The Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry is an aspirational goal for many people and it can be especially challenging if you are a minority or are unsure what it takes to succeed. Dozens of women do succeed in navigating this landscape and while each has had a different journey, they are passionate about sharing their experience in the hope that others will follow.
In this blog, four talented female leaders discuss the decisions that helped propel their career forward, the key lessons they learned en route and the strategies they employ to build and maintain a professional network within M&E.
2D Artist and Animator Setareh Erfan has worked in the industry for over a decade but the 2022 Oscar winning short film ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’, was a highlight. As Clean Animation Supervisor, working remotely, she was responsible for providing guidance and support to a team of over 30 assistants to achieve the final complex ‘Ink line’ that was reminiscent of Charlie Mackesy’s illustrative style from the original book.
“To succeed you’ve got to have a firm belief in yourself and your talents,” she tells LucidLink. “You’ve worked hard to get to where you are, and it’s really easy to succumb to imposter syndrome. I think this is something many people, especially women, will go through.”
When under pressure and dealing with multiple deadlines, Erfan suggests the best thing to do is prioritize the most challenging tasks and seek help with slightly easier tasks if your workload is too great.
“Be willing to be flexible – you may find you need to jump onto a task to help someone out, or vice versa. Hold on to the passion that led you to the industry in the first place,” she urges. “Have the confidence to get your point across. Equally, don’t be afraid to reach out to others for support if needed. Empathy is such an underrated skill, particularly in a lead role where you are guiding and managing a team.”
Megan Mancini is an Assistant Editor whose most recent production was the FX/Hulu series ‘The Bear’. Joining the show, a popular and critically acclaimed hit, has been the pivotal moment of her career so far.
“I was lucky enough to have been asked to Assistant Edit on the pilot in July 2021 and have been trusted to continue to do so through Season 2,” she relates. “The schedule was pretty tight and when we needed an additional editor to get everything done on time, I was given the opportunity to co-edit an episode. I feel so lucky that the creative team saw my investment in the characters and show as a whole, and trusted me to take on a more creative and collaborative role.”
Most projects involve teamwork and successful ones involve everyone coming together to get it across the finishing line. Mancini thinks that her “team-player” approach to the job has helped propel her career forward. This means treating every task you are given – no matter how tedious or mundane it may seem – as an opportunity to learn.
“Approaching everything with the attitude of, ‘Well this needs to get done, so it may as well be me who does it’ has gotten me very far,” she shares. “You can learn a lot by taking on something new and not being afraid to ask questions when you run into something you’re unsure of. I’ve found that most of the time, whether it’s an Editor, fellow AEs, or your Post Supervisor and Coordinator, people want to help and teach each other. It makes you a stronger team in the process.”
Ironically, Danielle DiStefano didn’t start out wanting to get into TV production and didn’t know too much about it. Only when a friend introduced her to a ‘TV Club’ in college did her eyes open to the possibility of making television. She grasped the chances that came her way and her career progressed so rapidly that DiStefano is now EVP Post Operations & Technology at ITV America.
“During my senior year at college I interned at NBC Sports at 30 Rock and along the way, still early in my career, got an incredible opportunity to work at four different Olympic Games,” she explains. “I saw firsthand how high-pressure, high-volume, and high-stakes productions happen and I feel so fortunate to have worked with the best of the best in sports.”
It was these incredible Olympics and NBC experiences that shaped the leader she is today.
“My advice for women who want to get into this business is to take any opportunity that comes your way. Your experiences, good and bad, continue to shape who you are, and your career. Don’t give up on yourself even when things get hard.”
“For working moms out there, I will say that it never gets easy and something always has to give, but don’t stop trying to make the best of work and home, and don’t give up on your dreams! Find a solid network of people both at work and at home to support you and lift you up – that is key to finding success and satisfaction, and to continue loving and rising in this business.”
Networking is often seen as a key component of success in the M&E industry but that can be hard at the best of times, and harder still if you feel like you’re a minority in the room.
However, networking is often misconstrued as meeting people, shaking hands and exchanging business cards. Actually, it’s about connecting on a deeper level.
“To truly connect with someone, you need to present your most authentic self,” advises Jane Sung, who studied Economics and Psychology at Jersey State’s Rutgers University before entering the industry and rising to become COO at multicam video pioneers Cinedeck.
“My advice to newcomers is to embrace your unique qualities and be brave enough to shine with your most authentic self. People are more likely to remember and connect with someone who is genuine.”
All the same, there will be setbacks. Perhaps you didn’t land the job you coveted or a connection you thought was solid never returned your email. It’s how you bounce back from those that count. Sung calls this ‘mindfulness in rejection’.
“It’s important to understand that a ‘no’ today doesn’t mean a ‘no’ forever,” she explains. “There could be numerous reasons someone might not be open to connecting at a particular moment – they might be swamped with work, dealing with personal issues, or simply not in the right frame of mind. Don’t take these rejections personally. Instead, let mindfulness guide your reactions. Understand that everyone has their journey and challenges, and sometimes, it’s just not the right time.”
One of the most enriching aspects of networking is the opportunity to hear diverse stories and experiences. Every person you meet has a unique journey, filled with lessons, challenges, and triumphs. Listening is the essential underestimated art of good networking.
“Give space for people to share their stories,” Sung advocates. “Not only does this deepen your connection, but it also provides valuable insights. You’ll often find that many experiences are universal, and there’s comfort in knowing that your journey isn’t singular. By actively listening and engaging with others, you not only expand your perspective but also foster deeper connections.”
There are a number of groups dedicated to championing gender diversity in the media technology sector and breaking the glass ceiling. Among them are Rise, Gals N’ Gear, Women in Streaming Media and SVG Europe Women.
Sung is a member and mentor at Rise, an experience she says has been incredibly rewarding. “Rise isn’t just about advocacy; it’s about creating a genuine community,” she says. “Here, you can connect with others who understand the landscape, share experiences, and offer guidance.”
In sum, it is the genuine connections that make all the difference. Approach each interaction with an open heart and a curious mind, and you’ll find your place in no time.
There are hundreds of women in the industry working at the top of their game who are keen to inspire newcomers and those on the first rungs of their career to achieve their goals. You can hear more of them speak passionately about their experiences in our webinar Women in Media & Entertainment including Katie Wade, Head of Post Production at Casual; Monesha Madison Lever, Freelance Producer and Alex Budzinski, Director of Post Production at creative agency Designory. They also share tips on their decision-making processes, the technology they use, and their views on current issues in tech.
LucidLink is at the forefront of revolutionizing media creation and helping creatives excel at their craft. Our platform enables real-time cloud collaboration and optimizes editing workflows so that creatives can focus on crafting captivating content.
Want to learn more about how LucidLink streamlines your workflows and collaboration? Try it for free!
SaaS offering, no hardware or IT support required
End-to-end security encryption
Works with any object storage
Instant on-demand file access from anywhere
Works with any OS