Alumni Spotlight | It's never too late
Sherita Paul spent four years at John Jay College (CUNY) to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and three years at the Chaminade University of Honolulu to earn a Master of Science in Forensic Science. But, even as Paul completed her graduate degree, she realized that forensic science was not the career path for her. She decided to pursue her true love, and later that year, she went for another BA degree, this time in Film & TV Studies at the City University of New York - Herbert H. Lehman College. "I always had an interest in the arts. I used to draw, and I figured with the skills that I had from my previous jobs that it could be helpful there," Paul said. Art surrounded Paul as her husband is a writer, and her sister, a producer. She decided to try her hand at several projects for her family and learned that she enjoyed the process of creating. Producing also fit Paul's love for organization and her deep desire to bring ideas to life. "I pretty much got to be in the middle of everything, and also got to meet amazing new people in the process and build on my knowledge with their knowledge." The Bronx native's decision to pursue her dreams led her to FUTURE NOW. A friend told her about the FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference. Paul applied and was accepted, and she skipped her graduation ceremony at Lehman to attend the Conference instead. "This is a great organization. I met great people," Paul said. "This was essential as the business can be cutthroat, but at FUTURE NOW, it was a safe space where media professionals and peers were willing to share and help others along their journey into the industry." "That stuck with me, and I've always looked for environments that fostered that, and going to the conference, people were just very open and weren't censored," Paul said.
This was valuable confirmation of the importance of collaboration and teamwork for Paul, who is an Army veteran, a wife and mother to a five-year-old daughter. The support of her family has been vital to her ability to pursue her education and dreams of becoming a producer.
Paul learned another lesson at her first FUTURE NOW conference: to live life without regrets and ask for help because the "worst thing anybody could tell me is no."
Paul was drawn to FUTURE NOW Founder & CEO, Peggy Kim, and describes her as someone engaging and genuinely wanting to know more about the person she's speaking to. At the 2019 conference, Paul and her husband, who also attended and works in the industry, met Kim and have bonded ever since.
When the pandemic devastated the industry last year, FUTURE NOW moved from in-person to a virtual platform. Paul got a chance to flex her producing skills when Kim hired her as a production manager for the event. She helped run the webinars, meetings, and breakouts rooms for 200+ speakers and attendees and led a team of seven fellow FUTURE NOW alumni. "I think, if nothing else, the organization helps you... if you're interested in an area or a field that you may not have gotten a chance to do, you're given an opportunity to explore it and try and see if this is the path for you," said Paul. According to Paul, if you take that step to apply to the FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference, it may lead to another stage in your life. Right now, Paul is freelancing not only for FUTURE NOW, but for MGK Media and Dakoit Pictures. "So this conference and volunteering and taking part in it, you got the ability to see different sides. Right now, I'm in editing, it's something I was interested in. I've learned so much because I'm very much a novice at this, but I'm part of an organization now, which teaches me to build on these skills," Paul said. "Who understood where I was, where I am, and what I want to be. And they're taking that chance on me, understanding I have all these life experiences and skill sets that could be helpful elsewhere as I'm trying to build on this other avenue of myself," she continued. "It's just people taking chances on themselves and other people taking chances on them." Paul is well on her way to becoming the media professional she aspires to be. The pandemic taught her to show her daughter that she must not give up on her goals no matter how hard life gets. Paul's "live life with no regrets" mindset has already opened some amazing doors for FUTURE NOW. She was working as a COVID production assistant on the set of Girls5Eva, a new comedy series for Peacock, executive produced by Emmy Award-winning producer Tina Fey. On Paul's last day on the job, she felt compelled to tell Fey about FUTURE NOW's mission to build future leaders in the industry, how it has changed her life, and whether Tina might be interested to learn more and meet the Founder. "I just asked, and she said 'Yes,'" Paul said.
Two weeks later, Paul, Kim and Tina Fey met on a Zoom call. After hearing more about Kim's story, why she started FUTURE NOW, the impact it's had on Paul and her fellow future leaders, and the high-touch engagement students have with today's industry leaders and professionals, Fey offered to speak at this year's FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference. Kim will be interviewing her in "A Conversation with Tina Fey," which will kick off the first day.
Paul's message to those looking to make their mark in the media and entertainment business is "don't be afraid to hear somebody tell you no." They just might say YES.
"I think a lot of people are afraid of rejection. And it's understandable. Sometimes, I still am, too. But pushing past that, you never know what's on the other side of it, and then you also don't want to look back and wonder, 'hey, what if...'" she concluded.
Paul is looking forward to seeing more people learn about FUTURE NOW and join this year's conference. She is excited to contribute her skills and influence, and continue to be a part of its growth and impact.