Entertainment Industry and Career Transitions with Shari Cedar

In our 26th episode, Sofie is joined by Shari Cedar, Vice President and Co-Owner of AK Building Services, to discuss working in the entertainment industry and career transitions. Throughout the episode, Shari shares captivating anecdotes from her rich experience in television production, offering invaluable insights and tips for aspiring professionals in this exciting field. With a keen focus on work-life balance, Shari emphasizes the significance of setting boundaries in the workplace, while illuminating how her versatile skill set seamlessly translated into her new career. Whether you’re aspiring to join the dynamic world of entertainment or contemplating a career transition, this episode serves as an exceptional resource.

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About the Guest

Shari Cedar

Shari has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Vermont and a Masters in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University. For 25+ years, she has been leading with purpose and passion. Whether in TV production, where she spent the first chapter of her career, or commercial cleaning, where she has been investing her time in her second chapter; Shari’s presence is felt by all who she encounters for business and community work. Her entrepreneurial spirit and multidisciplinary approach are inspirational, impactful, and appreciated by the teams she leads, the customers she serves, and the community she supports.

In her capacity as Vice President and Co-Owner of AK Building Services, an industry-leading family owned and operated commercial janitorial services provider, Shari leads sales, strategy, marketing, communications, learning and development, and customer service. Prior to her tenure with AK Building Services, Shari was a senior executive and Executive producer on television series and award-winning hits for Bravo, NBC, MTV, ABC, HGTV, E!, National Geographic, and Discovery.

As a working mom of two boys, Shari hopes to pass on her commitment to making a difference, both in business and in the community.

Website: https://www.akbuildingservices.com/


Sofie: Hello everyone, and welcome back to Claim Your Potential, the empowerment podcast. I’m your host, Sofie, and for this episode we are joined by Shari Cedar, to discuss transitioning out of the entertainment industry into the second chapter of her career. 

Shari has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Vermont and a Masters in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University. For 25+ years, she has been leading with purpose and passion. Whether in TV production, where she spent the first chapter of her career, or commercial cleaning, where she has been investing her time in her second chapter; Shari’s presence is felt by all who she encounters for business and community work. Her entrepreneurial spirit and multidisciplinary approach are inspirational, impactful, and appreciated by the teams she leads, the customers she serves, and the community she supports. 

In her capacity as Vice President and Co-Owner of AK Building Services, an industry-leading family owned and operated commercial janitorial services provider, Shari leads sales, strategy, marketing, communications, learning and development, and customer service. Prior to her tenure with AK Building Services, Shari was a senior executive and Executive producer on television series and award-winning hits for Bravo, NBC, MTV, ABC, HGTV, E!, National Geographic, and Discovery. 

As a working mom of two boys, Shari hopes to pass on her commitment to making a difference, both in business and in the community. 

Please welcome, Shari Cedar. Thanks so much for being with us today, Shari.  

Shari Cedar: Thank you so much for having me. 

Sofie: I’m so excited for you to be here and I know that you’ve had, you know, quite the career transition going from entertainment now into, you know, your role at AK Building Services. And so you’re in this second chapter of your career and I would love to hear, you know, a little bit more about, you know, your first chapter and why you made the jump to where you are now?

Shari Cedar: I just want to say, I absolutely loved my first chapter. I mean my passion for journalism and storytelling and educating people. I mean, that is – was just the most incredible career ever and I think those skills still translate into what I do today. But you know I had just such an incredible opportunity to travel around the world, like, to Africa for national geographic channel. And India I got to drive monster trucks for CBS Eyewitness. I got to work one time with Oprah Winfrey. I’ve done live television, Real Housewives of Atlanta for Bravo. I mean I have just had the most extraordinary opportunity.

Sofie: Amazing and then, you know, you transitioned from, you know, your entertainment career into what you’re doing now and so I’d love to hear a little bit more. You know, why did you make that transition?

Shari Cedar: Okay, so this was never like a, “hey I think I’m going to stop producing TV and run a janitorial services company, wow that sounds great.” Like no it was not – it was not so simple. We were living in New York City. My husband has a history in the industry and went into finance and, you know, he decided he wanted to run his own business and I was thriving in television. We had two children, two boys. We ended up moving to Florida and the honest answer is like, it was a grind. You know? A television production – its passion no question and love what I did but when you’re on TV doing what I was doing, like that’s full throttle one hundred percent. And I think, people women in particular who are managing families and households and supporting their husband, you know, you reach a point where you say, “good grief how much can I handle.” So for me, I had accomplished everything I set out to accomplish. You know? And – and I was feeling very fulfilled but it was sort of inside me this like sense of, “okay I think I’m done. I think I’m just ready.” Parallel to that our company – my husband hit the business was just growing and growing and a lot of my skill set applied to what he was doing. 

Now initially you’re like, “well yeah, how does TV production translate to janitorial.” But as time went on and I was contributing more and more, it suddenly was like a light bulb went off and I was like, “wait a second, this will actually be fun.” I kind of think I’d like running the company with Mark. I contribute, I add value, and it’s ours.

Sofie: Absolutely and I think that’s, you know, amazing to your point there really recognizing that, you know, while you love what you did, it was an absolute passion that there was something that, you know, you had to change to where, you know, you weren’t overwhelmed and you could still have that, you know, that close relationship with family. And I think that’s something that a lot of women struggle with in, you know, film and TV industries is really finding that – that balance between all right, “I’m, you know, doing this all day but when do I turn on mom mode or wife mode. How do I find the time to do that?” And so do you have any advice for, you know, women in the industry to, you know, really find a way to balance at all if they can?

Shari Cedar: I think the word balance is BS. Sorry, just going to come right out and say it. 

Sofie: Its ok! 

Shari Cedar: Like balance is impossible, it’s as grandiose term a women could do it all. Well no, no human could do it all. Right? You have to pick and choose what’s the priority at the moment and for me, it’s a very fluid – It’s a fluid ah process where I’m continuously reprioritizing. Whether it’s within the hour, the day, the week, the month, the year of what needs my attention the most. Now I know that sounds really crazy. How do you operate? But in my own head it makes sense. You just need to know when to put your attention on certain things and when it’s time to say no and that’s the most important thing is listening to your gut and your instinct on how to allocate your time. You cannot be a slave to your schedule and say, “well it’s scheduled, I have to put everything else out.” I mean that doesn’t really work. That’s not the real world and that’s not practical.

Sofie: Yeah. I think you know when you said that balance is BS, I think I had the moment of yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think we always, you know, struggle with – with, you know, finding the – the perfect balance between all right, you know, I have – let’s say, you know, career and then I have home life or I have career and maybe I’m also pursuing a degree and maybe I also have home life involved in that as well and I think, you know, in the – the personal development self-improvement space, there’s so much emphasis on finding, you know, the perfect balance and absolutely there are lots of moments where I’m like, “is there really a balance here or should I just stop doing something and that would just make it a whole lot easier.”

Shari Cedar: Well, I think like especially for young women right you’re trying to pave your way. You’re trying to focus on your career and that’s great and I think, you know, a lot of people want things handed to them easily like you still have to work really, really hard and no matter what you do and that’s across the board whether you’re in television production or running your own company or working for someone else. Like you have to bust your butt and put in your all if you want to succeed and make a difference and be an entrepreneur. At the same time, where women have it a little bit different is we have to think about our personal life and what kind of family life we want, what kind of partner we want. You know? Do you want to have children? You have to balance that as well and that’s – that’s a reality, you know, that’s – that’s something you have to think about.

Sofie: Absolutely. And I wanted to circle back a little bit to, you know, the entertainment TV industry and, you know, what that – that working environment is like for women. I know that it’s, A, already a very hard environment to be in anyways. It’s fast moving. There’s a lot going on. And I think for women, especially, it can be a very hard environment. You know as time goes on it’s just emotionally draining sometimes. And so do you have any advice for women that, you know, are still really passionate about TV production but are worried about the working environment?

Shari Cedar: Set boundaries. That’s the – the biggest thing that I would say. Production schedules are unforgiving and they are unmoving. So when you enter into a production, you know, anyone can do anything for six weeks. Right? For six weeks you say, “okay nose to the grindstone, I’m going to get it done and then I’m going to plan a two-week rest afterwards before my next gig.” Fine. But if you are working in production and that’s ongoing, if you work in a company that puts you from show, to show, to show, to show – like that’s really unsustainable for your mental health and well-being and your own growth as a person. So it’s really important to set up, “I need this day off, like the show will go on.” And to – to be mindful of that, you know, lack of sleep is really detrimental for anybody. It’s just you need self-care. That would be my advice.  

I will tell you, I almost messed up my own wedding working on a TV show because I was so like, you know, I gotta get it done. And my team was like, “Shari, you’re getting married in like three days, enough already.” And then I remember I was at Kleinfeld’s in New York picking up my dress, like the night before getting on an airplane and my boss called me. He’s like, “I know you’re getting married, could you just do one more thing for me.” And I was like, “ugh fine.” But you know what, I should have not answered my phone. 

Sofie: Yeah, oh my gosh. 

Shari Cedar: I should have not answered my phone because you know what, I almost missed the plane going to the Bahamas. I was so tired. I would tell everyone, you know, prioritize things that you can’t get back in life. You can’t get that back.

Sofie: Yeah. And I think I love that you said, you know, set boundaries. I think that’s something that we, especially women, don’t do a lot. Right? We, you know, we’re excited to be, you know, in our – our career. We’re excited to have opportunities and so, you know, when – when something comes up, we’re like, “all right, I have to impress these people. I have to, you know, show everyone that, you know, I’m a awesome go getter. I’m a mom and I can do anything and I’m just the best at this job. So I just need to prove to everyone and, you know, not let that imposter syndrome get to me and just, you know, I got to give it my all.” And, you know, to your point there, a lot of the time when we give our all, right, there’s always that burnout point – that point where we’re like, “I can’t give anymore.” And you know it’s when you take a step back and take time to regroup, to refresh yourself, that you can be, you know, better in your positions. But a lot of the time we don’t because it’s hard to stop. It’s hard to set those boundaries. It’s hard to say, “you know what I need a day off. I need to – I just need to stop everything and take some time for myself.” And so, you know, I think that story is – is so fascinating there because it’s like wow I, you know, I’m imagining that – that’s happened to a couple of people where they’ve had, you know, a big life event whether it’s, you know, a child’s graduation or, you know, it’s a parent’s birthday or – or it’s a wedding and it’s just, you know, trying to find that balance there.

Shari Cedar: I mean sometimes it has to happen. I mean I recall being in the hospital within my second pregnancy like, you know, possibly having preterm labor and I – we were in production on a very important show with some very important people, I will not say, who needed to talk to me. And my husband was like, “put the phone down.” I was like, “I can’t, this is talent. I have to.” And he was like, “you’re having a baby.” You know? But I was so in that moment of like, “I can’t fail the show, I can’t fail the executives.” And then, you know, you get past it and you realize, “what was I possibly thinking.” Like it all would have been fine.

Sofie: Yeah. And I’d love to, you know, circle back from this, you know, your role in the entertainment industry now to what you do, you know, as an entrepreneur with, you know, with the business that you have with your husband. Are there any, you know, skill sets that you found really translate from, you know, working in the entertainment industry now in, you know, this janitorial services business that you all have. You know, how has those overlapping skill sets really impacted your business as an entrepreneur?

Shari Cedar: Well, there – there’s many skill sets that are transferable. But before I get into that, I just want to add that having a second chapter is so cool and exciting because it’s like you set a reset button. I don’t think people know that as you’re making that choice and decision. But now, sitting where I’m sitting and looking back, it’s an amazing opportunity to take those skill sets and translate them into another industry. So I think the first one – first two which are soft skills would be passion and perseverance. Right? In journalism you like parachute into a world. You learn everything there is to know subject that you know nothing about. Like I knew nothing about monster trucks and I came away an expert right? Like I even drove one! And then you have to distill that information and be able to impart it to others in a way that makes sense and that’s entertaining. Honestly running a business is not so different. Every entrepreneur you have to learn something entirely new and in any business, you’re learning every single day. So I think the journalistic skills and the passion and perseverance would be first and foremost.

Sofie: Yeah, and I think that, you know, when we’re thinking about this next chapter, I’ve had a couple guests on and we’ve talked a lot about, you know, having that second chapter. Having that second, you know, career – that big career change and a lot of them have – have said something similar when it comes to, you know, transferable skill sets and – and I want to point that out here because I think that there’s so much value in, you know, bringing that passion and purpose to everything that you do. And – and I think that’s something that a lot of our listeners can really take away and think about is it doesn’t matter, you know, what you’re doing in life if you bring that passion and you bring that sense of purpose.  

You can turn pretty much almost any situation into, you know, into the most positive that it could be – into the best that it could be. And so I think that, you know, it can be very scary to transition. But if you’re, you know, bringing your values and you’re bringing the knowledge that, “you know what I’m good at what I do. I’m good at things that I try and that, you know, I’m okay to failing a couple times because I know I’m going to learn from this experience. Then that’s okay.” And so coming into that – into those spaces with that mindset, I think is – is so powerful there.

Shari Cedar: Absolutely. And there’s a few other hard skills. Right? We’ll call it scheduling when you work in television production. You – everything is time and money. Right? You’re on deadlines. You have to meet them for air dates. Well, when you work in commercial cleaning and janitorial services, it’s the same thing. It’s scheduling, time, money, being organized, being efficient. So that transfers. In TV you always have a huddle. Right? Like a pregame meeting. Well, every day in our organization I have a four pm huddle before my teams go out at night because they need to know – everyone needs to be on the same page. So communication is key. People skills. Right? In TV production, you have to deal with executives. You have to deal with talent. You have to deal with your bosses. You have to deal with overtired workers. You have to deal with crew. These are all different personality types that you have to be able to communicate with. Well in any business, including commercial cleaning, right, we have our customers who are always first and foremost. You have our employees which are our most valuable asset. You know – your people mean everything and you have to treat them as such. And you have your – your managers. You have your vendors so, you know, every business is the people business and you have to remember that at the end of the day. So I think those are the most valuable transferable skills that I see.

Sofie: Amazing and I would love to, you know, get a sense of, you know, you’ve been in this new career for – for a while now. I know you mentioned earlier that you – you know, love what you did, you know, working on TV but, you know, you needed that change and so now you’re in – in this current role and I’d love to know, you know, what has been the most rewarding aspect of this new role that you’ve taken on?

Shari Cedar: There are two things that have been incredibly rewarding to me. One is knowing especially after COVID that we are providing like healthy and safe buildings for businesses so they can focus on growing their business. You know, it is so hard to run a business – to run an organization, whether you’re a doctor, a school, an auto dealership. And you don’t realize the importance of a health, like a healthy and safe space. And I don’t know that initially I understood the importance of it like when I was still in TV. But man, it’s really important and I am just so proud of what we do to help partner with our customers, to help them grow. So that’s number one, and number two is we provide livelihood for a lot of people. There’s a lot of people who depend on me day in and day out to feed their family and support their families and that’s a tremendous responsibility and I don’t take that lightly and I have a sense of pride for the company culture that we’ve built here. You know? That our employees stay, that we have fun. It’s hard time. It’s hard. Everything is hard but, you know, we love to celebrate birthdays. We have a lot of fun and we take pride in what we do and to see a company culture grow that way is incredible. It’s just, it’s really rewarding. 

Sofie: And I couldn’t agree more. I am thinking back to one of our first staff engagement days and we have a new cohort of interns that just started and so it was such an exciting moment being able to, you know, bring people together. And, you know, to celebrate accomplishments and to, you know, do some skills training and to just, you know, celebrate each other, you know together. And I think that – that’s something that a lot of organizations should definitely be putting some emphasis on and I’m glad that you all do that because there’s so much power in not just, you know, celebrating the accomplishments of everyone on the team but also just, you know, getting to know each other personality wise and getting those moments of camaraderie really built into organizational culture. So I think that’s so fantastic that, you know, you all do that and I know that they’re definitely very happy that they’re at an organization that does that because not everyone does. I’ve been at some places where they don’t do that and it’s never fun, especially when you transition from another organization that prioritizes, you know, not just engagement but development. So I think that’s very powerful.  

Shari Cedar: Now always treat people as you would want to be treated. I mean that’s just – what was that book, Everything I needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten. Right? Like just be nice. 

Sofie: Exactly. 

Shari Cedar: Say thank you and please share in the sandbox. I mean these are basic – these are basic qualities that people forget about, it’s, you know, they really make a difference.

Sofie: I could not agree more. And to really tie everything together, what is one thing that our listeners should take away from this episode?

Shari Cedar: One thing your listeners should take away from the episode is listen to your inner voice. You know, really listen carefully and if something doesn’t feel right to you, like, adjust and calibrate because life is fantastic and life is filled with opportunities and you – you know, should seize them and – and follow your passion and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. My parents, when they heard that I was making a career shift, like, thought I had postpartum depression and insanity. 

Sofie: Oh, my goodness. 

Shari Cedar: And they – they were like, “what are you doing? You’re running a hit show and you’re quitting and moving to Florida. God help you.” But I followed my inner voice and my passion and I knew it was going to be great. 

 And I just want to add, after this I am off to the PACE School for Girls where I am a board member and today is their graduation. And I am so proud of these girls who have had – they’ve gone through adversity; they’ve had difficult times and today is all about celebrating them and empowering young girls. So I have to thank you for keeping that the theme of the day today.

Sofie: Thank you so much and I want to say thank you so much for sharing that wisdom there. I think so often we don’t listen to that voice and that’s always something that, you know, we try to encourage not just on this show but in all of our interactions that, you know, you are so powerful on your own and you have most of the answers already inside you that are just waiting to come out and it’s really about listening to yourself. What you want, what you want to do and where you see your passions going. And so I want to thank you for – for sharing your wisdom there and for our listeners that would like more of your wisdom, how can they connect with you?

Shari Cedar: Listeners, please connect with me on LinkedIn at Shari Cedar. You can also find our company website, akbuildingservices.com. And I really welcome – reach out, let’s have a conversation. I love a virtual coffee. I love getting to know people. So please feel free with any questions – I’m happy to mentor or lead or just get to have a connection.

Sofie: Wonderful. I want to say thank you so much, Shari, for coming onto the podcast. It was an absolute pleasure and there are so many bits of wisdom that I am taking away from this episode. I’m reflecting on and I’m going, “yeah, I should probably start setting some more boundaries in my role. I should probably, you know, start listening to myself a little bit more than I do right now.” So I want to say thank you so much. You’ve been an absolute pleasure to speak with.

Shari Cedar: Thank you, likewise.

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