Luther College, Decorah IA – BA Linguistics & Communications
Emerald-Jane Hunter says it’s sometimes the little things that make her feel like she’s “made it.” Of course, while all-access trips to Disney World are pretty envy worthy, Emerald-Jane says that her long lists of success — including an Emmy — as an African immigrant turned big-time television producer are those that really mean the most.
Arriving in America to attend college as a 19-year old, it took less than 10 years for her to have her own production company. While a little bit of good networking helped along the way, Emerald-Jane owes most of her success to a work ethic that doesn’t quit. In fact, she advises a level of dedication that even leaves rivals unable to deny how hard you work (though we doubt she has many). Just don’t think all that hard work means you’ll find her sleeping at the office — that won’t get you ahead either, she asserts. Read on and discover how she works hard, sleeps well and still fits in a glass of wine, too.
Create a work ethic so unparalleled that even your worst enemies could never lie when asked about it.
How did you discover your current job?
I like to think it was word-of-mouth. A few people I had worked with before recommended me to the producers. It helped, too, that the executive producer of the show had hired me a few years back to work for her on another show (I had turned it down then). She remembered me once I interviewed and remembered she’d liked me! And finally, I’d say prayer was a key part, too.
How do you organize your day?
I always make a to-do list at the end of my workday. I do it at this seemingly odd time because it allows me to go through everything I wasn’t able to do during the day. I then make a fresh list of those and revisit them the next day when I’m well rested and can think straight. Making this list at the end of the day also allows me time throughout the evening to remember things I may have forgotten. If I remember something, I quickly add it to my list, so I leave as little chance as possible of forgetting something.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I enjoy every moment of my job — the good, the bad and the ugly. Also, I don’t want to sound arrogant here, but I feel I’m pretty good at my job. It comes easily to me. I’ve never once said, “I hate working in television,” or “I need to find a new job.” And as tedious and stressful as it can sometimes be, it’s a good escape for me. I feel my happiest and most confident when I’m doing what I love to do.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
The possibility of a booking falling through. This always is the biggest challenge. There’s nothing like working hard to land a booking, then hearing the night before an appearance that the guest isn’t showing up. My bookings shape the lineup of the show, and if we’ve heavily promoted a guest and they don’t show, then there are layers of the business it affects.
I like to win. Everyone likes to win. I’m particular about my work, and although it’s not my fault if someone cancels, I still take those things personally. I wonder if there were signs I may have missed or things I could have done differently. Ultimately, during these moments I always end up reminding myself that there probably wasn’t anything I could have done.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Yes! I’ve been married 10 years as of September and I have a 4-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. From work to tennis and violin lessons to bedtime routines, my life is all kinds of crazy. I have yet to determine what that no-fail tactic is. The one thing I do know for sure is that once I fall asleep at night, there’s a semblance of balance and peace. I’m not working and I’m giving my body a much-needed break to rest (as long as I’m not dreaming about work!). Because yes, I do sometimes dream of forgetting to book guests, or even booking a guest and forgetting until they show up!
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
There hasn’t been one particular moment where I’ve thought, “I made it!” but there’ve been a few moments where I’ve taken a step back and felt true, deep gratitude for where I am and what I’ve been able to achieve.
I migrated to the United States from Ghana, West-Africa, when I was 19 (15 years ago) to attend college in Iowa. Four of those years were spent in college and the 11 years since were spent in the ‘real world.’ When I allow myself to experience gratitude, I have moments where I take a step back and think that with only 11 years of real world experience, I’ve been able to have my own production company (at the age of 27) under which I produced a local weekly entertainment TV show that aired on the local NBC affiliate in the #3 market in the United States.
This girl from Africa did that, even though there are people who’ve spent a lifetime wishing they were able to pitch and produce a show that aired on TV. My work in this industry has allowed me to experience and hobnob with incredible people in ways I’ve never imagined. I’ve met some of the world’s biggest names through my bookings on Windy City LIVE and never would I have imagined that this girl from Africa would have such an opportunity. From authors whose books I read growing up in Ghana to meeting them in person and from actors and musicians whose work and music I’ve watched/listened to and admired as a little girl, now that I can say I’ve met them in person is incredible.
I also had an unreal moment when I visited Disney World with our show in 2013. It was my first time ever at the Park. Growing up, going to Disney World wasn’t something I ever thought would be possible, but God allowed me to experience it in the best way possible – with free all-access passes. It’s the little things!
What are some of the rules you live by?
I believe in hard work. My rule is simple: Create a work ethic so unparalleled that even your worst enemies could never lie when asked about it. People will dislike you and gossip about you, but never give them the leverage or power to say, “She’s lazy, not a team player and is the worst person to work with.” In my book, that’s my ticket up the ladder. Who doesn’t want to promote someone who delivers results?
I also believe in trusting in God. I find myself worrying about the littlest things, and I always have to remind myself that there’s only so much I can do; that I need to let it go and let God do His work. If it’s meant to be, then I need to trust and have faith that my Father would never leave me hanging. If you don’t believe in God, then find whatever it is that brings you peace and reach for it during those moments you need inner peace the most.
I also try not to overdo it. I feel that being the first in the office and the last to leave won’t get you that corner office with the downtown view. Simply being there isn’t enough. Make a point to work smarter and not harder, otherwise you’ll burn yourself out. You don’t win when you’re burnt out. Even if you can’t stop working, at least aim to leave the office at some point and work from home. You’ll feel so much better when you’re working from your PJ’s on your couch while sipping a glass of wine as you catch up. It also feels better than staring at those white walls; silently angry that you’re the only one still in the office.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
Tenacity: This business can make or break you (literally). Pick yourself back up and keep moving. You have to have that ability to do that.
Passion: If you’re not passionate about being in this industry, then don’t do it. The money doesn’t come as quickly as you think it will when you’re dreaming of your million-dollar mansion. You’ll be in that one bedroom for a while. Be so passionate about it so that five years into it, you’re not mad because you’re still in that one bedroom.
Networking: You could have the best resume out there, but if you don’t have personal relationships and contacts, you’ll still be out there fighting to get your foot in doors. This industry is all about who you know, so take time to network and meet people and make human contact. We do too much over text and email. Get out there and mix and mingle. You never know from whom your big break could come.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Be patient. Life is a journey. Take everything one step at a time. Stress less, worry less and know that all will be well.
Have more fun and enjoy life! Go out, be merry, enjoy your friends and do what 21-year olds are supposed to be doing. Stop being so overly focused (and anal) on your career to the point that you miss out on your 20s!