As an only child growing up in Brooklyn, NY, Rasheeda Winfield always had a love for television. A woman with high expectations, a relentless drive and a love for story-telling, Winfield is now a 29-year-old associate producer for Dateline NBC.
EBONY.com caught up with Winfield to chat about her journey to becoming Black, Fresh & 20-Something.
EBONY: After finishing your graduate studies at Fordham University and brief time at the National Public Radio, you got into the NBC Page Program and subsequently applied for a permanent assistant position under then-Executive Editor, Liz Cole. What happened next?
RW: I met with the first [interviewer] and that went great, and then I met with [Liz Cole]. I couldn’t read her during the interview at all. But, I was relentless; I’d call and follow up to ask [if] the position [had] been filled. I was like, I really need to impress this woman. So, I did [a] PowerPoint presentation on how the [DatelineNBC.com] site could be improved. I printed it out, [along with my] writing samples, and I also gave a list of references for her to call. I think it was either the next day or two days later [when] they called me and offered the job. I cried on the phone, it was really bad.
EBONY: Since getting that job, you’ve been promoted twice: to Assistant Producer and now Associate Producer. Can you give us some insight into what you do and what it entails?
RW: As an Associate Producer, my responsibilities vary. It can be anything from producing a field shoot to booking guests for the show, to writing pitches for an idea or story that I think would be great for our program. We [also] have NBC World [so] we’re all over the world.
EBONY: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
RW: What I enjoy most is dreaming up the ideas and seeing it happen. Also, once you finish up in the field, there’s the post-production where you have to edit down all the interviews and the footage. You can really get artistic and creative in that way too.
EBONY: After your experiences, what would you identify as one of the mistakes that people make when attempting to get into this industry?
RW: Maybe giving up too easy? I think a lot of times, young people–I feel so old—they come out of college and they think everything is going to happen right away, and it’s not necessarily. You have to put in work, and also, you have to be a little bit creative. Even before getting that dream TV job, get yourself a camera and do your own thing.
EBONY: Do you think that the TV news industry understands the importance of empowering Black professionals to get in and excel?
RW: Well when you think about NBC, they understand the importance of diversity and so they do have a lot of programs in place that do promote that. If you’re going to be broadcasting to the world, you need to be able to connect to people and you need your staff to reflect that as well. I think, these corporations—these news companies—they get that.
EBONY: As a Black woman, what is your perspective on making it in, and also shaping, this industry?
RW: I try not to look too much into things like that through a color lens, but I know and am aware of it still being there. Oh [and] I am very good at being very vocal. I think me being a black woman and me not making it an issue…it’s all about how you come off. I will speak up if I ever feel like something is going in the wrong direction and if we need to be a little more sensitive. I am glad that I work with people that are already sensitive to those types of things.
EBONY: So in essence—you let your work speak for itself and you pick your battles wisely.
RW: I always want my work to speak for itself. I don’t want to be known as the Black journalist on the staff. I want to be known as Rasheedah: she’s a really good writer, she’s aggressive, and she’s really good at her job. If you are good, I think that eventually people will see it. The moment you stop is when you are giving up on yourself.
EBONY: What are you happiest about in regards to your career thus far?
RW: I’m happy that God has put me in this position and I’m in this industry working here for a reason. I always dreamed of being at NBC but never knew what that would look like…just dreaming of being in this industry. I just want to continue telling stories. I leave it at that and if I’m able to do that through NBC then that’s great.
EBONY: How do you manage all of it—trying to go after your dreams while living in the present successes that you’ve worked so hard to build?
RW: The journey is the destination. So it’s like every step that we go through, it’s for a reason and you just need to be present and make the most out of it. I’m now getting that I need to relax while still remaining ambitious. It took me a while to get to this point mentally.
EBONY: We do forget that the people who are often at the top of their games are in their 30s and 40s. If you want to look at the big shots like Oprah, she’s almost 60.
RW: But then you see the Forbes list and the 40 under 40 and you’re like AHHH. You have your own story and your own path. Don’t worry about what anybody else is doing. This is your life so make the most of it. Be present because the future is going to come. Just be easy! Be easy!