Integrity. Innovation. Impact.


Sheri Salata

Sheri Salata

President, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and Harpo Studios

Degree

BBA

Area

Marketing

Employment

Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and Harpo Studios


Could you describe for us what you do on a daily basis as President of OWN?

I split my time between running our production company, Harpo Studios in Chicago, and the network in Los Angeles. We have built a fantastic team in both cities so my daily work is to support those teams and continue to build the vision with Oprah and my business partner (co-president) Erik Logan.

The schedule is dense and there is always a lot going on, with multiple meetings,
video conferences and strategy sessions, but my favorite part is still
brainstorming new ideas, watching cuts of shows, and dreaming up what we do
next. I will always be a producer at heart.

That sounds a little hectic, but fun! What's the biggest obstacle you've overcome in your career?

Every career path is chock full of situations that appear to look like obstacles, every single one. The secret sauce is reframing all of those situations as opportunities to dig deep and really discover how you want to contribute and what truly makes you happy. Happiness at work is highly underrated. If you are going to devote a significant amount of your life to anything, reaching for joy is non-negotiable. Looking back, my wisest decisions were being willing to start over at something else in pursuit of finding the right road for me. No one tells you that you don't have to have it all wrapped up in an embossed business card by 25. Settling early on only means you will be unfulfilled at 40.

Great advice! Can you talk a little about how your University of Iowa marketing degree prepared you for your first job out of college?

Unlike many graduates who took a more direct route with their Iowa degree in hand, I took a path full of twists and turns, through Dallas and a variety of potential careers, none of which ultimately resonated with me. It was my 6th job back in Chicago where I found my footing; an assistant position with a famed executive producer in an ad agency (Grey Chicago).

Can you tell us how that position opened doors for you to achieve the position you have today?

Once I landed in an advertising agency—learning how to produce television commercials - my marketing degree and business experience converged with my intense longing to do creative work and I was off to the races. I left advertising for my first job at Harpo Studios producing promo spots for "The Oprah Winfrey Show." My 19th anniversary working with Oprah is coming up in August (2013).

Congratulations! That's quite an accomplishment. So, you obviously work closely with Oprah Winfrey. Could you describe what it's like to work shoulder-to-shoulder with her?

Even before I was hired at Harpo, I sensed that working with Oprah would be a life-changing experience. And all of these years later, that continues to be true. I see her as one of our culture's great teachers and that permeates all that we do. When your work is mission-driven—when intention is the most important part of business strategy—professional work and personal development go hand in hand. It is inevitable that you grow. Executive producing the final five years of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was a highlight. As Oprah and I worked together during the farewell season, we made sure to have some crazy fun. All the while knowing, there would be nothing like that experience ever again.

 

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