Women in Business: Q&A With Shara Senderoff, CEO of Intern Sushi

"I think the biggest issue for women in the workplace is their lack of opportunity to showcase how smart we are. Once we take the floor, we can silence a room. It's a matter of getting equal airtime. Men simply assume they know more. I love to prove them wrong."
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Intern Sushi currently has over 10,000 internships available with companies nationwide including Warner Music Group, Billboard, FunnyorDie.com, Gary Sanchez Productions, Lionsgate Entertainment, Michael Stars and Draftfcb. Intern Sushi is the brainchild of Shara Senderoff, a film industry executive/producer who was determined to fix what she saw as a broken process for hiring interns. She co-founded Intern Sushi with motion picture and television producer Mark Gordon and digital media entrepreneur Richard Gelb.

How have your life experiences made you the leader you are today?

Growing up, I dreamed of entering the film business. No one in my family had any experience or connections whatsoever in the world of entertainment. Like most, I was on my own if I wanted to break in. My mindset from a very early age has always been "to figure everything out and no matter what, find a solution." I was born a problem-solver. Whether it was obstacles in my personal, family life or throughout my years as an intern and climbing the ranks to produce movies, I constantly put out fires.

I believe my "find a solution" attitude has allowed me to set an example to those around me. I've learned to execute, execute and execute again and I don't think I'd have become the leader I am today if I didn't approach everything I do with the belief that I can always be better.

I am so thankful to have been the oldest of three girls. This has had great effect on who I've become. While I always hold my sisters to the highest expectations, I've learned a level of empathy and care that has allowed me to better understand particular circumstances and think about why my employees are reacting the way they are in certain situations. This has helped me to not take things personally, and understand that everyone is going through something I may not understand.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I watch football. Sounds silly, but for at least 17 weeks a year, I stop everything on Sunday and just relax. Minus the weeks when my Philadelphia Eagles lose, football allows me a necessary break from my work and focus on

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Intern Sushi?

The highlights have been watching so many interns land internships in cities or industries they would never have had access to without us. Also, being able to search through the site to see users who have created a full picture of who they are and what they want to do is incredibly inspiring. The talent is unlike anything you've ever seen because passion and drive do not come through on a paper resume. Intern Sushi has also allowed me an opportunity to work with some of the smartest executives in many industry. Business development and strategic partnerships are my favorite part of the startup world. They are not only crucial to your business growth, but working with other companies and brands gives you an understanding of their business models and agendas. This always allows me to better refine mine.

What advice can you offer individuals hoping to establish their own business?

Start your engine and don't stop for anything. So many people have ideas, but very few people have resilience. You have to keep taking steps forward to turn your ideas into reality. Also, always hire and work with people who are smarter than you. Layer your world with people who know more. Not everyone knows everything, but everyone knows something more than you. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

I think the biggest issue for women in the workplace is their lack of opportunity to showcase how smart we are. Once we take the floor, we can silence a room. It's a matter of getting equal airtime. Men simply assume they know more. I love to prove them wrong.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?

I am a huge Sheryl Sandberg fan. I think she provided an extra spotlight and awareness around an issue we all knew was happening but hadn't stopped to acknowledge in an appropriate way. I appreciate her honesty and transparency when it came to acknowledging her own shortcomings in the arena. But, ultimately my greatest takeaway was watching how she wrote a book, started a foundation and launched a revolutionary movement while still running Facebook. She doesn't ask for the spotlight, she appropriately takes it and that's a true sign of a leader. Her Lean In movement was an extremely commendable and balanced execution of intelligence, voice, drive and passion to create change.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

We are all a product of those around us whether we intend to be or not. I can't comfortably single out individual mentors, when I have been shaped and will continued to be shaped by everyone in which I have an opportunity to interact. I've been mentored by those who have far more experience than I'll ever obtain and equally by those naive to conventional business and social interactions. Our world's young talent may lack experience, but they see a world far less cluttered and clouded by politics than those jaded by obstacles.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

Too bad you already asked about Sheryl, because that's my go to. Similarly, I would say Hillary Clinton for her significant contribution to the advancement of women not only by way of her work, but by way of her example. I am also a huge Ann Curry fan. Her dedication as well as apparent sympathy and empathy to her work and those she covers is awe-inspiring.

What are your hopes for the future of your Intern Sushi?

I hope over the next year, Intern Sushi will continue its growth as a tool that opens doors for this incredibly talented young demographic. We have massive communication issues between Baby Boomers and Millennials. This lack of understanding leads to a lack of conversation. If we had a better method of introduction, we could learn to embrace the enthusiasm and ideas of our world's young talent and use it in a more efficient way.

I also can't wait for new features that will rollout this year to continue to drastically improve the hiring and communication process for both companies and candidates.

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