By Chris DeGrazio
Sierra Scarnati, of Belleview, Fla., is working as a freelancer while still in school and agreed to be interviewed for the JCR Weekly‘s New Professional Profile, an ongoing series that highlights the most recent additions to the court reporting and captioning fields. She joined NCRA in 2021.
CD | How did you get interested in court reporting?
SS | I had never heard anything about court reporting until my dad brought a court reporting program brochure home to me.
CD | Who or what inspires you?
SS | The drive to be successful.
CD | What’s something you’ve learned in your first few months of reporting?
SS | I’ve learned that school doesn’t teach you enough. Honestly, I think the best way to do this profession is working as a freelancer. I feel it is more hands-on than working as an official, I guess; more individual help.
CD | Where’s your favorite place to edit?
SS | Laying in my bed with my Sloth laptop desk.
CD | Do you have a mentor?
SS | Yes!
CD | What do you enjoy most about court reporting?
SS | The freedom it gives and to be able earn a decent paycheck within your first year.
CD | How did you feel both going into your first assignment as a reporter and coming out of it?
SS | It was a bittersweet moment for me when I first started working. I didn’t think I was ready to become a professional. My mom even said to me that I should quit court reporting school when I was so close to finishing. And now she is so proud of me that I kept going.
CD | What is your next goal?
SS | RPR certification.
CD | What is a long-term goal?
SS | I always thought owning my own freelance firm would be nice in the future.
CD | Where’s your favorite place to proofread jobs and why?
SS | I am always at home, it seems, with my work. I enjoy lounging in my bed mostly, with the TV playing, because I can’t do this without background noise.
CD | Do you have any advice for reporting students?
SS | Never give up. For some people it takes a few years longer than the average. In the end you’ll see your first paycheck and be really shocked and proud that you’ve made it this far!
CD | What’s something that you’ve learned in the field that you didn’t learn in school?
SS | Examination under oaths, some companies prefer to have your fingerspelling different from what you learn in school, the ethics part of your transcripts, the laws changing about remote swearing people in. There are so many things school doesn’t teach you.
CD | Why did you choose to become a court reporter?
SS | It all kind of fell into place for me. I didn’t know what or who I was going to become, even when I attended college before my court reporting program.
CD | What was the hardest part of transitioning from school to the real world?
SS | Not knowing what other things I needed to take with me or have with me.
CD | What is the ultimate goal in your career?
SS | Another big goal is to travel with this job. You can take this anywhere.
CD | If you could sum up your first year in one word, what would it be?
SS | Overwhelming.
CD | What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started out?
SS | How to keep everything organized and how to manage the pages I need to scope and proofread daily.
CD | What’s your “can’t live without” item in your steno bag?
SS | My steno machine.
CD | What did you do to remain positive and motivated?
SS | I told myself that I’m a slower learner than everyone else.
CD | What is your biggest challenge as a new reporter?
SS | Being on Zoom and you can’t always hear when they are talking over each other. Of course, you speak up. Some lawyers or witnesses don’t understand that there is a lag in the internet connection.
CD | What’s the coolest experience you have had working in the profession?
SS | The vast array of cases that you hear about.
CD | How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
SS | Take days off as much as I allow myself to do. I am a freelance reporter, which means sometimes you don’t want to take days off because you don’t know when it will be feast or famine.
CD | What are some of your favorite time-saving practices, techniques, or gadgets?
SS | Don’t have any. It will be interesting to hear or read about what everyone else uses, though.
Sierra Scarnati is a freelance reporter based in Florida. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Chris DeGrazio is a freelance reporter in Fort Pierce, Fla. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.