The Mill Women’s Mentorship Program | Meet Head of Production NY Jaz Rongokea and Associate Production Manager Rithika Iyer

We are sharing the experiences of the people in The Mill’s very own Women’s Mentorship Program across March. In our fourth interview of this mentor-mentee series, we chatted with Head of Production (NY) Jaz Rongokea and Associate Production Manager Rithika Iyer as they share their thoughts on mentorship, their experience in this group, and their careers.
Community March 29, 2023

Talk to us about your role within The Mill. 

Jaz: I have the enormous pleasure of heading up Production in our New York studio, managing all our talented producers. Since starting this role, I’ve had some of the most fun and rewarding times of my career, and that’s down to the simple fact that each and every member of the team is brilliant.

Rithika: I’m an Associate Production Manager at The Mill, which is a fancy way of saying I manage the execution of the brilliant VFX work our artists do on commercials, and the occasional film or episodic project. In conjunction with the supervisors and leads who look after the creative process, I basically ensure that we have the right resources to make the magic happen on time (some might say schedule) and within budget. Sounds simple, but it takes a lot of planning and hard work to take a project from start to finish (mostly) smoothly.

What skills did you find helped you take your first step into the VFX industry? 

Jaz: Not sure you’d call it a skill exactly, but being open minded and not taking yourself too seriously were key to me getting into the industry. VFX can be a big daunting world to enter into, so having those things were especially helpful considering I didn’t even know what VFX was when I started as a receptionist at Weta 16 years ago! At least I could laugh at myself when I stopped a dailies session to ask the VFX Sup what a render was…

Rithika: I come from a literary and artist background, and it was and is an amalgamation of skills I picked up from both those sectors that keep me taking steps forward in the VFX industry. I have a history of writing (fiction, poetry and non-fiction), which strengthened my communication in English, which is a key advantage in a global company like The Mill. Storytelling also led me to explore film and eventually landed me in VFX. I worked as a freelance artist for a few years across multiple departments (mostly 3D) before deciding to pursue a formal career in Production, so I also bring with me a fair idea of the creative process and the tools and methods used.

How has the mentorship group impacted you?  

Jaz: Being paired up with Rithika made my first time mentoring a walk in the park. She is a star and half the time when she thinks she’s asking my help or advice, she’s actually already figured out the answer. Watching her grow and succeed has been fabulous to watch, and also inspiring – for me to keep growing too.

Rithika: I’ve been a part of the mentorship program since its inception in 2020. My previous mentor was a creative supervisor since I wanted to better understand how projects are approached creatively at the other sites of The Mill. After she left the organisation, I was paired with Jaz as I wanted to focus more on growing within Production. Our catchups over the last year have been quite insightful, especially when it came to advice on balancing my primary responsibility as a Producer with my additional responsibilities of Production training and managing/mentoring the Production Coordinators. The best part is the flexibility – even if we’re too busy to set aside time for a full-fledged video call, our mentors are just a message away (time zones considered) if there’s something pressing to discuss.

What do you think is the biggest benefit of mentorship? 

Jaz: Learning goes both ways. The biggest pro outside of that is having someone who’s been there and done that, someone you can call or message whenever you need advice or a different perspective or just for a vent/laugh/sanity check. Getting to be that role for someone else has been really lovely, like gaining a new sibling.

Rithika: The biggest benefit of mentorship is that you can get insights from someone who has been in your shoes in the past and grown from there to where they are today. It’s helpful in navigating the ups and downs of day-to-day work and inspirational for the way forward.

How do you think the inclusive culture at The Mill and Technicolor shapes our workplace? 

Jaz: Anyone can have an idea, a suggestion, anything – and everyone will take you seriously. It is open, accepting, collaborative and just loads of fun. That goes a long way into helping shape the culture in a workplace.

Rithika: As far as work culture goes, Advertising at Technicolor is yet to let me down. I’ve been with the studio since 2019, and there has never been a time that I didn’t feel like I could approach my peers and seniors with any concerns or suggestions. We also have people from several walks of life and varied professional backgrounds across all levels and departments. That openness and inclusion is definitely something I’ve appreciated in my time here.

Learn more about The Mill’s people and culture here.