Saturday, December 20, 2008

CAREER PATH INTERVIEW: Video Production Company Owner

Maureen Isern's Career Path Story to Owning Her Own Successful Business

Maureen Isern is the producer and owner of MOPED PRODUCTIONS, a New York City-based video production company serving philanthropic businesses and non-profit organizations to help them "mobilize their mission" through the use of video, audio and photography. Her company is an award-winning, full-service media consulting and production company dedicated to turning her clients' mission into a powerful, customized visual message.

Today she shares insights into her career choices and video production business in this interview:

How did you select this type of business?
I saw an opportunity to tell the stories of organizations that were doing good things, in a way that would illuminate them more expansively and draw in new donors, volunteers and recognition. Non-profits, community organizations, and philanthropic businesses are often reluctant to ‘advertise’ -- in a way, believing that people will give credit where credit is due. I agree the credit is due. But the media pool is so much bigger now. These organizations are only given the chance to shine when they create their own spotlight.

Best thing about my job: We get to help those who are helping others. We get to work with organizations that are having incredible impacts on our communities and it’s very fulfilling to help mobilize their missions through media.

Biggest challenge: As a young media company, it’s easy to be distracted with the hundreds of directions we could potentially go in. There’s so much overlap now between content development and marketing/branding – between web, print and tv – that I want to make sure we offer a robust level of service that meets multiple needs, and at the same maintain that sky-high level of quality and know-how.

Biggest surprise: Things seem to be taking a turn for the better in our business, even during this recession, in that groups are realizing the importance of talking about what they’re doing. They seem to be more receptive to creative directions they may have not considered before – both in terms of messaging and distribution. The tight purse strings are pushing them to be more resourceful, more forward-thinking and more experimental than the non-profit sector has tended to be in the past.

I worry about: making Moped a secure, reliable place to work as a creative professional. In this economic situation and witnessing the downsizing throughout major media companies and non-profits alike, it’s worrisome to think the industry workflow may slow down and a freelancer who counts on me may not have a project for a few weeks. So far, we’re in solid shape, but it’s something that keeps my brain spinning sometimes.

Most important lesson learned: You are only as good as your last work.

Best advice I ever got: If you are really good at what you do, you will find yourself learning something every day. If you’re not, you’ll think you know everything already.

When the going gets tough, I: remind myself that tomorrow morning I will be given a fresh start. My grandmother always said to me ‘and this, too, shall pass.’ That applies to both the good and bad times. I tend to use it more during the bad times!

For relaxation, I: um…. Not much of that these days -- going into the 3rd year of business. I try to make it to a weekend stretch class as often as possible. And every once in a while I reward myself with a visit it to my favorite salon for a pedicure or a facial if I’m feeling fancy. I hope to take a vacation in the spring.

Someone considering this for a career should: know that there is little room for a specialty trade person in media anymore. You can certainly survive only knowing how to produce, or only knowing how to build websites, but you are setting yourself up for hitting your ceiling early. The more you can expand your creative, industry and business know-how, the more indispensably imbedded you’ll be in your field. That means constantly teaching yourself and learning from those around you.

How did you get interested in your career area?
I started in tv journalism, telling community stories via local news. I found my strength in telling difficult stories, personal stories. I knew I wanted to work in a longer, less formulaic format very quickly.
What training did you have? I studied communication and journalism at FSU and FAMU, interned at the WOFL-FOX station in Orlando, and trained as a production assistant and associate producer at WCTV-CBS in Tallahassee, Florida during my last year in college.

What jobs have you held over the years to prepare you for this career? After becoming a field reporter and weekend anchor at WCTV, my producing and editing skills were honed through freelance work in New York, particularly at mtvU, MTV’s college network. mtvU is where I really witnessed the multi-leveled production work that happened with brand integration, opportunities for students, and creating ‘on-air, online and on-the-ground’ elements, as they would say, for their larger initiatives. I also freelanced as an on-camera host for a few different outlets in the city, which will ultimately make anyone a better producer/director. And truly, each client project is like having a new job. You always learn something throughout each creative process.

What things should they do now to get ready for this career? Skills, personality traits. Definitely learn to do your job consistently well, first and foremost. But your standard for success should go beyond accomplishing your tasks. It’s about valuing your own skills and talents in a way that makes the people around you feel good about what you bring to the table. You are you’re own salesperson, no matter what field you’re in.

What are the disadvantages of this career area? I think a lot of people don’t realize the level of conceptual and technical work that goes into planning and creating distribution-quality media products. With the cost of technology going down, and everyone’s nephew having an editing system on their laptop, I think there’s a perception that storytelling and editing are skills you can just ‘pick up.’ There are certain skills that come with time and experience that certainly compounds with talent; neither survives without the other for very long.

What suggestions do you have for someone who wants to pursue your career area? Try everything once. When I was reporting the news in 2001, I never expected to be a non-linear editor or be able to project revenue goals. I have always been open to taking on different types of projects for the sake of experiencing a new aspect of the business. It teaches you something, including what you’re really bad at. I will never be a live-studio soundboard operator.

What I think I’ll be doing 10 years from now: I believe Moped will have evolved into a larger-scale media services company, with online, on-air and print distribution components. I hope to be at a place where I’m overseeing that business, helping other entrepreneurs launch their businesses, and seeing a few little kiddies off to kindergarten and first grade!

Parting shot/ Words of Wisdom to other Women: Nothing gets done without taking the first step. The turtle doesn’t move forward without sticking his neck out. The world makes way for people who know where they’re going. Be a business-woman, not a woman in the business.

Publisher's note:I met Maureen last month at the ATHENA International awards ceremony in Chicago where one of her documentary style videos made it's debut. You can view it at her website or the ATHENA International leadership website as well.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

LEED Certified -- Chitra Matthai Becomes a "Green Interior Designer"

Chitra Matthai, my good friend from our AM Akron Toastmaster's group, recently achieved a major milestone.

She became a LEED certified Interior Designer. This means that she really understands what building green for sustainability means and how to achieve it!

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the Green Building Council. This certification comes as a result of many classes, much study and a comprehensive test. It is truly an undertaking and a real accomplishment to receive this certification.

She will become one of the people who will help to save our planet for future generations!

Congratulations, Chitra Matthai!

To find out more about becoming an interior designer, an architect or a green building expert, check out these resources:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kent State Dedicates New Entrepreneurial Lab

Good news for those who want to create jobs and create a new business! Last Friday, Kent State University dedicated the new Entrepreneurial Lab in the Business building on the Kent Campus. Julie Messing, who serves as the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation says:

The lab provides students with a place to be inspired to achieve excellence, including all of the “bells and whistles” for stimulating minds. The technology available in the space is top rate, with students having access to all of the necessary tools to make business happen.

I think that this is another powerful tool for growth of Northeast Ohio. Read more here: Kent State Dedicates John S. Brinzo Entrepreneurial Lab

More local entrepreneurship news:

  • Tonight I am a guest speaker at University of Akron as a Professor for a Day in their entrepreneurship class called "New Venture Creation." My topic: A Story of Entrepreneurship: How I Started and Grew a Full Service Marketing Agency During Tough Economic Times.
  • Tomorrow I speak to 38 business professionals at the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce about "Three Branding Secrets Every Business Owner MUST Embrace"
  • Next week on Monday I am planning to attend the Founders' Cafe where business entrepreneurs brainstorm ways of building and growing new business and on Tuesday the Entrepreneurs for Sustainability program in Cleveland. I enjoy just being part of that group and learning from others about what keeps a business growing.
  • During November I will present "Seize the Market" at the Akron Urban League for entrepreneurs and business owners.

Are you thinking of starting a business? There are many places to look for helpful resources.

Are you a business owner? What resources do you use to gain additional knowledge? Feel free to comment!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Do You Know How to Use the Tools You Need in the Office?

In a post called the GROWING PRODUCTIVITY DIVIDE Seth Godin wrote a quick quiz with tools you need to know how to use to make your work more productive.

Take a few minutes to scan his list and see how many of his tools you use regularly.
1. Can you capture something you see on your screen and paste it into Word or PowerPoint?
2. Do you have a blog?
3. Can you open a link you get in an email message?
4. Do you read more than five blogs a day?
5. Do you have a signature in your outbound email?
6. Do you have an RSS reader?
7. Can you generate a PDF document from a Word file you're working on?
8. Do you know how to build and share a simple spreadsheet using Google Docs?
9. Do have a shortcut for sending mail to the six co-workers you usually write to?
10. Are you able to find what you're looking for on Google most of the time?
11. Do you know how to download a file from the internet?
12. Do you back up your work?
13. Do you keep track of contacts using a digital tool?
14. Do you use anti-virus software?
15. Do you fall for internet hoaxes and forward stuff to friends and then regret it?
16. Have you ever bought something from a piece of spam?

How many did you say yes to? (Hopefully the answers top 15 and 16 were NO.) How many questions did you say "what's RSS? or Google Docs? or PDF software costs too much!"

If you're trying to make the transition into the workforce and found you didn't have a high score, you may want to use this list as a springboard to learn how to become more productive.

When you go for an interview and the person says something like:
"Why should I hire you?"
You will have something to say.

Print out this list. Learn a new skill each week and continue to use it. And when the interviewer asks, you can say: "You should hire me because I am extremely productive. I know and use many computer shortcuts and can help other people in the office learn them as well." Then whip out your list with check marks after each of the 16 questions and leave it with the interviewer. Good bet the interviewer won't admit it but only knows how to do a few.

This list is not meant to intimidate, but if you find you're not familiar with the ideas, you'll be 3 steps ahead if you use it as a to-do list to learn new ways to become more productive.

Twenty years ago (when the world was running on 386's, Wangs and Radio Shack TRS80's & most departments had a secretary taking messages) the list might have looked like:

  1. Do you keep pre-filled out overnight FedEx forms ready and know where the last pick up box is within a 45 minute drive of the office?
  2. Do you know how to create a cover sheet and send a faxsimile?
  3. Have you created a filing system that cross references your outgoing and incoming faxes?
  4. Can you find and fix the paper jam in the copy machine without getting toner all over your business suit?
  5. Do you know how to program a simple formula into Lotus 123?
  6. Do you know how to use a text editor?
  7. Do you use a Franklin Planner?
  8. Can you program an Kodak Ectographic viewer?
  9. Do you have overheads on a cardboard frame to make your presentations look more professional?

Okay, for those who are re-entering the workforce, you may recognize some of those terms, but recent college graduates will probably wonder what I'm talking about.

Being "the one" who knows how to do something that the others don't can go a long way into getting you the job and also making your co-workers feel that you helped to save the day when a big presentation was going south or another deadline loomed.

More productivity ideas for the office from Ben Yoskovitz at the Instigator Blog. I met Ben at conference in Chicago about 18 months ago. He asked his readership for their best productivity tips. If you are feeling smug about getting a 90-100% on Seth Godin's list... take a look at the tips that are shared there.

Some of my favorites:

  1. Make a to do list for tomorrow at the end of the day so you start fresh.
  2. Empty your InBox every day -- both paper and electronic.
  3. Create files (both paper & electronic) so you can retrieve information when you need it quickly.
  4. Back up electronic files.
  5. Discard old files or store somewhere that won't slow down your system.
  6. Make it easy to find frequently needed phone numbers, email, addresses.

What's your best productivity tool?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Hearts & Halos Helps Women with Cancer with Housecleaning

One of the women in my Twitter network, JoAnn DiPierro, is running the kind of business that brings tears of gratitude to my eyes. She helps women who are fighting cancer with their housecleaning by organizing volunteers in the Akron area to donate 2 or 3 hours a month.

"Last year, JPT assisted 15 women at both offices and donated over $15,000 worth of services," explained JoAnn in a story in today's Akron Beacon Journal.

Read more at her blog: JoAnn's Pro Touch or in the Akron Beacon Journal article Hearts & Halos (scroll 1/2 way down.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

ATHENA International 2008 Northeast Ohio ATHENA Awards Honors and Encourages Women to Reach their Leadership Potential

ATHENA International honors those who support and encourage the leadership potential in women. Shown here are the two Finalists of the ATHENA Award with Norma Rist (center) who is chairman of the board of directors of ATHENA International.

Susan Berger (left) Development and Community Relations Director of Positive Education Program was the 2008 Cleveland Recipient and Ilene Shapiro (right) Vice President Summa Enterprise Group of Summa Health Systems was the 2008 Akron Recipient.

Eleven women were honored with a banquet of over 300 and a 7-minute video describing their professional achievements, community service and leadership roles in assisting women. They each received a framed article from Inside Business magazine that described their devotion to helping other women in Cleveland, Akron and throughout Northeast Ohio.

The ATHENA Award finalists for Northeast Ohio were Vivian Celeste Neal, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Marie Covington, Covington Communications, Inc.; Laura Culp, Brockman, Coats, Gedelian & Co.; Dr. Giesele Robinson Greene, UnitedHealthcare; Terri Hamilton Brown, National City Corp.; Janet L. Miller, University Hospitals Health Systems, Inc.; Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett, Rise Sally Rise, Inc./Kent State University; Carole Sanderson, Herschman Architects, Inc.; and Chris Yuhasz, Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority.

Founded more than 25 years ago, ATHENA International is known for building women leaders and recognizing leadership initiatives among women. The organization is headquartered in Chicago and is well known for its award programs that honor women leaders in more than 220 locations throughout 5 countries. For more information, visit the organization's website at or call 312.580.0111.

Don't miss the Women's International Leadership Summit in March 2009!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Women Gain Valuable Tools From PowerLink

I saw an interesting article in Entrepreneur magazine recently that talked about a great program for women called PowerLink -- it matches women-owned businesses with a custom team of advisors who help them achieve growth objectives.

The progam helped one young woman reach a sales goal of $80,000 which may seem small by most business standards, except the business owner was 14 years old. She was paired with a seasoned business woman who had experience in the same industry and had also received the benefits of an advisory board.

For more information about this PowerLink success story, follow this link: GIRLS' CLUB - Club Power Lunches Aren't Just for the Guys Anymore.

To learn more about the international program of PowerLink, visit the ATHENA International website.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Interviewing Tips to Get that All Important First Job

Yesterday I talked with a recent graduate who is job hunting. He did several things right at the interview:
  • Showed up on time
  • Shook my hand, smiled and seemed pleasant
  • Wore a suit
  • Brought work samples from school projects
  • Brought an extra resume
  • Had a few prepared questions to ask the interviewer

Although before we even set the interview appointment, I told him we didn't have any openings, he was still very nervous. Being shy is a fact of life for some people. But there are still three things he could have done to improve his interview, which would help him feel less nervous and more confident:

  1. Prepare answers to the "standard" questions at a networking interview: tell me about yourself, what was your favorite class, what type of work are you looking for, what part of this project did you work on, how can I help you in your job search?
  2. Practice the interview by role playing with a trusted friend. Visualize the potential room. Practice answering the questions out loud. Three sentences is a good length generally for an answer. Saying "that's a good question" buys you some time.
  3. Practice presenting the work he completed in school by saying one or two statements about what he learned by doing the project.

Interviewing is an important job hunting skill just like writing the cover letter and sending a thank you note following the interview. If you aren't sure about interviewing questions, check out some of the websites that have sample questions and examples of good answers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Question

What's the one question that is missing? Many job seekers forget completely to ask this important question

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Marketing Strategies For Women to Help Career Advancement

I have found that when women begin their work career they often think about "just getting that first job" instead of planning a real marketing strategy for their career.

Each job will become a stepping stone in your career advancement, so if you plan it out with a bit of strategy you may find that getting to the next level doesn't take as long.

Questions to ask yourself as you plan your marketing strategy:
  • What skills do need to I learn that could help me advance?
  • How can I get visability with people who could connect me?
  • How can I help other people who are looking for advancement?
  • When people think of local "superstars" in my field, who do they mention?
  • What groups or organizations do those superstars belong to?

This link Women's Networking Organizations has a list of many women's organizations that may be helpful. Volunteering, getting on a committee and working hard to prove your value will help you to get visability. Try to select an organization that someone who is considered a superstar in your field is actively involved with and begin to build your reputation as a solid team player.

Remember "what goes around, comes around". Be sure to thank the other members of the team, send handwritten notes, and follow up.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mapping Out Your Career

Where do your interests lie on this colorful chart? Perhaps this will help you when considering a career selection or a transition from one career into a new field.

You can find out more about each of these careers by researching at the Department of Labor's website.

Another way to explore your options is to look into the Career Exploration Resource Center that breaks various jobs into categories of interest. This chart is outlined in what is called Holland Codes. For example "E" stands for Enterprising which has jobs like

  • banker
  • salesperson
  • business executive
  • buyer
  • financial planner
  • lawyer

This may be helpful too.

Chart courtesy of: Hudson High School Guidance Dept.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Elephants Can't Change...

Although I've been out of corporate America for more than 10 years now, I sure appreciated all the stories in "Elephants can't change... but Leopards Can" by Michelle Griffin. Lots of familiar stories that I think anyone who has experienced life in a large corporation can relate to -- a real life study of organizational dynamics.

My suggestion for "Real Women -- Real Careers" readers? Trying to whip an elephant who is stuck in his ways can be really difficult and will sap your energy. When you're in career transition look for organizations that are nimble, forward thinking and quick -- not slow, lumboring and in the "that's the way we do it here" rut.

If you get a chance, read thru Michelle's book - I think you'll like it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Inspirational Leadership - How My Mom Inspired a Whole Troop of Girls

My Mom was my brownie leader. She organized the crafts. She volunteered to pick up the patches at the scout shop. She still isn't much of a singer, but she taught us all those special brownie songs. She helped us recite the brownie promise at the close of each meeting.

She got all of us girls to really believe in ourselves that when we chanted the phrase "twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and saw... myself!" When we glanced down at the pine branches laid around the mirror, we really were transformed into someone who can do anything. She gave us the confidence to try new things and make a difference.

And over the years, our troop did. We cleaned up the overgrown corner lot in our town, throwing away trash, trimming back all the weeds and planting petunias. We visited the shut-ins in the nursing home. We camped in the woods and cooked on buddy burners made of 3 lb coffee cans and tuna cans with cardboard and wax.

As we grew from Brownies to Juniors to Cadettes, so did our activities. We traveled to the capital. We helped organize events for the younger scouts. We saw plays. We earned badges. We took photos and cemented friendships. We created scavenger hunts for the younger scouts with watermelons as the prize at the end. We learned leadership skills like mentoring, planning, encouraging and collaborating.

My mom volunteered hundreds of hours to the girls in our troop. She taught us leadership by letting us try it on one step at a time. And now, many years later, if you surveyed those dozen girls, you'll find women who have grown up to become leaders in a wide variety of roles including business, government and health care (and scouts too.) And now we are passing it on to the next generation.

Thanks Mom, for igniting the spark of leadership in all of us!

Check out more stories of how moms have inspired leaders the week of July 28th at Workplace Wisdom

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Women's Role & Progress in Careers

the glass ceiling
British Museum
Originally uploaded by vividBreeze

This is an interesting story about Women in Traverse City, Michigan as profiled on CBS Sunday Morning on May 14, 2006.

Read about Women - smashing the glass ceiling or watch/listen to the video - Smashing the Glass Ceiling.

In the video and the transcript, the survey conducted in April 2006: WOMEN: WORK, FAMILY AND FEMINISM is refered to with work/life balance issues like:


Need to -- 75%
Want to -- 13%

I find that hard to believe... but maybe because I would have selected "want to" instead of need to... What do you think? Do most women work because they need to or want to?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Northeast Ohio Women Owned Businesses Crain's Directory

Are you looking for a Women Owned Business in Northeast Ohio?

Crain's Cleveland Business recently published a directory of women owned businesses in the Cleveland, Akron and Northeast Ohio area to help those who want to work with Women Owned Businesses.

My company, Marketing Resources & Results, is listed about halfway down this list. Click on the hyperlink to see the profile of each business.