Sharon Rechter, along with business partner, Guy Oranim, conceptualized and co-founded BabyFirst. In her role as executive vice president, she leads the business development and distribution of the Network - via television, mobile and cinema with a clear passion to bring quality, new educational programming to families of babies and toddlers. Sharon has a broad background in television programming and prior to this role has served as the vice president and head of operations for The Israeli Network (the Israeli television channel in the U.S.). She was responsible for the general management of the network, and focused on areas including business development, advertising and subscriptions. Before entering the television broadcast industry, Sharon headed the strategic planning department at GNS Advertising in Israel where she was responsible for developing strategic plans for a variety of lifestyle brands. Sharon received her B.A. in business administration from the Arison School of Business and her L.L.B in law from the Radziner School of Law, both at The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing up as the oldest of five children to an entrepreneurial father has had a tremendous effect in shaping who I am today.
I still remember my first serious conversation with my father, at the age of seven, in which he sat me on his lap to ask for my advice if he should leave his job and start his own company, him not laughing when I asked "but how shall we pay for food?," and explaining to me the reasoning behind his decision. Needless to say at that age he wasn't truly consulting, but rather sharing with me, but he made me feel that I had a voice, that my opinion mattered, and that I could make a difference. He is forever my role model and my hero.
I am also dyslexic, which when I was growing up was not very commonly identified. Realizing I was different, but not knowing why, I had to come up with creative solutions so people wouldn't notice. Still to this day, I contribute my creativity to dyslexia.
I published a bestselling children's book when I was 12, and that taught me that with grit and perseverance, even a dyslexic 12 year old can touch the stars
Last but not least, I did not get accepted to Colombia University's Business School even though I really tried... and that thought me that failing is not the end of the world.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at BabyFirst?
I think the first thing I learned is what I do and don't want to do.
I started my career as a lawyer, and even thought I have learned a lot, and see the value of the lawyer in me in every deal I do, I learned that I would rather do than consult.
Later, I started working in an advertising agency, and even though I like to look at everything we do at BabyFirst from the lens of the consumer, I have learned again that I would rather dive deep and build a business from scratch than see only a narrow part of many companies.
But the most important lessons I have re-learned throughout my career are that perseverance and grit are 90% of success and that embracing change is the only way to go.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
To me it's all about being truly present wherever you are, and I decided a while ago to abandon guilt. When I am at work, I am 100% focused on work. When I am at home with my kids, I do my best to not look at the phone, and really be there and listen to my children.
I also do my best to control my time, which allows me to travel on business, but also accompany my kids' field trip to the zoo.
Last but not least, I am a strong believer in the 80/20 Principle, which means 20% of the effort will generate 80% of the value, and vice versa. Therefore, I always try to identify and focus on the important stuff.
But like my father, I like to involve my children in everything we do. I treat BabyFirst as if it also belongs to them - I ask for their advice and include them, which helps them understand both the value of what I do and hopefully inspires them to know that they can dream and make their dreams come true, too.
What have been the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at BabyFirst?
In the TV business the most fundamental thing is distribution, and that is the biggest challenge for an independent network like ours, which doesn't have the leverage of a major corporation. Therefore, the biggest highlight for me has been getting our network into over 50 million US homes and joining the "Major League" of TV networks.
What advice can you offer women seeking to reach leadership roles in the TV/broadcasting industry?
Pick something you really love, and be the best at it. I know it's a cliché but so many of us are filling jobs that we don't love, and therefore are not giving it 100%.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think there are a few:
1. Women often take a few years to stay home, and therefore are left behind. It's hard to get back, and one should expect a learning curve when they do.
2. Women being measured by the wrong parameters. -Many working mothers are the best employees for the simple reason that if they want to leave work at 5pm they MUST be way more efficient in order to do a great job. They waste NO time on small talk and web surfing, and actually get the work done. However since many bosses measure employees based on the time they spent at work and NOT on the time they actually work (or their production), they assume women employees do less.
3. Guilt. Women expect (and are being expected) to perform 100% both home AND work. When these expectations are not met it leads to guilt, and guilt consumes energy and is unproductive, often setting women back.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has been a big part of my life starting with my father. I will forever be grateful to all the amazing men and women along the way who gave me an ear, a shoulder, a perspective, and a push when I needed them. I do my best to pay it forward by being there for young entrepreneurial women.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are so many, but to name a few, Meg Whitman, who has demonstrated in her career leadership, risk taking, amazing persistence, and ability to recover from falling. Jennifer Gaiski, who is an SVP of programming at Comcast, and is one of the smartest most efficient people I have ever met. And last but not least, my mother, who raised five kids while having a successful career and keeping a smile on her face.
What are your hopes for the future of the BabyFirst brand?
With BabyFirst reaching over 50 million homes in the US and being watched by every 3rd mom, and with our mobile app network surpassing 30 million downloads, I hope that BabyFirst will continue to grow so fast, as the leading destination of content for parents and babies, whenever and wherever they are.
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