Untethering creative talent, driving diversity in storytelling with an inclusive, hybrid workforce.
Hello Sunshine is a mission-driven media business. Its aim is to find, create, and publish content with women at the center of the story.
Founded in 2016 by Reese Witherspoon, the company recognizes that if it is to change the narrative for women, it must do things differently than the mainstream. Hello Sunshine is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, and has built a reputation for creating platform-defining projects and award-winning series and films. Its content is multimedia by design, spanning film, TV, podcasts, and social.
The approach is working. Hello Sunshine content has already garnered 18 Emmy nominations. In 2021, Time magazine ranked Hello Sunshine to be one of the world's most influential companies.
"We're a pretty unique organization," says Sarah Oxman, Senior Director of Operations, Hello Sunshine. "We look at things differently. We're DIYers and problem solvers. It's unlike most places I’ve worked."
The company's initial, office-based workstyle was similar to most media businesses. Work centered around the office, creative meetings were face-to-face, and there would be all-hands meetings, with attendees physically present, to start each week.
"We were not a company that liked the idea of hybrid working. We didn't want the team working remotely," Oxman admits, "and then COVID happened."
In less than two years, Hello Sunshine has transformed its workplace culture. It has embraced the advantages of hybrid work to build an environment that is more inclusive, creative, and agile—all in the service of creating and promoting content with women at the heart.
"We've seen that Hello Sunshine is made up of an amazing group of people," Oxman says. "I think the last two years have demonstrated our ability to adapt and change. We've not just survived, we’ve flourished."
“Hello Sunshine is made up of an amazing group of people. I think the last two years have demonstrated our ability to adapt and change. We've not just survived, we've flourished. Hybrid work is flexible and enables our high-performing teams, but it does not require 12-hour days and an always-on work culture.”Sarah Oxman, Senior Director of Operations
At Hello Sunshine, hybrid work means agile working. It also demands secure workflows.
"We have all the usual security issues of an average business, plus the particular demands of the media industry and the unique challenges that come with having a close association with a high-profile figure," says Damien Clark, CEO of Feedwire, providers of IT services to Hello Sunshine. "We have targeted attacks."
Secure, hybrid work at Hello Sunshine is built on Cisco Meraki and Cisco Umbrella solutions. Specifically, it includes Meraki Wi-Fi 6 access points and switching, MX250 cloud-managed security, SD-WAN appliance, and Umbrella. This establishes enterprise-grade security, capacity, performance, and Layer 7 application visibility.
"We were able to close two old offices and open a new office with less than a zero-touch deployment," says Clark. "Meraki meant we could install the network before it was deployed. It was negative touch." With Umbrella, Hello Sunshine was able to simplify and streamline its cloud security, so team members are protected no matter where they work.
"Improving security without increasing friction is the game, and it's pretty tough," says Clark. Umbrella provides Hello Sunshine with visibility across all remote or on-site devices, ports, and cloud services. This visibility and protection against phishing and malware attacks allows the Hello Sunshine team to be creative—with their data fully protected.
In addition, the new Los Angeles head office is fitted with Cisco Meraki MV22 cloud-managed smart cameras as well as MT10 and MT20 environmental sensors. As part of its industry security commitments for the protection of intellectual property, Hello Sunshine must ensure the doors in and out of its server rooms and post-production suites are monitored 24/7.
"The Meraki cameras are an ideal option for us," says Clark. "We can control the cameras remotely; there is much less risk of them being hacked, and with the storage contained within the camera, they are quicker and easier for to us to deploy."
Meeting industry security requirements is a practical prerequisite, but the cameras have already made a noticeable impact, says Oxman: "We have one in the CEO's office. We spotted a water leak coming from the ceiling, via a camera feed to a mobile, and we were able to fix the problem and swap out the rug without anyone noticing."
Hello Sunshine has tripled its headcount since early 2020, up from 30 employees to more than 130. The mission remains the same, but the workstyle has been transformed.
Hybrid work has now untethered project teams from the Los Angeles office. All-hands meetings are no longer strictly in-person. "We might have 100 people in the room and 50 people dialing in," says Oxman. "There is a lot more attention on how remote teams present. As a business we have a lot more going on."
Work is underway to expand the Nashville office, with a second office in New York operational and a fourth location—likely to be London—in the plans. "We have projects ongoing all round the world, with many different deadlines. Our unscripted content division is growing, as are our direct-to-consumer offerings; we're working with lots of brands," Oxman says.
Hybrid work allows the business to extend its reach beyond Los Angeles. It is key to Hello Sunshine's ability to access new talent outside of the traditional media hotspots. "Technology enables greater diversity of thought as we can recruit untapped voices and reach multitudes of audiences," says Vice President of Human Resources Hilary Straw.
Women worldwide were adversely impacted, in terms of career, home life, and health, by the pandemic. A diversity of talent will help Hello Sunshine find, tell, and promote women-focused stories.
"At the core of our mission is the belief in authentic authorship," says Zoe Fairbourn, Head of Partnerships. "This means that the writers, directors, and talent we work with to bring that story to life need to represent diversity in voices."
"Our leadership team has been very good at setting a new culture and supporting people's choice of workstyle," Oxman adds. "Hybrid work is flexible and enables our high-performing teams, but it does not require 12-hour days and an always-on work culture."
The business can flex in order to accommodate project demands. Clark says the Cisco engagement creates a platform for an agile business. The Feedwire network team can provision new locations without leaving Los Angeles. "We're able to support networks where we don't have boots on the ground," he says. "As much as I love Nashville, people want their problems solved faster than I can fly there. Cisco Meraki cloud management means I can be on site virtually a lot faster than being there physically.
"With Cisco Umbrella, I feel secure knowing that we're protected against malicious domains, IP addresses, and cloud applications before a connection is ever established."
Time and effort saved are resources that can be directed into user support, Clark adds: "Hybrid has changed tech support. As much as Hello Sunshine is made up of problem solvers, tech support is no longer 9-to-5. People expect system availability 24/7. And managing all of our networking devices, cameras, security, and clients from the same dashboard is a huge time saver for our limited IT resources.
"It is imperative we have a reliable network. It’s good to know we have, in Cisco, a partner we can lean on."