An Interview with Ebony Francis
Before the summer of 2013, Ebony was a broadcast journalism major in the top-ranked Missouri School of Journalism, at the University of Missouri. And she was hot to work at a major network for her first internship.
Fast-forward to the fall of 2013 and you’ll see a different story. And that’s the difference a summer can make.
Now happily pursuing her degree in Advertising, Ebony (who is currently interning at an ad agency in San Francisco) sat down with this reporter to talk about walking the walk, shifting perspectives and how to make a meal work for you.
So where did you intern?
I was an Education Services Intern at the American Advertising Federation (AAF), an ethics and standards-setting organization for the advertising industry. It’s a membership organization for agencies, university students and individual professionals with chapters around the country.
How did you get it?
I landed this internship through Louis Carr Foundation for minorities in media, which provides paid internships for students of color at some of the world’s leading marketing and media companies. I went through a pretty rigorous two-round interview process. Then 10 of us were hired and placed at different media outlets around the country.
How did you find it?
Googling around on the Internet. I started looking in November 2012 for a June 2013 internship.
So the summer of 2013 changed a lot for you, including your major, can you talk about that?
In high school I worked at our school paper and television show. And that’s all that I thought was available to me, so I focused on Broadcast Journalism. Then I got the internship at AAF, and I started to see the big picture of the industry, and I began to talk to some high level executives, like Wallace Snyder, the former CEO of AAF. He gave me such a rich history and respect for the work. Also, AAF runs Ad Camp, a summer program for junior and senior high school students who are interested in careers in advertising. I became a counselor for Ad Camp and learned as I taught – taking students through how a campaign is made and executed, for example. That changed everything.
Yeah, something just made sense for me. I looked into the Strategic Communications Department at M.U. and found out it has a great reputation too. I’m now on the Account Management track in that department.
To work as an Account Planner at Leo Burnett at the primary office in Chicago – they have such a strong culture, they understand brand purpose, and the work they put out is really inspiring.
Do you have a mentor?
I have a couple. One I connected with through a woman’s society at U.M. She’s not even in my field, but she is so motivating and easy to reach when I need her. Another, I met through Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP), an initiative of the 4 A’s. Close to 100 students are placed in internships at major agencies across the country (I’m in San Francisco), and it also connects us with a mentor who is a MAIP alumni, and I’ve discovered a recent mentor in the agency office where we are working. There are special personal mentors of mine, but I really see each person, following their passions and open to discuss their path to success, as a kind of “mentor” to connect with.
Do you network?
I network as a way of life. I’m interested in people, what they do, how they do it, how they got where they are. I’m always networking.
I believe in making the most of an opportunity. Not just in the office, but out in the city where you are. Take the time to get to know the culture of your office, the networking opportunities and events, like the Facebook Group Interns in D.C., for example. And WISH has a Facebook Group and lists events. Don’t just think of it as a 9-5 thing, but 7 days a week, 16 hours a day, ask yourself “how can I grow in my field?”
What was biggest surprise about your internship at AAF?
Well, first of all, that it wasn’t in what I thought I wanted – broadcast. And the first few weeks I was doing a lot of clerical work – calls, emails, ordering supplies, etc… I was worried that I wouldn’t be challenged. But I was also given a few small projects. So after a few weeks of feeling like it might be a non-experience gaining summer, I stopped. I focused on “what can I get from this particular opportunity.” It not only changed my experience, it shaped my outlook going forward. I changed majors.
Best thing about D.C.?
Diversity. D.C. is a great mix of cultures and people. I didn’t have a car last summer, so I did a lot of metro and walking, and it was a great way to explore.
One thing you would recommend I bring with me to D.C.?
Walking shoes! I highly recommend exploring the city by foot. Best way to get to know it. And the WISH housing is in a great location, a great home base.
Advice to future and current interns?
Never have lunch alone. Even if it’s not with someone in your office, don’t miss an opportunity to connect with someone. Sit with someone at the deli and start a conversation. You never know where that connection might lead. And when you make a connection, always follow up!