Meet Maria Hanafy: Managing Director at Animated Storyboards

I had the pleasure of meeting Maria a few years ago, when we were just two California girls figuring out how to integrate into the "New York state of mind." We bonded over meatballs and wine on the lower east side of the city. Three things were evident: 1) She was smart and business savvy, 2) She was a risk taker, and 3) She knew how to rock a killer red lipstick. All things I look for in new friends (I'm only sort of joking). But seriously, after our first few "friend dates," I was so impressed with how comfortable Maria was in her skin, and the risk she took coming to the Big Apple to make her career dreams come true. Maria did just that. I love seeing women win! It is my pleasure to introduce you to this month's Woman of Resilience, Maria Hanafy.

- Minda Harts
Founder, The Memo

What would surprise people most about your role at Animated Storyboards?

Well, most people don't understand what I do. I am the Managing Director for Animated Storyboards, Toronto. We specifically offer animation services for commercial research testing, digital, out-of-home (OOH), and broadcast. As an animation company, we are now entering the experiential space with new technology in Virtual Reality. I find that most people find the niche commercial market I work in most surprising. Once I explain my company's offerings (I've done this at least 10 times with my own family members), most people also seem surprised that I'm the decision maker in my office. I hired my team, oversee their workflow, collaborate very closely with my American counterparts, and am constantly seeking the best approaches to service the Canadian market.

How did you end up choosing a career in the animation industry?

I knew from a young age that I wanted a meaningful and enjoyable career. My mother didn't love her job and I didn't want to follow in her footsteps of dreading the next day in the office. I wanted to work in an industry where women were respected, could move up the ladder and have a strong voice with global reach. I found that working in media fit that professional goal for me. I interned and freelanced nonstop in college. Those connections I made then led to great opportunities once I was ready to enter the workforce full-time. From there, I began working in Television Development, Talent Casting, Broadcast Production, Advertising and now Marketing for a global animation company.

I've taken several risks in my career. For example, I moved from San Francisco to New York City, jobless, with only the hope of finding a better job. I've always set timelines for myself. I’d stay with a company for a specified amount of time, then move elsewhere in order to learn more. I landed working for a company that has relocated me twice to unique global markets. These decisions allowed me to hop around in the industry and expand my skill-set. Thankfully, those risks and choices made my work experience well-rounded in the creative production space.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Instagram and entrepreneurial women! Every day, I see people creating beautiful things and I read about change-makers in our world. I am constantly inspired by women who challenge themselves and decide to make the world more efficient and a more beautiful place. I find go-getters incredibly inspiring and work every day to strive and be a better creator and leader.

How important is a good support system?

A support system is essential to personal and professional progress and as a result, it's incredibly important. Mandatory even! My girlfriend/life partner is my rock. I can lean on her when I need to vent or bounce off ideas without judgment. In my professional world, my colleagues work in a very collaborative environment. We have a "one team, one dream" mentality so I can easily pick the phone up and call my CEO about a project I'm bidding or Skype a colleague about how to tackle a particular problem. I sometimes need reassurance in decisions I make and my support system is in place to be my center and my voice of reason.

What advice would you give women who are interested in your industry?

Work work work. The creative industry is fun and has its perks, but it requires late nights, work on the weekends, and being glued to your phone at all times. If you're looking to enter this industry, see which roles interest you most and talk to those people working your dream job. Intern, volunteer, ask questions, be available to work on the unexpected projects, and always have a positive attitude. Everyone likes a doer - complainers don't get far. My advice to women looking to enter the animation industry would be to cold email someone or ask a friend to set up an introduction meeting. Just say, "Hey, can I steal 15 minutes of your time and pick your brain over tea?" Knowledge is power and we all like to share the love.

What are some lessons you've learned?

  1. Respect people's work styles and opinions. Everyone has their way of completing a job/project. Once a project wraps, talk to your team and figure out what worked and what didn't so everyone is on the same page once the next project comes your way.

  2. Be a yes woman! Clients and your team never want to hear "no," so if an issue comes up that seems challenging, be a problem solver and find a way to make it work.

  3. Always be calm and happy! A positive and calm demeanor in any work situation goes a long way with your team and your superiors. People will remember you for that and think of you when something bigger or better arises.

What are a few of your favorite must-haves?

A calendar, lipstick and a pen/notebook. If you aren't in my calendar or written down in my notepad, it will never get done and you don't exist. I'm about progress, and anything that can help me get the job done both professionally and personally will make me a better, more productive, and happier human being. Also, I love a lady with some color on her face, so I try to always keep my lips “on point” because it helps me feel confident and fabulous.

Animated Storyboards is the largest global full-service animation company, specializing in pre-viz, animatic and digital production. Maria Hanafy’s journey to Animated Storyboards and her role as their Managing Director was a result of taking risks throughout her career, making connections, and being unafraid to try different roles/industries.
To learn more about Animated Storyboards, visit their website at: