Meet January's Leona of The Month: @DarianSymone
Photo Credit: Hope Kauffman An ambitious attitude. That was my first impression of Darian Symoné Harvin when I connected with her on Twitter. And the fact that she picked up and moved to NYC a month after graduating from college lets me know my impression was correct.
With a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism from Emerson College, Darian has mixed her acquired skills with her passion and secured some pretty exciting positions. Positions that include: News Curator, Editor on the Yahoo News Digest app team, and Managing Producer of HRDCVR.
Of all the many hats Darian wears, this Buffalo, NY native has not lost sight of her goal and purpose. “I’m a journalist who wants to create new ways to present information and news to people,” Darian says.
In an insightful interview below, Darian thoroughly talks about HRDCVR, her podcast and forthcoming website, the women who influence her, and so much more.
Why journalism? What or who, if anything, made you want to pursue a career in this field?
The reason is pretty archetypal. In fourth grade, I won this writing contest and got to interview Marcellus Wiley, who played defense for the Buffalo Bills at the time, for a game day magazine. I went to the stadium and asked him questions with a tape recorder. Imagine this little girl interviewing a huge football player kneeling down just to hear her.
I think I felt big after that! Interviewing and writing about people became normal to me.
Even now, I have a knack for getting to know all different types of people and connecting with those who it seems like I would have nothing in common with. Those types of skills are the reason I ultimately chose journalism as my major in college.
Talk a little about your experience as the Managing Producer of HRDCVR? What was your day-to-day role in the production of the hard cover magazine? And now that it is out and available for purchase, how has your role changed?
I had two main jobs as MP of HRDCVR. First, I hired and managed a team of fellows and interns (with the exception of Social Media Fellow Cameron White who was there before me). I connected them with the editors, writers, and our creative team working on HRDCVR to do research, review pieces, give feedback, pitch ideas or run our social platforms. It was mainly based off of the production calendar that I also managed (job #2) up until it was time to start approving pages for the printer. Everything I did was in an effort to create the print version of HRDCVR in any way that I could.
On a day-to-day basis, I worked with our interns or fellows via our office or the Internet in order to get work done. Managing a project is an exercise, and I am so grateful to have the experience under my belt at a young age. It was a rapid fire learning experience, and now I have someplace to grow from.
There is so much I’d like to do with HRDCVR now that it’s out. If I could just use my time and energy to work on HRDCVR forever, I would. But I think it’s hard for all of us, especially because most on the team are so young and still trying to explore our industries.
Right now, I mainly edit the HRDlist — a weekly newsletter that curates a diverse collection of written pieces, videos and podcasts — with Brendan Bures, Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson along with our HRDCVR team who submits links each week. I’ll send emails when things need to be organized. Overall, I just try to be a connector.
With new podcasts launching every day, how does the, “Am I Allowed to Like Anything?” podcast differ from the others? What void are you filling?
I think #AIATLA fills a cultural void. I am so sick of the unjustified skeptic. I am sick of that being cool. I want people to feel very comfortable coming out and vocalizing when they like a project, a song, a person, just as much as the people who instantly pop off about things they don’t like all of the time. That’s why I love my “+1 segment,” because it intentionally spotlights something the guest likes.
This podcast has been a way for me to create content and remain consistent with a project. #AIATLA is a capsule podcast, and I’m only recording 100 of them. Shout out to Ann Friedman for that idea. In the process of putting out each episode, I am learning more about my audience, my strengths and what I need to get better at.
Interviewing people is my passion. Every episode is not perfect, but I don’t care about that. I can’t care about that. What’s important is that I learn. Nowadays, you really have no choice but to improve in front of an audience. At least that’s how it is for me.
In addition to your current positions, the site you’re developing, your podcast, and a forthcoming newsletter, where do you find the inspiration and motivation to do all of these things?
My motivation comes from hopes of one day never having to work for anyone. That may be years from now, but I really feel like that I am the only person I can rely on. It is such an exciting time to work in media and journalism, but things are constantly changing — quickly and dramatically. If I can create some type of stability and freedom through my own work — and the freedom of the Internet — and learn how to monetize from it, I feel it’s the biggest investment I can ever make into my future.
I also don’t really enjoy being managed. I’m a bit too rebellious and independent minded to be told what to do. Unless you are a certain “type” of manager — one who empowers your employees and gives them the tools to lead on their own — I’m not really with it. It’s true that a part of being a leader is knowing when to follow, but I don’t see myself following anyone for the rest of my career.
Do you have a mentor? If so, who is it and what purpose does this person serve in your life? How has their presence shaped you or how are they currently shaping you now?
I have many, many women in my life who, I’m not sure if I’d put them all in the “mentor” category, but they most certainly help to shape my perspective of the world. They push me, tell me when to chill out or go hard and help me think through ideas.
Maria Stephanos became my mentor through a mentorship program at Emerson College. She’s so bold and a total badass, and it was really a great match. She was the evening news anchor at FOX25 Boston, and I’d go visit her at the station before the evening news. We’d work on my reel, she’d critique my work or we’d just go to the Whole Foods and talk.
I interned for music publicist Yvette Noel-Schure and, really, it changed my life. It showed me that I could do more than what I thought a journalist was meant to do. I could push those boundaries and be as dynamic as I felt like being. Seeing how Yvette works and communicates with such kindness is a telling reminder that no one wants to work with hateful people, no matter how high up they sit. No one. This is why I’m perplexed when I interact with assistants who have attitudes. Also, hard work is a thing. I realized the people really making moves in the music industry were likely not the same people drinking the free alcohol at every single sponsored event. They were probably working late on something that would eventually shift the industry. I call Yvette my New York Mom. If I ever need anything, I know she’s there. I’ve traveled to Grenada with her and her daughter, who is also my good friend. We have a lot of fun together.
Kéla Walker is my mentor and big sister. She’s really helped me to navigate working and living in NYC. She keeps my head straight, and has been there for me when I really had no idea what my next move was going to be within my career, or just in life. She’s such a strategist and inspires me just to keep going.
Danyel Smith is the coolest friend I’m fortunate enough to have. I wouldn’t really consider her my mentor in the traditional sense, but I’m most certainly fortunate to have her in my life in the capacity in which I do. Through working on HRDCVR, she taught me gratitude, how to manage and collaborate with others and how to keep working even when things weren’t going the way you want at the moment. I think what’s unique about our relationship: She has taught me lots, and I have taught her some things too. Mentor/mentee relationships shouldn’t just be take, take, take. What are you giving? That’s also, just, friendship. We just have a lot of fun together. She put me on to great places to get work done in the city, nail spots, a great hair salon and restaurants. So, in other words, I am forever indebted to her.
What was one moment where you were tested? How did you handle it and what did you learn about yourself?
I’m tested every day. On the subway, on the street, by some man whose legs are wide open in a public space. Still, you have to be a special type of person to shift my vibe. I’m so good at brushing people off now. Being honest about my intentions and learning how to speak up for myself helps others not to test me and therefore prevents me from coming out of character.
What do you do for fun? How do you unwind and relax?
I like to dance around my room. I would actually love to take a break from my life and just take dance classes all summer. Focusing on one thing for a few months would be a new experience for me, and something I am trying to practice more.
I’m into skincare and makeup, so I frequent Sephora. I’m almost a VIB Rogue member. I’m currently digging this site.
Read magazines. You can always catch me on the subway with one. Fast Company, EBONY, FADER, Put A Egg On It. I do love reading the free TIME OUT New Yorks on Wednesdays and always grab one. The book I am reading right now is The Turner House by Angela Flournoy.
Working out is one of the very last things keeping me a sane person living in New York City. I’m definitely one of those people who loves to be pushed in workouts. So I enjoy Barry’s Bootcamp, any type of high interval training and I do like spin classes. I’d like to learn how to play tennis.
What is the lasting impression you would like to leave on this world or in your specific career field? What do you want to be remembered for?
There’s a book I’m reading on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Notorious R.B.G., by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik. In the first chapter they quote her...“I just try to do the good job that I have to the best of my ability and I really don’t think about whether I’m inspirational. I just do the best I can.” I think this is my goal. To say I don’t want to be “known” for something is foolish, I do. But I don’t focus my energy on that now.
I don’t have a dream job or dream company. Everything is bigger than that to me. But, I definitely know the types of projects I’d like to be working on. I want to start interviewing more people and writing profiles. I want to experiment with new ways of presenting news and information. That’s why I started theseam.co. In all, I focus on putting good work into the projects I’ve committed to and serving people through fresh content and experiences. Ultimately, I think that is what I’d like to be remembered for.
What makes you fearless?
I am so glad you’re asking this question. Right now it seems like a trend to focus in on how to get rid of fear, and at this point I’m out of words. What makes me fearless is that I just do, and it is a gift. To get to that point, I had to realize that I had nothing to lose. I’m young, I work hard, and I am constantly learning and challenging myself. I really can’t ask more of myself than what I am doing now. I’d be more exhausted than I already am. If I mess up, I charge it to the game and keep moving.
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