(This is an unpaid post inspired by The Big Shout-Out, a place to thank your mentor.)
Believe it or not, there was life BYT (Before YouTube). Back in 2005, it was finally time for me to pursue one of my dreams: to work as a television host covering new media and tech (at the time, this meant reporting on new trends such as – gulp – browsers beyond Internet Explorer).
While there were very few opportunities during those years for a woman covering tech, the one person who was leading the way and opening up new doors was Leo Laporte. Lucky for me, Leo had just started shooting his series Call for Help (CFH) in Toronto (where I relocated after living in San Francisco and Boston for a total of four years).
I didn’t have a whole lot of experience in television at this time, just a post-graduate degree in journalism, a few months as a general assignment reporter at CBC, and a boatload of ambition. Fortunately, I was immersed in the new world of Web 2.0. After working as a content and web strategist at Razorfish, taking on the role of a judge at The Webby Awards, and running online community management for an e-procurement start-up, I knew the future was digital and I wanted a piece of it.
I started my own website on Blogger, thanks to watching Leo build his personal branding online, and I rented a bulky video camera and created a demo reel in iMovie (consisting of nothing but me talking to camera). I’m pretty sure I rambled along in this clip to Leo, something about wanting to be the Oprah of tech (he has the video but he has pinky sworn never to release it .
Within a few short weeks I had a role on CFH as their website reviewer. Viewers sent me links to sites they were building and I spliced and diced them, trying to give them some honest feedback. From my very first day on set, Leo coached me. He never once focused on how I looked or what I wore, but he always repeated to me that ‘Content is King.” If I knew my stuff, I would go far in this business (despite the fact that one of the crew members lobbied to get me removed from the show, saying I was far too inexperienced – like a deer caught in the headlights – I believe those were the words he used in his six-page email manifest, which he is now eating).
Eventually, I joined the CFH team as their co-host (while the producers of the show wanted me to take on a more secondary role, I insisted that I get a Co-Producer title and that I was given my own set just like the boys – Leo and Andy – who both backed me up as they always did). When I left CFH for Citytv, Leo supported my decision to move on. A year later when I said goodbye to the broadcaster to go out on my own as an entrepreneur, once again Leo was there for me and gave me the wonderful opportunity to do a podcast with him called Net@Night (which still exists today on the TWiT.tv network, now called The Social Hour).
While Leo and I don’t talk as much as we used to, what he taught me during those years has stuck with me. From studying him ad-lib in front of the camera to watching him create his own multi-million dollar broadcast network, he has been my number one mentor. In short, this shout-out is for him. Leo Laporte: Thank you.
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