Breaking Into Television Reporting

Jasbina Ahluwalia asks Sheila Dharmarajan: What led to your interest in becoming an on-air reporter for CNBC and Bloomberg?

Do you have any interesting experience, insights or anecdotes to share with our listeners regarding your years as a reporter?



Sheila Dharmarajan

Breaking Into Television Reporting: Expect the Unexpected

It’s a pretty unusual path. Here I was in this very traditional investment banking, private equity background.

I went to business school. I thought I was going to be a Wall Street lifer.

Then the unexpected happens. In my case, it was the downturn. Sure, the economy goes in cycles, but no one could anticipate how bad things were in 2008 and 2009.


Breaking Into Television Reporting: Economic Climate

The private equity firm that I was at was having some of its own issues. I ended up leaving them.

I was trying desperately to get back into Wall Street at the time. It just wasn’t going to happen. Things were so bad. The sentiment was so terrible. The opportunities were so slim.


Breaking Into Television Reporting: Think Outside The Box

At that point, I started telling myself, “I need to think out of the box a little bit. I can’t be so tied into this one path and goal that I have set out for myself in terms of a Wall Street career.”

I started to think out of the box. I listened to my intuition. I ended up falling sick for a couple of days. I was watching a lot of business television just to keep my head in the game.


Breaking Into Television Reporting: Do You Fit The Bill?

I remember that there was this moment. I was watching business television and saying to myself, “Hey, I can totally do that. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve worked on Wall Street before. I have the real-life experience.”

My personality is one that I’m not afraid to talk to people or be in front of the camera and have a public presence. That wasn’t something that I was nervous about.

It’s funny how the dots in your life start to connect together.


Breaking Into Television Reporting: Know What You Want

On the one hand, I had very strong business and practical experience. On the other hand, my personality was such that I knew I’d enjoy this career.

Finally, I had also done a fair amount of media and entertainment in my prior lives. I had interned over the summer at a television channel. I had worked in technology and media companies.

All of a sudden, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring everything together.


Breaking Into Television Reporting: Networking

It was one of those things. It was partly luck and partly a lot of hard work.

It was during the downturn, so I think people were open to trying out new things and open to folks like me who were trying to make career switches.

Part of it was the hustle. You never want to give up the opportunity to meet someone, take a phone call or send out a cold email.

You never know how it’s all going to come together. I started to tap my own network and see if this could be a possibility, and if the switch was even possible.


Breaking Into Television Reporting: Hustle

Let’s be real, journalism and particularly television journalism, is very hard to break into. I started to get some inklings that a switch could be possible.

I really started to network my way into it. I started to talk to anyone and everyone I knew.

My big break happened at a Stanford dinner that I attended. I was at a leadership dinner that the University was throwing.

Jeff Bukus, the CEO of Time Warner, was being honored at that dinner. I walked up to him afterwards. I said, “Mr. Bukus, congratulations on your award. I’m really interested in making the switch to television. I was hoping you could introduce me to someone at CNN.”

He handed me his business card. He said, “Why don’t you get in touch with me tomorrow?” In those situations, it’s 50/50 if people get back to you or if anything ever comes out of it.

I did email him the next day. To his credit, he was incredibly helpful. He said, “I never promise anyone a job but I can absolutely introduce you to someone.” He introduced me to some folks at CNN. There you go. That was the slow start of my business television reporting career.


Tell Us:

Readers, tell us if you have experience working on-camera. How did your experiencing breaking into television reporting go? Share the experiences with us in the comments section below.


The above is an excerpt from Jasbina’s interview with Sheila Dharmarajan.

The entire interview transcript is at: Sheila Dharmarajan Interview – A Career in Private Equity, Investment Banking & Business Media Reporting

Listen to the entire interview on: Intersections Match Talk Radio – Jasbina’s Lifestyle Show

Listen to the entire interview on Blog Talk Radio: A Career in Private Equity, Investment Banking & Business Media Reporting

Listen to the entire interview on iTunes