ryerson. I loved every minute of it. The learning curve was steep, but it was an extraordinary experience – getting to do more of the practical work required to launch a career in journalism. This was before the web was really a platform for news, so in order to get your start in the business, you couldn’t do youtube videos or blog posts etc. To get into broadcast, you had to go wherever there was a television or radio station willing to give you a shot. After applying to stations across the country, I finally landed my first job in a town called Terrace, B.C. (closer to Juneau, Alaska than Vancouver). I was hired as a VideoJournalist, Anchor, Radio Reporter and fill-in Sportscaster. It was the best experience I could have ever asked for. I had to do everything on my own. It was hard work, but it paid off.
The following year, I was hired by CBC Winnipeg. The second time I moved to a city that was completely foreign to me, but professional progress was my priority, and my personal life took a backseat. As a part of that newsroom, I covered everything and anything. I got to do my first live report, travel to the U.S. to cover news and be part of an award-winning team. Then it was to CBC Vancouver and CBC Toronto before I head to work in Washington as a correspondent with Global News to cover the Trump & Clinton election campaigns. More than the thrill of this position professionally, was my astonishment when it was brought to my attention that no other Indo-Canadian female before me had taken on a TV assignment like that before for a Canadian broadcaster. It was 2014, and minority groups were still breaking ground in arenas that tout their dedication to diversity.
Being a correspondent in Washington during the presidential election campaign, was and intense but unforgettable experience. Covering Obama’s final years in the White House, and the election of Trump into the Oval office. At the end of 2016 I moved back to Canada, to take on an anchor position with CBC’s national network. When I get to work, I never know who I’ll be speaking with, or what events might change the world that day. This job is a front row seat to the world stage, it’s exhilarating, challenging, and empowering.
WHAT FUTURE PROJECTS CAN THE COMMUNITY EXPECT FROM YOU?
In addition to my regular Saturday evening time slots, we have some new programming coming up on Sunday evenings from 8-9pm ET, right before the National on CBC News Network. Leading up to the Canadian federal election, we’ll be bringing viewers up to speed on weekend developments, and bring audiences Canadian political news. Aside from my work with CBC, I was involved with a lifestyle web series of diverse women discussing feminism, empowerment, ageing and life-work balance — you might see a revamped version of this coming this year! I’m also a late adopter to the blogosphere and have just started writing more about life and work, behind the scenes on my blog.
WHAT DO YOU DO ON YOUR SPARE TIME? HOW DO YOU BALANCE IT WITH YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE?
I travel a lot. My husband and I try to go to at least one or two new places a year, plus revisiting some of our old favourite spots. I always learn something new travelling, and it forces you to drop any stereotypes you might hold about other cultures. Recently we travelled to the middle east, specifically the UAE, and it was culturally so much more liberal than I expected. But… if you can’t travel, reading can do the trick too. Not enough people ready anymore – I hope it’s a hobby that makes a comeback in 2019. As for other ways to balance business and pleasure, when I first started in this business, a colleague told me, “always make sure you have a hobby or passion that drives you more than work, or you’ll lose steam really fast.” It’s great advice. Of course, you should love your job and what you do, but a hobby that takes your mind away from the business is important therapy. Right now, I’ve made fitness my hobby, focusing my energy last year into my first fitness competition, it was a great release from the daily stresses of work, and it included all sorts of physical benefits too! Early on in my career, for me my hobby was dance, it provided a perfect balance. When I was in class, or training for performance, my mind was focused only on that present moment, it was my meditation, where my mind wasn’t racing with the news. I’ve done classical Indian dancing, Kathak, for about 20 years, recently, my schedule has forced me to take a break from Kathak, but I’m looking to get back to it soon. The best way to balance personal and professional is to give yourself time to unplug, and recharge, so you don’t burn out.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT SOME OBSTACLES YOU FACED IN YOUR LIFE? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
Getting into this business was a huge challenge for me, and staying in it can be challenging too! I applied to news stations across the country, outlets that were in cities I had never heard of. 6 months out of school, and after sending my demo reels everywhere (yes you had to physically send DVD’s out), I still didn’t have a job in the industry. I decided to move back home with my parents and worked as a bank teller which I ended up doing for another 6 months, before getting my first TV job. I just had to keep trying, and not let the rejection discourage me. I look back at some of the email responses I got back then when I was applying for jobs – they were brutal, but I wasn’t deterred. I just needed someone to give me a chance, and then it was up to me to prove I brought something to the table. I can’t stress the value of practicing your craft, whatever it is – observe those you admire, learn daily, critically analyze your work, keep striving. Nothing worth achieving ever comes easy, assume you’ll have to work hard, but also believe you’ll get there. Hard work and a positive mindset, they go hand in hand and can help you overcome any obstacle.
WHO ARE YOUR HEROES? WHY?
Well Oprah, for obvious reasons. She has evolved so much in this industry and has brought about change in people’s lives. I think what she’s accomplished for her community and for the industry is extraordinary. She took chances where others weren’t willing to, and proved there were needs that weren’t being met. Creating programming that focused on spirituality, development and higher learning. I also very much look up to Christian Amanpour. She is an incredible journalist. A correspondent/anchor with CNN International, she’s reported from the frontline of wars, uprisings and genocides. She makes viewers connect with the world in a way that I think makes her invaluable. Personally, my parents are my heroes of course! They love unconditionally every day and encouraged and supported me and my sister no matter what difficulties they faced. As immigrants, they both worked so hard to make sure I had everything I would ever need. I can only hope one day I can be as generous, caring and compassionate as them.
WHAT ARE YOUR ULTIMATE GOALS?
I would love to have a show that focuses on uplifting stories from communities but also raises awareness about international issues – that many choose to ignore. The world is so much smaller now, but a lot of people still choose to walk around with blinders on, not recognizing how connected we all are. If everyone is succeeding, being their best, that is what will lead to overall improvement in the world. I’d love to help facilitate that in some small way, and I know it would be small… but something is better than nothing!
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A LEADER?
Being a leader means giving without expecting anything in return. It is knowing that any success you help with, is a reflection of effective leadership. Being selfish will always be detrimental to any team and their projects. To be a leader you can’t always give compliments, or always give criticisms, you have to find a balance that helps others find their own motivation. “Fake it ’til you make it” will only get you so far. You can’t fake you’re whole life, at some point, the truth will find you, so be authentic and honest. Ask for help, recognize those who have succeeded in ways you aspire to, and don’t have too big of an ego to ask them how they did it. Being a leader means learning from everyone, young, old, rookies and veterans, and it means giving back in the same capacity..
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU PROVIDE SOMEBODY WHO WANTS TO FOLLOW THE SAME PATH AS YOU?
Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone. If I hadn’t moved to cities that were completely foreign to me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Be curious – the best news stories come because someone saw something or heard something, and then just wanted to know a little more. They wanted to know why. Don’t dismiss any topic, you have no idea who you will meet down the roads less travelled. Don’t pretend. You will fall flat on your face fast if you pretend to know more than you do. Instead of pretending to ask for help. Ask for feedback, ask what books or publications people are reading, ask how they developed comfort with on-air presentation. Finally, make sure you really love this industry. Don’t do it just to be on TV – it’s not glamorous! If you want to be in news, realize that now, more than ever, it is relentless. 24 hours a day, and if you don’t love it, a job in this field will be agony. Read, watch and listen to the news, see what you connect with the most. Put all your effort into whatever you want to achieve. You won’t get the medal without running the race, and you won’t win the race if you don’t train… so lace up and get going!