T. Howard Foundation “Squads Up” With 80 New Interns at Media Boot Camp

Nearly 80 minority college students from top institutions across the country joined together for the T. Howard Foundation’s Summer Intern Orientation last week in Silver Spring, Md. Billed as a Media Industry Boot Camp (#THFSQUAD), the students selected for THF’s highly competitive internship program participated in interactive sessions to fully prepare for their summer media industry internships and future careers.

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DAY ONE
Jamie Washington, M. Div., Ph.D., President and Founder, Washington Consulting Group, opened the annual 2 ½ day orientation by having the students leave their seats and their comfort zones to speak with at least five students they had never met. Each student then chose a partner—again, someone they didn’t know— to answer the question: What do you see in your day-to-day interactions on campus or at your internship that necessitates conversations about diversity and identity?

“You have to be ready to show up and engage in diversity in an authentic way.”—Jamie Washington, Washington Consulting Group

After taking their first professional headshots, the students participated in a human resources session. Suzie Araujo, Senior Manager, Talent Management at Discovery Communications and Tiffany Lan, Human Resources Generalist at AMC Networks advised the students in scenarios on how to appropriately turn down a job offer, handle inappropriate/offensive comments made by a colleague, ask for a potential endorsement for a position they’re interested in pursuing, how to best work on team projects and cross-generational collaboration.

The interns learned about employee resource groups—also known as diversity councils and affinity groups—where employees of marginalized identities can find communities and build connections. Led by Jamie Riley, Ph.D., Assistant Dean of Students & Director, LEAD Center, University of California, Berkeley and Alethea Spencer, Media Operations professional, Discovery Communications & Lead Co-Chair, Asian Cultural Alliance, the interns were urged to participate in such groups at their internship host companies that foster a culture of inclusion.

Day One closed with an engaging panel discussion on networking, led by Reynaldo Casas, Entertainment and Media Professional; Mercy Chikowore, Communications Manager, Washington Area Women’s Foundation; Howie Hodges, Vice President, External Affairs, Time Warner Cable; and Claritza Jiménez, Digital Video Editor, The Washington Post.
The panelists provided interns with realistic expectations of networking relationships by sharing their own real-world experiences. Highlights and advice from the panel included the importance of:

  • Developing long-term relationships with professionals. It is not enough to simply exchange business cards with someone in order to land a job. Build quality relationships through networking.
  • Networking with peers and supervisors rather than having the sole goal of meeting executives. Build networks across—not just up.
  • Defining the objective of their internships and approach the opportunities with a clear strategy. Take deliberate steps to make most of the summer experiences.

DAY TWO
Sabrina Garba, Founder & CEO of the Glass Ladder Group, kicked off Day Two of Summer Intern Orientation. Though the orientation serves as a media industry boot camp, the information she provided is critical for young professionals entering the workforce in any industry.

Garba kept it real with the students regarding business communication and personal presentation. She highlighted the generational shifts that workplaces in all industries are experiencing—that interns will work with up to four different generations and four different communications styles.

“Always be authentic, but always show up at your best for the company you’re working for.” —Sabrina Garba, Founder & CEO, Glass Ladder Group

The media industry is one that is constantly changing, and Michelle Rice, Executive Vice President, Content Distribution and Marketing at TV One, explained the current state of the media industry and how it is impacting employees and consumers at all levels. The traditional TV model has been disrupted, and 50 percent of consumers now binge watch their favorite programs. Networks are using content to create experiences and change the game.

Christine Creighton, an instructor with Speakeasy, conducted an interactive presentation on how to effectively speak in public settings and deliver powerful, authentic and clear presentations.

UC Berkeley’s Jamie Riley, Ph.D. returned for Day Two to facilitate a discussion with interns on workplace gender inequities. Luis Clemens, Senior Editor for Diversity, NPR, also shared lessons and insights he learned from a long career in journalism. The students engaged in conversations that explored our gender binary system (masculinity vs. femininity, male vs. female), increasing overall self-awareness.

A highlight of each Summer Intern Orientation is for current THF interns to interact with THF alumni who leveraged their internships to gain full-time employment in the media industry, and how THF assisted them in doing so. This year’s alumni panel included Kelsey Howell (THF ’10), Marketing Strategy Manager, Discovery Communications; Soon Kwon (THF ’05), Writer/Producer, Showtime Networks; Brandon Putnam (THF ’12), Marketing Specialist, Monumental Sports & Entertainment; and Lamar Smith (THF ’11, ‘12), Associate Producer, Discovery Communications.

Day Two ended with a reception for students to continue practicing their newly acquired networking techniques with media industry professionals and THF alumni.

DAY THREE
On the final day of orientation, the students broke the ice with each other by highlighting one person in the group of 80 who they didn’t know prior to attending orientation. They introduced that person, sharing one thing they learned about him or her and something they admire and respect.

Following the icebreaker, the students participated in a discussion about their first steps toward to financial independence, led by Michael McGowen of Mylestone Plans.

The THF summer experience is not all work and no play. At the end of the final morning, the interns broke off into groups based on their internships city (NYC, Atlanta, DC, Philadelphia and Los Angeles). The individual groups elected social chairpersons from each city to plan activities in which the T. Howard Foundation interns could participate together over the summer.

Following Orientation, the students traveled to their internship cities to begin their career journeys in the media industry—well prepared and motivated.

T. Howard Foundation Diversity Partners (Nielsen, Grey, MSG Networks, NPR and Reuters) sponsored this year’s Summer Intern Orientation.

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