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: Alicia Biggs–Intern to Award-Winning Producer

Alicia BiggsAlicia Biggs arrived at Morgan State University with a passion for television and an internship already under her belt, having worked with Howard County Government Television in Columbia, Md. while in high school. She chose to major in communications with a concentration in television production at Morgan State, and continued to intern throughout her college career (Maryland Public Television and TLC), including an internship through the T. Howard Foundation.

Alicia she learned about T. Howard through her professors and postings on campus. She believed that it was an opportunity to take seriously because it was a paid internship and the application required a written statement, as well as recommendations. The diligence in which she prepared her application paid off and she was awarded an internship with the Independent Film Channel (IFC) for the summer of 2003.

In New York, Alicia gained experience throughout various departments at IFC. “I spent two weeks in each department, including affiliate marketing, public relations, finance and development,” recalls Alicia. The rotating schedule exposed her to the various functions within the company and allowed her to become immersed in different areas. Her range of responsilibilties were varied from “monitoring budgets for finance to writing press releases for PR, to screening pitch videos in development and putting together PowerPoint presentations for affiliate marketing.”

After the T. Howard/IFC internship, Alicia returned to Morgan State to complete her senior year and secured another internship on her own with FitTV, a Discovery Communications channel. The internship turned into a full time job, as Alicia was hired as a Production Assistant with the channel after college graduation in 2004.

Since securing her first full-time position in the media industry, Alicia’s career has continually progressed. “I worked at FitTV for a year, and then I moved on to TV One and spent three years there, was promoted to Associate Producer and from there I jumped over to the National Geographic Channel as a Writer/Producer and spent four and half years there, was promoted, and then moved to Discovery again as a Senior Producer/Senior Writer.”

Alicia BiggsAlicia’s second stint at Discovery ended when she was hired as a Senior Producer at Wee Beastie, a New York creative agency, in January of this year. In this role she writes, shoots video and produces branded entertainment for television networks. One of the agency’s clients is her former employer, National Geographic, and Alicia’s work has garnered multiple Telly and Promax Awards. Last month, she received the 2014 Promax Award for the Discovery Channel/Miller 64 “Shark Week” integration. The Promax is the most coveted award for promo producers.

Of her THF experience and its impact, Alicia says, “The T. Howard experience had a huge impact on my career. The Foundation really gave me a unique experience of working in four different departments in our industry; not a lot of people have the opportunity to get a bird’s eye view into these different departments. From that experience, I learned that I actually really loved public relations and development, which surprised me.” She points out that it is important for students to learn about the range of opportunities in order to gain a better understanding of the media industry, and of which aspect they want to pursue for a career.

Alicia maintains ties with the Foundation by having served as an internship orientation panelist several times and mentoring THF interns over the years. She is also personally committed to the Foundation’s mission of increasing diversity within the media industry. “Having worked in this industry for 10 years, there are actually a lot of women in marketing, but there are very few people of color who are at the executive levels. I feel passionate about getting as many people of color and as many women into this industry as possible. Therefore, I am a huge supporter of the T. Howard Foundation.”