In conversation with Rini Sharma

Rotman MBA student talks media, entertainment, technology

In conversation with Rini Sharma

Among students making their mark in the field of business is Rini Sharma, part of the Rotman School of Management and a member of the Rotman Entertainment & Media Association. The Varsity caught up with Sharma to discuss her experience as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) student.

The Varsity: What does your role in the Rotman Entertainment & Media Association entail?

Rini Sharma: I’m currently serving as Vice-President External for the Entertainment & Media Association at Rotman. My role involves building relationships with industry leaders and connecting them to our student community at Rotman through the medium of events and other platforms.

TV: What kind of work does the Rotman Entertainment & Media Association do?

RS: The Entertainment & Media Association at Rotman is working on bridging the gap between MBA students and Toronto’s growing media and entertainment sector. Our goal is to help students identify and create opportunities for themselves in a manner which combines their business skills with their passion for the media and entertainment sector.

To do this, we planned various events over the 2019–2020 school year which will provide students with hands-on skill-building through case competitions, as well as networking opportunities through our industry night event, set to be held later in the year. And, last but not least, I’ve been lucky enough to produce and host my own personal project with the club, the Rotman Thoughtcast, which is Rotman’s upcoming official podcast series.

TV: What are some of the productions you’ve worked on?

RS: Prior to starting at Rotman I was working at Shaftesbury, a leading Canadian media production company, as a development and production analyst. I’ve worked on several major projects, including CBC’s most highly-rated program Murdoch Mysteries, CBC’s Frankie Drake Mysteries and Netflix’s Slasher. I was also involved in Hudson & Rex from Citytv and Shaftesbury’s latest drama series Departure, from GlobalTV, in their early stages of development.

TV: What or who has been your greatest influence in starting a business career?

RS: My dad, who has taught me the values of integrity, persistence, and relationship-building in the world of business.

TV: When did you think to combine two seemingly-different fields of technology and business?

RS: While I’ve always been curious to learn about new technologies, it was only after I joined Rotman that I observed how emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, are disrupting several different industries besides media. Moreover, I spent my summer interning at a tech accelerator, which made me realize how important it is to have a viable business strategy in order to grow and scale new technologies.

TV: How has your experience been, managing your education while also managing your career?

RS: The MBA program is a huge time commitment which essentially requires you to work on academics and career simultaneously, since day one. It hasn’t been easy. However, I love a good challenge and I’m enjoying every bit of it.

TV: How do you think an MBA has prepared you for your field?

RS: Aside from the core academic learnings, my experience in the MBA program has enabled me to enhance my time management, leadership, and communication skills — and that shall go a long way in any field!

TV: What has been your experience in media been like?

RS: In my experience in the media industry, I’ve been lucky enough to work in an environment where I was mentored by strong women leaders. That being said, it is still an evolving space for a woman of colour to be in. There’s a long way to go before we, as the audience, start perceiving stories about Mindy Kaling as anything other than a factor of her immigrant experiences.

TV: What has been your biggest challenge so far?

RS: Finding and carving my own unique niche within an institute full of 650 bright and ambitious minds.

TV: What are some tips that you have for anyone pursuing a career in business?

RS: For anyone wanting to pursue an MBA, I would recommend knowing your own personal goals before choosing a particular school or stream. In the world of business, I think it is very important to have an open and flexible mind in order to be successful in today’s globalized economy. Always strive to expose yourself to different experiences, people, and cultures.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This profile is part of an ongoing series to highlight women in business.

The news world needs another Peter Mansbridge

U of T’s new archive on the former CBC anchor reflects a time before the age of distrust

The news world needs another Peter Mansbridge

On the night of July 1, 2017, Canada’s 150th birthday, Peter Mansbridge appeared for the final time as Chief Correspondent for CBC News and Lead Anchor of The National. He charmingly signed off, “That’s The National for this Friday night. From CBC News, I’m Peter Mansbridge. Thanks for watching.”

It must have been strange for him. His almost three-decade-long dedication to sharing the news nightly with his country and 50 years with the CBC ended with the blink of a fireworks show on Parliament Hill. It was certainly strange for me, having never known a world without Mansbridge, though never truly recognizing his relevance to Canadian culture.

We Canadians are not overtly prideful. There are very few people that we may point to and say, “That person represents Canada.” But I think Mansbridge falls into that category or at the very least, he should be a contender. Now that U of T Libraries’ Media Commons has archived material from his long CBC career, his importance as a journalist is cemented in our history for all to see.

Once described by The Globe and Mail as one of “Canada’s best-known celebrities,” Mansbridge narrated numerous major moments in Canadian and world history from 1988–2017 in his cool and calm voice. Some stories were of grief, such as the September 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center, and others of triumph, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall. However, no matter what was being said, Mansbridge stood as a point of convergence between uncontrollable world forces and Canadians.

Canadians had faith in Mansbridge — faith because he was an upright citizen who had other Canadians in mind. Importantly, with his archives, U of T has received a memory of life before what now is dubbed the post-truth era. Newer generations will not have the kinds of experiences as those before them did with Mansbridge.

Fake news, the politicization and monopolization of broadcasting, the delegitimizing of truth, attacks on freedom of the press — these are what U of T students from my generation know. These are the realities of a social environment that is spoiling trust between news sources and the people.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 2019 is the year of “Trust at Work” because the mass population is repairing its relationship with its social institutions. However, 57 per cent of the general Canadian population continues to distrust the media. While this number is generally lower than that in other social institutions, it’s especially worrying when paired with the rise to 71 per cent of Canadians who are worried about the use of fake news as a weapon, and the only 43 per cent of Canadians who consider journalism as a credible source for information.

We are afraid, perhaps rightly so, that lies are seeping into the news cycle. And from this comes an uncertainty in media outlets themselves. Readers cannot and will not unconditionally accept information anymore, no matter the political leanings of the news source.

“You cannot be post-truth,” explains retired Cambridge University philosophy professor Simon Blackburn. History is characterized by deception and manipulation, and society holds everyday truths no less important than before. “What we do have, though, is a problem in other domains, like politics and religion and ethics. There is a loss of authority in these areas, meaning there’s no certain or agreed-upon way of getting at the truth.”

We have passed the era of trust in journalism, of an unthinking acceptance of facts and an unquestioning belief in sources, of readers not needing to refine the onslaught of constant information and not having to be the journalists themselves.

Mansbridge’s exit may be the final blow for Canadians. It was a trumpet calling the ‘era of trust’ to an end. Over a year into the Trump administration, with ‘fake news’ thrown disparagingly at journalists and political meddling emerging through social media, we have lost a faith in news coverage. Today, many call to defund the CBC.

Nowadays, I think we would all enjoy a little more stability and integrity in our lives. Canada needs another Mansbridge — a trusted figure who may arrive in our living rooms in one generation and stay with us for generations to come. And Canadians would readily accept one, especially on The National, as watchers are actively disengaging from the program because, as television critic John Doyle puts it, “The hour of news is confusing and [viewers] don’t feel they’re getting a definitive, authentic roundup of the important news of the day.”

For now, I propose to any fellow U of T students going through an existential crisis over the age of distrust to follow my lead. Go to the Media Commons, pull up Mansbridge’s archives, and try to relive any year before 2017. I’m sure it was interesting.

Emily Hurmizi is a first-year Humanities student at Victoria College.