Alumni Spotlight: Nkongho Beteck–Summer Internship Changed Career Goals

“This summer, I watched a CEO get hypnotized and a VP get a pie in the face, but along the way, I was able to have intimate meetings with senior leadership and complete the phases of an actual business plan to present to a company.

 I admit, at first I was not extremely excited about my internship position; I was envious of the other T. Howard interns who had positions at top media companies in New York. However, my eight weeks at SmartBrief showed me that an internship or job position, like life, TRULY is what you decide to make it, and I would not have traded this internship for any other.”

Nkongho Beteck I was born in Cameroon, and I now live in Salisbury, Md., and as a multiplatform journalism major at the University of Maryland, I always thought I wanted to be a female version of Woodward and Bernstein.

UMD Faculty Introduced T. Howard Foundation
The journalism school at University of Maryland is great because the faculty is constantly sending internship and employment opportunities, and that’s how I discovered T. Howard. I liked the fact that it is a designated program, which seems a little less intimidating.

During the T. Howard Internship Program interview process, I imagined interning in New York, because it’s the publishing capital. DC was my second choice, but it rose to the top because it’s closer to home and I could secure housing.

SmartBrief Culture Evident at First Meeting
After I was admitted to THF’s Final Talent Pool, I secured two interviews, including one at SmartBrief. When I went to SmartBrief’s office, the minute the assistant came up to me, I could already get a sense of how the work culture is. Shortly after my interview at SmartBrief, I was offered an internship in the content department.

SmartBrief is a news aggregator; they produce different newsletters for hyper-niche trade industries ranging from the confectioners sugar industry to the national retail industry. People working in particular industries can receive tailored newsletters just for those hyper-niche interests. That’s what made me fall in love with SmartBrief.

THF Intern Orientation Provided Opportunity to Meet Like-Minded Student Leaders
Before beginning my internship, I was really excited to meet the other interns at Summer Intern Orientation. Because THF interns are the “cream of the crop”—the go-getters at our universities—and to be in the room with other students who had similar mindsets was really fun, but also intimidating. It’s beneficial to be around people who have that mindset because you can pick and choose the characteristics you like in others, and that can end up making you a better leader.

SmartBrief Interns

2014 SmartBrief Interns

SmartBrief is Team-Focused, Yet Workers are Autonomous
The number one thing that made my internship great was that I had to be self-motivated from day one. SmartBrief is an organization where people are not going to micromanage you. I liked having the independence to do different things.

When I first came into the content department, I completed my assignments, including writing newsletter briefs, and thought that I’d like to work in the product department, because I was interested in the fact that that department was creating a new website. I ended up meeting with some of the supervisors, who were happy to help me. It was great having the flexibility to go to different departments—but it was up to me. I had to be proactive to do something more; not that I didn’t love what I was doing, but I really wanted to maximize the short time I had there.

I was surprised that people who were in senior leadership roles at SmartBrief really cared about how I was doing as an intern, and where I could go in the industry. They often asked me for advice on connecting with millennials.

Experience Changed Career Goals
Before my T. Howard internship, I wanted to be a reporter and produce content. The problem now is that I want to do everything! I love writing and being a team player, and I realized that I can apply my talents to a number of different types of organizations.

I’m now interested in knowing how consumers receive information, why they share things, why they like things and how to get people to interact more with the news—that’s where I see myself working.

Now I have an idea of entrepreneurship. I’m leaning more toward diversity in the workplace and catering to different audiences. I’d love to own my own multicultural, millennial, multi-lingual agency in the DC area, because its so diverse.

THF Creates Opportunities for Growth
I have more confidence now. The T. Howard Foundation builds a platform of confidence, where everything is really in our hands, and we have to continue to lead as we do on campus. It doesn’t stop here.

The amount of confidence I gained this summer is invaluable, and continues to shape the person I am.

Nkongho Beteck is senior multiplatform journalism major at University of Maryland, and T. Howard alumna (’14).