Q & A with Sarah Hill
Director of Content & Product Strategy at TheReadingRoom in NY, USA
What qualities do you feel you possess that have helped you reach career goals to date?
This is a tough one. I think perseverance is a quality of mine that is up there. There have been a dozen or more people sprinkled throughout my career who have told me in various ways that I wasn’t going to be successful. When I was in news, it was, “If you’re lucky, you’ll be a really good producer in your home town, but you won’t be able to branch out.” When I was younger and still looking for a foot in the door, negative feedback really caused me to doubt myself. I’m glad I didn’t believe them, and instead I used those negative experiences as fuel. I have also heard a lot of “No’s,” and without perseverance I believe I would have given up or settled. To keep trying is the hardest part.
I used those negative experiences as fuel.
As for other qualities, I would say integrity. It has helped me and hurt me, but it only hurt me when I was at the wrong place with the wrong people.
Do you have any memorable or career ‘wow’ factor moments that stick out in your mind?
One time I received an email from Desmond Tutu (on his iPad), it was a pretty big wow moment for me.
I was also fortunate enough to do social media for Super Bowl XLVIII – that was pretty exciting. I thought I would never be successful. It doesn’t take much for me to be wowed.
Who do you think the next generation is looking to for inspiration? Are they looking in the right places?
I have no idea who the next generation is looking to, although I wish I did. If I had to guess, I would say fashion designers or tech women like Sheryl Sandberg, actresses turned entrepreneurs like Jessica Alba, or the women of Shark Tank. There are still very few role models for women and minorities in business, however it’s growing. Whoever it is, I hope the next generation continues to seek out and find people from around the world who inspire them.
I hope the next generation continues to seek out and find people from around the world who inspire them.
What advice would you give yourself 5/10 years ago?
I would say something like this, “You’re going to fail, but you’ll be okay and better for it. Keep going.” I’d also tell myself to fight for what I want, and to not let go of the experiences I’ve earned.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
Nothing. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, but I think it has all bettered me. The ups and downs and wins and losses have made me better. I have worked hard to get where I am and I respect myself for it. A part of me wishes I had my Masters in business, but with the way student loans are today it’s hard to justify that move. I also think if I had a Masters under my belt, I would not have struggled as much. I think the failures and struggles I’ve encountered helped me build a strong foundation for myself, and I wouldn’t change it.
The ups and downs and wins and losses have made me better.
What in your life gives you the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment?
Helping other people. I say that knowing that it’s just as selfish as saying I want to sip champagne on a rooftop all day or buy 20 cars (although that sounds lovely too). At the end of the day though, it is genuinely satisfying for me to help someone. It is really fulfilling to look at the comments from people on our social sites at The Reading Room. People say we bring so much joy to their lives by doing what we do. We have people from all over the world write to us and tell us about their lives and about the books and authors who have made their existence more meaningful. I hope we can always do that for people. There is a lot of hurt in the world, and if I can do something to help someone else experience that less I will be happy.
Where do you look for inspiration and support?
I look to female and male mentors in my life. Kim Anderson and Leslie Bradshaw, among many in my career are beyond inspiring and supportive. I look to my parents, friends, partner, and coworkers. I look at the people before me who have left little seeds of wisdom in random places. I look to the news and think about the people in the stories and what I can do to help those people. I think about the women before me who weren’t able to get the opportunity they deserved, and I think about the people after me who I will want to encourage. Somewhere really far down the line, I look to all the people who said I couldn’t. But they are very far down the list, and I usually don’t get to them by the time I’m feeling inspired again.
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