When the pandemic put an end to in-person events, the non-profit organization I hold near and dear to my heart, Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Foundation,  had to reimagine how to hold its flagship event.  

We decided to turn the tables.  Instead of taking children into the workplace, we decided to bring the workplace to kids with the first-ever virtual Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day.  But it also meant that a much-loved event that typically was conducted in person in more than 100 countries would need to be transformed into a virtual production within just months.  While that involved numerous details, the most critical challenge was to identify a source of quality programming that would motivate and inspire young people to consider a variety of careers.

Our prayers were answered by Kim Celentano, Co-Founder and CEO of Strivven Media and creator of VIrtualJobShadow.com and VJSJunior.com.  Kim generously provided access to engaging video footage featuring behind-the-scenes introductions to more than 15 exciting career paths.  I had the chance to ask Kim about her own career path.

1)  What early experiences brought you to your specific career path?  

My path changed several times, but the trajectory eventually led me to start my own media-based education technology company, which I still run today.  My first job after college was working as a paralegal at 30 Rock at a boutique law firm.  It took me a year to realize I would make a terrible lawyer, so I bailed on the law school plans.  Since I always loved sports, I thought sports marketing would be a good fit.  A colleague helped me line up an interview at a New York sports firm.   In the middle of my interview,  a woman interrupted to tell her boss that the “PA” she hired for the “gig”  had canceled last minute, and she needed a quick replacement.  Her boss, who was interviewing me, turned and said, “Here’s your chance, do you want it? ” I had no idea what it involved, but I jumped.  A week later, I found myself working as a Production Assistant at the US Open in Flushing Meadows, one of the world’s most renowned tennis events.  It was my entry into sports television, and I never looked back. 

2)  Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you during your career?

A story that comes immediately to mind was at an Indy Car event in California.  My on-air talent was a famous, well-loved race car driver that attracted fans everywhere he went.  It was before the start of the race, and my entire crew was hustling around the pit area for interviews.  I heard someone shouting to get my talent’s attention.  My eyes widened in awe when I say Reggie Jackson, Hall of Famer, larger than life, Mr. October himself-my childhood hero (I grew up a die-hard NY Yankees fan.)  He ran over and introduced himself to say what a huge fan he was.  Reggie wanted to hang out and talk racing, but we had a job to do.  He was like a kid in a candy shop, just so excited.  We have him a credential to “join” our crew.  Reggie grabbed some gear and jumped into it, all smiles. It was surreal.  I kept saying, don’t you want to go hit some home runs or something?  It was an awesome day.

3)  Can you share a mistake you made when you were starting out on your career?  What lesson did you learn from that?

Long before smartphones, I was working as a producer for a national sports televisions network.  I was leading my first big assignment involving multiple flights, crew members, and all the logistics that come with travel.  After getting the rental in the first city, the gear and crew piled in the van, and one of the talents asked for directions to the hotel.  Not only did I not have the directions to the hotel, I forgot all the lodging paperwork and didn’t even know which hotel we were booked in.  He berated me for what felt like hours.  I sat and took it  I never made that mistake again.  

4)  What are some of the most interesting and exciting community projects you are working on now?

Well, at the risk of a shameless plug, my company is supporting “Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day”  by providing access to some of our favorite VirtualJobShadow.com video content.  We are very excited about being a part of this wonderful partnership!

5)  What are 5 things you would tell your younger self?

  1.  Be patient.  “Overnight success”  takes years of hard work.
  2. Put your energy into solving the problem, not the problem itself.
  3. Every failure hurts in the moment but gives you the strength for the future.
  4. Keep doing what you want, not what people tell you that you should do.  
  5. Keep journals so you can remember all the stories you will inevitably forget when you’re older.

6)  You are a successful person.  Can you share some tips on how young people today can get ahead?

Stop relying on your iPhone to think for you; think for yourself.  Show up for your job on time and dress appropriately.  Always honor the commitments you make to others.  And to quote from Hamilton’s Aaron Burr, “Talk less, smile more.”

7)  Connecting one’s education with a future career path is the spirit of Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day and something to which I’m very committed.  Can you tell us how businesses, community leaders, educators, and parents can help our society educate children best?

Stop feeding into the myth that every kid needs to attend a four-year college to be successful.  Technology has transformed the world in so many ways.  Today, there are so many great ways to learn.  College is just one option out of many.  The internet is bursting with inexpensive and even free courseware to earn all kinds of certifications and skills.  Tech-savvy kids can start their own online business from their room or school.  And don’t overlook Community Colleges, which are inexpensive and offer great programs tied to in-demand job opportunities in their geographic regions.

8)  Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career?

A few years ago, I read The Ride of A Lifetime:  Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger.  He was given great advice on preparing for the interviews for the CEO position with the Disney board members.  When asked about company priorities, the advice was to only present them with three.  The logic behind that was that the more priorities you have,  the less focused each really is.  That “rule of 3”  helped Iger focus on how he would transform Disney and ultimately secured the CEO role.  I use the “rule of 3” all the time to set and reset my own priorities and goals. 

Connect with Kim on LinkedIn.