Career

How did she do that? Journalist Jenny Suo on becoming TV news presenter


In a job where no two days are ever the same, 1 NEWS journalist Jenny Suo, 28, tells us about her exciting career, obstacles of the industry and what the key to her success is.

Can you explain your career path to date?
I was lucky enough to get a job at 3News straight out of Broadcasting School in 2009. I started on the assignments desk, manning the news tips phone, taking camera bookings and helping reporters research stories. After a few months, I started doing the odd reporting shift on Sunrise, before becoming a full-time reporter on Nightline. The next few years saw me work on the 6pm news, the new look late show, Newsworthy, and eventually, I began producing and presenting Newshub Late. I took a reporting job with 1NEWS in late 2017.

What do you love most about your job?
I love that I never know what to expect when I head into work every day. I might be on a chopper over the Waitakere Ranges, being rescued from a flooded car by Queensland firefighters or tracking down and interviewing a politician. While I know it requires a lot of energy to do a job like mine, it actually invigorates and energizes me too. The variety keeps me on my toes and I am never, ever bored.

Jenny Suo in Europe (left) and out in the field (right).

What is your biggest accomplishment at work or a moment you’re most proud of?
In 2014, I went to New York alone to cover the trial of Islamist cleric, Abu Hamza. I was only 24, had never travelled alone or been to New York and I had to navigate the US court system by myself. It was one of the most terrifying and rewarding experiences of my life. I realised that I was more capable than I thought.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome, as it relates to your career or industry?
To be honest, I don’t think I enjoyed my first couple of years in journalism. I loved to write and tell stories, but a fear of failure overshadowed all of that to begin with. It took me quite a while to build up the confidence to think I was doing alright, but once I did, I enjoyed my job so much more, I took more risks, I spoke up, and in turn, became better at my job.

“I loved to write and tell stories, but a fear of failure overshadowed all of that to begin with…”

What motivates you?
Science, technology and the environment. We live in the most beautiful country in the world with some seriously unique flora and fauna. If we want to keep this place special, we need to look after it. This view motivates me to do stories on our environment. There needs to be a discussion on this topic, we need to care.

Jenny Suo in the field reporting from a helicopter.

What do you believe has been the key to your success?
I work really hard to make sure everything I put my name to is my best work. It’s an honour and a privilege to enter Kiwis’ living rooms every night. I never take that for granted and want to make sure the end result is worthy. The people I interview trust me with their stories – I have to make sure they’re given the attention they deserve, and that they’re told well.

What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
The importance of letting things go. Sometimes things don’t work out or an interview falls over, or I don’t get some vital information/figures before my deadline. I used to spend so much time kicking myself, or being annoyed that I didn’t achieve what I wanted. But that is just the nature of the business and there is no point in wasting time worrying about something I can’t change.

What is your life motto?
“Too blessed to be stressed” I say this to myself constantly! I’m incredibly lucky to live the life I live and to have such a supportive family and wonderful friends. There are people with problems far bigger than mine. What do I have to be worried about?!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t worry about what others think about you. Just focus on making yourself happy, and being the best you. Everyone else is too focused on worrying about themselves, anyway!

Jenny Suo leaping into a local waterfall (left) and abroad (right).

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing women in the workplace?
Unfortunately, women still face many of the same workplace challenges that we did decades ago – the gender pay gap is a big one. While the gap appears to be closing, it’s not happening fast enough. Equal pay for equal work; it’s ridiculously simple, isn’t it?

Then there’s juggling a career with having children. Women should be able to take that step in their personal lives without fear of being penalized for it professionally. Support by offering more flexibility is not a luxury, but a necessity, especially if it means your partner can then go to work.

How do you find the ideal work/life balance?
I make sure I get plenty of exercise every day, which I normally fit it in before work, as I find it sets me up for the day. I also get outdoors a lot. I used to say it was hard to find time, but now I just make time to get outside. I think I am an active relaxer – getting outdoors and moving helps me think and calms my mind.

Who’s your female icon or inspiration and why?
I love Tina Fey. She’s smart, sassy, fiery, funny. She was the first female head writer for Saturday Night Live and she owned it. Also Beyonce. I love Beyonce. No need to explain that one, right?

What are your top three tips for landing a job in your industry?

  1. TV journalism is not glamorous: If glamour is what attracts you to this industry, you won’t last long. It’s hard work, a lot of research, persistence and only occasionally, a selfie with a celeb.
  2. Speak up: opinions are valued and a way to get noticed.
  3. Question everything: Don’t ever take someone else’s word for it. Do the legwork and check it out for yourself. You put your name next to your work – you need to know for sure that what you’ve produced is accurate.

Jenny Suo while travelling solo in Europe.

In another lifetime what would you want to do for a job?
I’d love to run a B’n’B in the Italian country and cure olives and make cheese to sell at the markets. I guess there’s still time to do that in this lifetime! That, or something adventurous; like an alpine guide or a guide for swimming with whales in Tonga.

How do you relax away from work?
I love to get outdoors. I often go on good challenging hikes, sometimes on my own. Quiet time in nature is my go-to relaxer. I also find cooking chills me out and takes my mind off a big day – probably because I’m so bad at it that it requires all of my focus…

When do you go to bed and when do you get up?
It’s actually my New Year’s resolution to sleep more! I’ve been averaging around 6 hours a night, which I know is not good. I’ve been getting to sleep after 11 and waking up around 6.

When did you last act fearlessly?
Last year I decided to travel solo to Greece and Italy. I had the most incredible time and was so proud of myself for navigating such busy places on my own. I met a bunch of incredible and inspiring people and found out a lot about myself too.

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Who do you most admire in business? Why?
I’m lucky enough in my job to meet a lot of inspiring businesswomen. I interviewed education futurist, Frances Valintine in 2017, who founded The Mind Lab and Tech Futures Lab. She broke the mould by proving you don’t have to go to university to succeed professionally.

Who do you turn to when the going gets tough?
I have a great relationship with my mum. She can be tough sometimes, but because she doesn’t sugar coat things, I trust every single thing that she says. She’s also unbelievably wise and has the best advice! I hope I can do that for my kids one day.

You have already achieved so much, but what’s next for you/what is the next goal you’re setting for yourself?
My goal for the new year is to make sure I can achieve both at the same time and to a high quality. I’m really passionate about conservation, the environment, science and technology and I want to keep reporting on developments and issues in those fields. I think it will require some good planning and time management, but I’m committed to doing it.

Photos: Supplied, Instagram

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