Alumni Spotlight: Christian Ortega–On the Path to Success

Christian_Ortega“I had just graduated college when I started my T. Howard internship. I was a day late for orientation in Silver Spring because I was participating in my graduation ceremony.”

As Christian Ortega reflects on the start of his T. Howard Foundation internship, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native would have never imagined that after he crossed the stage in 2011 and received his bachelor’s degree from Baruch College that his next step would be working at Viacom. “I wanted to get into accounting but I lost interest in it and opted to earn a marketing degree,” he stated.

His interest in pursuing a career in the media industry was sparked by another internship during the Fall 2010 semester at MTV Networks. Although he had gained some experience, Christian still felt uncertain on how to leverage his degree in marketing in the media industry.

He learned about the T. Howard Foundation’s Internship Program from the career services department at Baruch, applied, and landed the internship with Viacom. Christian says that his THF experience gave him the opportunity to explore one of the largest media companies and find his niche. “I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment industry in some capacity and T. Howard helped steer me into ad sales.”

Most college students aspire to land a job by graduation and many view postgraduate internships negatively. Christian also had some reservations about being an intern with a degree. “It was scary because it was an internship. It wasn’t a full time job, so I knew what I had to do. I knew that I had to market and position myself to be offered a full-time entry-level job.”

While working on projects for Nickelodeon (a Viacom network), he managed to schedule several informational interviews with executives throughout the company. Christian says that his supervisors encouraged and sometimes assisted him in scheduling meetings that allowed him to gain exposure to several of Viacom’s networks and truly maximize his internship experience.

One of his most important takeaways from his time at Viacom was the knowledge he gained about sales. Christian says, “I learned a lot about the affiliate and national ad sales, subscription fees and the negotiations that can carry on for months.”

His initiative during the summer internship had a direct link to his first full-time job in the industry. In March 2012, he was hired as a Sales Assistant at Discovery Communications, resulting from his relationship with THF. Christian became aware of the opportunity through the Foundation’s alumni listserv. He touts the Foundation to students for helping him to launch his career. “If you are eager and you really want to be in the media and entertainment industry, T. Howard is a great way to get your foot in the door; they have fantastic contacts. It’s just an outstanding resource for any young minority who wants to get into the industry.”

Christian worked on national accounts for Investigation Discovery and TLC for 18 months before accepting the position of Sales Planner at 20th Century Fox in 2013.

He values THF’s mission of diversifying the media industry, and feels the responsibility to mentor students in the same way he was supported as a college student.

Alumni Spotlight: Steven DeShields–Rising Star

Steven DeShields speaks at the 2014 Diversity Awards Dinner

Steven DeShields speaks at the 2014 Diversity Awards Dinner

“My degree in broadcast journalism and marketing from Delaware State University says that I am teachable, but the 10-week journey at Viacom is where I learned how to survive and be successful in this industry; and this is all because of the incredible internship opportunity I had provided by the T. Howard Foundation.”

Steven DeShields, THF ’05, was recognized as a “rising star” at this year’s Diversity Awards Dinner, held March 26 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York.

T. Howard Foundation staff chose Steven as this year’s “Rising Star” because he has shown great promise as a young professional and has remained connected and committed to the Foundation.

We recently spoke with Steven about his journey from being a T. Howard intern to working full-time in the media industry. Here are his thoughts, in his own words.

Steven DeShields and Taylor Adams, VP Affiliate Sales, Showtime Networks at the 2014 Diversity Awards Dinner

Steven DeShields and Taylor Adams, VP Affiliate Sales, Showtime Networks at the 2014 Diversity Awards Dinner

How did you first learn about the T. Howard Foundation?
In 2005, I attended the Howard University job fair. The T. Howard Foundation was at the job fair, so I grabbed information and applications and filled it out over my spring break while I was home in Philadelphia.

What attracted you to the Foundation and the internship program?
Immediately, that it was paid (laughs). But I knew the importance of getting an internship in the industry. My professors and advisors at Delaware State told me that it was crucial to get an internship in the industry; practical experience is a necessity for success. I was also attracted to the Foundation because it is geared toward internships, and ultimately careers, for minorities. Diversity in all industries—especially the media business, is important to me.

What were your career goals before learning about the T. Howard Foundation?
My dream was to work in broadcast journalism—primarily in sports. I continue to hone on that craft and I’m a student of the sports world. I’m a big fan of ESPN and other sports networks— that’s what I entered school for. I decided, however, to pick up another bag of tricks in the industry—and not put all my eggs in one basket.

Where did you intern through T. Howard?
I interned for Viacom, back when it was coined MTV Networks, and I worked specifically for nick@nite and TVLand’s on-air creative group.

I was an intern production assistant. My college advisor told me to act like I worked there because then I’d get the most out of the internship. You won’t learn anything getting coffee, and the Foundation really set the bar. During my 10 weeks as a Viacom intern, I worked with producers an associate producers.

I worked on a package, or a “stunt” for nick@nite, sponsored by Head & Shoulders shampoo to find the “sexiest hair on nick@nite.” I sat through hours of “Full House” episodes trying to find video of John Stamos playing with his hair. I then had to consolidate 40 episodes into 30 seconds.

What was your career journey after your internship?
I made it a point to stay in touch with folks from the Foundation and people I met at my class’s Diversity Awards Dinner.

After my college graduation, I moved to Atlanta and worked in radio promotions and sales for about a year and a half. I then found my way back to Viacom using relationships I had formed during my internship.

I spent 5 years at Viacom in ad sales for Nickelodeon, and then in a group that trained ad sales employees for the entire company. That was from 2008 until December 2012. I continued to work my relationships and caught the eye of people at Showtime to help train and develop for them.

What’s your current position at Showtime Networks?
I’m a manager, point of sale for Showtime Networks. I have one client, Verizon, and my job is to hit the road and visit to Verizon call center environments where people proactively call about their Verizon service, and I make sure call center employees are involved in selling Showtime programming.

How do you currently interact with the Foundation?
I’ve participated in a couple of internship orientations and sat on an alumni panel. Every opportunity I can get to do my part, I do. I do want to see many more male alumni to come back and work with the Foundation. I want to pay it forward.

What was the most memorable aspect of this year’s Diversity Awards Dinner for you?
The interns—hands-down. The Diversity Awards Dinner is about them and you really get the opportunity to see how great the Foundation is in cultivating the interns.

The former interns weren’t just there for the dinner, to look nice and hear their names, but they made it a point to be aggressive and deliberate.

What continues to impress me about T. Howard interns is how they truly want to work in the industry; they are so eager. That’s something that’s always the biggest takeaway from the dinner.