Success is all about speaking up

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Hercolab recently caught up with Prerna Suri, who is the Founder of Inspired Productions a media consultancy firm headquartered in Singapore, columnist, speaker and journalist.

In February 2014, Prerna launched Inspired Productions after years of reporting from conflict zones as a foreign correspondent for Al Jazeera English. The firm specializes in helping individuals, newsrooms, corporates and governments identify communication gaps through hands-on workshops and media trainings.

Originally from India, Prerna’s family moved to Dubai when she was 2 months old and she graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science with an MSc. in Gender and Media Studies when she was 24.

Prerna serves on several boards in Singapore, including gender diversity groups and talks at various platforms on entrepreneurship and the challenges women face in the workplace.

“Be yourself and learn to speak for yourself. You’re unique and that’s your strength. Also, seek out your champions and mentors because they’re the ones who will be there for you when the going gets tough.”

 

1. From a journalist to an entrepreneur, tell us about your journey

Ever since I was a child, I knew that I loved talking to people and knowing more about their stories. From the watchman in our building to the home makers, everyone knew me as the girl who ‘asked a lot of questions’ to the point of being snoopy! Little did I know that I would end up telling people’s stories for a living.

That’s how my journey as a journalist began. At the age of 25 I became the youngest female foreign correspondent with Al Jazeera English, a global broadcaster. The work was very fulfilling and each day was different. One day I was reporting on Sri Lanka’s Presidential elections and the next I was deployed to cover floods in Eastern India. But inside, I was still craving for more.

When I moved to Singapore in 2013, I noticed two things. At a personal level, among my network of colleagues and friends, most were hesitant to speak in front of the media. They were very confident adults in their workplace but if they had an opportunity to speak to the press or even broadcasters, they would think the worst and decline the opportunity. At a professional level, during my time with the United Nations as a Spokesperson, everything depended on good communications both within your team and outside of it.

That’s how Inspired Productions was born. We consult individuals, corporates and even newsrooms on how to excel on your communications, teaching you the tools to get your message out to your stakeholders effectively.

I’m also proud to say that Inspired Productions has trained several journalists in developing countries on a pro-bono basis and we are building up a network of committed journalists throughout the world who can parachute out for these trainings.

 

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2. A few words of advice on what women in your field or any field need to do to excel in the workplace?

Be yourself and learn to speak for yourself. I finally learnt this after spending more than a decade in my field and I still sometimes struggle with it! You’re unique and that’s your strength. Also, seek out your champions and mentors because they’re the ones who will be there for you when the going gets tough. And mentor someone else who might need your help. Life is a full circle. 

 

3. What changes would you like to see in the world of journalism for women?

Journalism believe it or not is still a very male dominated industry. We need more support systems in place for younger women journalists who might encounter bullying or sexual harassment beyond the standard HR policies in a company. During my career, I encountered some unpleasant episodes and didn’t know who to turn to which was extremely isolating and lonely. People need to recognise that even strong, confident women can be subjected to bullying and harassment especially in Asia where patriarchy is still very much embedded. There’s also a lot to be achieved when it comes to pay parity with our male colleagues. I know a lot of journalist friends who work just as hard, if not more, than their male colleagues and are paid significantly less. This has to stop.

 

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 4. What’s your advice to women who want to be more confident when it comes to public speaking?

First of all, practice. For any big event, pitch or a media interview, you can’t go in unprepared. You need to have your content at the tips of your toes and you need to be able to communicate your ideas. During my workshops, I see so many otherwise confident women who crumble at the thought of making a speech or giving an interview. Trust me, you can.

 

For daily updates from Prerna, you can follow her on Twitter at @prernahsuri or check out her website at www.inspired-productions.com