Every year, the Department of Communication takes a select group of undergraduate students on career exploration trips locally in Seattle. Our generous alumni make these immersive experiences possible by welcoming us into their workplaces and sharing their knowledge with students. This is a great opportunity for students to learn about different industries, and build their professional networks. Read on for highlights from the 2019 winter and spring quarter Seattle Career Exploration trips.
On the winter quarter trip, we visited some very established journalism and media outlets:
Our first stop was KUOW Radio in the University District. We were all wowed by their new office space, which is filled with pictures and artifacts depicting KUOW’s history.
Social Media Producer (UW alumna) Brie Ripley gave us a tour of the office and recording studios, and then spoke to students about the internships and projects that led her to KUOW. She shared with our students how and why:
- Managing social media for a news organization is an interesting job; she gets the opportunity to collaborate across functions, build relationships, be creative, and produce social assets, including videos like the KUOW “It Starts with Listening” campaign.
- For social media success, it’s important to focus on engagement and invite your audience to have a voice.
- You should not be afraid to fail hard and fast, and constantly keep learning new things.
We also met with Brie’s colleagues, Podcast Producer, Caroline Gomez and Emerging Platforms Producer, Clare McGrane. They talked about their experiments in digital audio, and how rewarding it is to see the impact of their creative work. While it is hard to build an audience for podcasts, it’s exciting to connect with audiences and offer them something valuable, they explained.
We next explored broadcast journalism, and met with Susannah Frame, Chief Investigative Reporter at King 5. With over three decades of experience in the field, Susannah shared several nuggets of wisdom with the students, including how:
- Her college internships with the Sonics and KIRO TV sports, among others, were instrumental in shaping her craft.
- She has adapted to different platforms over time, and learned what it takes to be successful as a broadcast journalist in a “digital-first” world.
- Social media has greatly influenced the way that news is sourced and shared.
We loved hearing about Susannah’s experiences while working on “Back of the Class,” a series on the state of special education in Washington. She said it was incredibly rewarding for her when pressure resulting from her efforts spurred budget increases for special education, and that wins like these make an investigative reporter hungry to drive more impact.
We then went on a tour of the studio, and watched the live taping of Take 5 Seattle, an evening magazine program on King 5. Much to our delight, the team surprised us and put our students on camera as special visitors of the day!
The Fearey Group
Next, we visited the Fearey Group, a public affairs and strategic communications firm in downtown Seattle. We met with Kyle Wall, Senior Account Executive. The Fearey Group serves mostly Seattle-based clients spanning across healthcare, lifestyle, non-profit, real estate, and other industries; they like connecting with the community and being a voice and resource for local businesses.
- What it takes to succeed in PR; they emphasized the importance of project management, clear communication, SEO knowledge, and the soft skills needed to build trusting relationships.
- Why social media is integral to PR strategy these days; clients are faced with challenging situations and oftentimes, social media is the first line of defense and storytelling.
Our students learned about their upcoming internship program, and even met with their current intern, Erin Dubots.
The Seattle Times
A Seattle institution, we were stoked to visit the Seattle Times’ office space in South Lake Union. We were greeted by alumnus Mohammed (Moh) Kloub who was the 2016-17 Editor-In-Chief of The Daily, the University of Washington’s student newspaper. He was excited to have us over, as he had also been on a productive Career Exploration trip while at the UW! Moh talked to the students about how:
- As the Engagement Editor for the Education Lab at The Seattle Times, he can creatively build a connection with the community.
- It’s important for new graduates to not shy away from non-reporting roles; they can help you explore different facets of digital journalism.
We also got to meet Executive Editor (then Managing Editor) Michele Matassa Flores, and learn how:
- Publications are moving away from the advertising business model to one that is more reliant on subscriptions. To that end, connecting with readers, understanding what, how, when, and where they want to read is critical.
- Digital natives (like our students) are crucial to sustaining the industry.
- The fundamentals of good journalism haven’t changed. However, how journalists interact with audiences, the tools, channels (like social media), and engagement dynamics, have.
Even though journalism today is faced with fundamental challenges, like failing business models and a lack of understanding among audiences about how storytelling works, seeing the enthusiasm and dedication of people like Moh assures us that there is still hope.
Our last stop on this trip was Amazon. We met with Recruiting Coordinator (and UW alumnus) Darren Langston, and his colleagues, Miranda and Pharez, who shared insights on how best to look for and apply to jobs at Amazon. Darren talked about how:
- Staying in touch with his mentors and advisers at the UW helped him get his first break at Amazon as an Investigation Specialist.
- When you’re job hunting, it’s critical to make sure you’re aligned with a company’s values. Darren deeply considered what values were important to him, and looked for companies that reflected those values in their culture.
Of course, a trip to Amazon wasn’t complete without visiting The Spheres. Darren, Pharez, and Miranda graciously escorted us to the popular downtown Seattle landmark, and our students were wowed by the richness and diversity of the carefully selected flora.
At the beginning of the spring quarter, we visited a variety of public relations and technology companies:
Our spring trip began at a dynamic Seattle-based startup, HighSpot. We met with alumnus Lucas Welch, Senior Director, Content and Communications, and Suzanne Salzberg, Head of Talent. Lucas shared invaluable lessons from his career, like how:
- You can accidentally fall into great things. Communication majors shouldn’t be afraid of pursuing careers in technology. The field needs people with storytelling skills, which technical people often lack.
- Internships let you try different things and figure out your path. Sometimes, knowing what you don’t want helps you find what you do want.
- It’s important to network with everyone around you and find mentors who will encourage and guide you.
Head of Talent, Suzanne Salzberg shared many useful interviewing tips, including the importance of building public speaking skills and practicing your answers beforehand.
When talking about the evolution of marketing, Lucas shared how during one of his internships in the pre-digital era, he worked on a guerilla marketing campaign that involved him slipping video cassettes into people’s VCRs while marketing the movie, The Ring. That fascinated our students, some of whom have probably never seen a video cassette!
At boutique PR agency Curator, we met with Principal and Founder, Scott Battishill, Senior Account Executive, Delaney Berreth (our alumna) and Assistant Account Executive, Solana Tanabe. Scott Battishill started the lifestyle PR agency in 2000, wanting Curator to have the opportunity to shepherd brands through the paradigm shift to business communication facilitated by multiple channels.
Some of the takeaways from our conversation with Scott, Delaney, and Solana include:
- Nothing in communications is as dangerous as assuming you own the message; it’s just as dangerous to assume that people are going to care about your message.
- Social media users are very mindful of how a “like,” “swipe,” or comment makes them appear. What people do on social media is part of their personal brand, and companies need to be acutely aware of that when crafting their message.
- Traditional media may not be as relevant to today’s consumers, but when a message from traditional media is shared by an influencer, it can still have an impact.
When students asked what it takes to get hired at a PR agency, the group encouraged them to build a robust LinkedIn profile, join affinity groups like PRSSA, and above all, have a strong work ethic.
At Microsoft, we met with UX Writer and recent alumna, Ashley Walls. She was drawn to Microsoft because of their focus on diversity and inclusion, a cause about which she is very passionate. Ashley was candid as she talked about how:
- You can add value as a communications major in technology. As a UX writer, Ashley needs to develop a very deep understanding of the end user. Her communications background helps her be empathetic and understand customer pain points.
- Technology companies need people who can determine the shortcomings in their products, and help communicate those to the technical teams.
When asked about the job-hunting process, Ashley encouraged students to leverage their experiences, and think about how the skills they’ve acquired can apply to different jobs, even if they might not seem directly connected. She also explained that the imposter syndrome is real, and it’s important for students to know that they have the skills to be successful and lifelong learners.
Jamil had assembled a fabulous panel of colleagues working in different sectors, including technology, consumer products, and healthcare. Luke Marcoe, Matt Wo, Blaise Suhr (all three UW alumni), Shona Kerrick, and Max Thon talked about how:
- Internships helped set the tone for the careers.
- Writing and editing skills are very important in PR.
- A lot of learning happens on the job. Every day is different, so it’s important to constantly absorb everything around you like a sponge!
Our time at Sonos started musically with a demo of their many sleek audio products. Pete Pedersen, VP, Global Marketing and Communications (and UW alumnus), Laura Morarity, Sr. Director, Global Communications and Sustainability, and Dane Estes, Director of Global Product Marketing, then shared their career trajectories and lessons learned along the way with our students, including:
- To work for a technology company, you should have a passion for the product. It is hard for engineers to build something easy to use. As communicators, we need to know how to communicate that value proposition clearly and concisely.
- You should have a compelling story to tell about yourself. Work on your elevator pitch, and have it ready to go as you begin job hunting.
- Don’t be scared to experiment at the beginning of your career. Try different things!
- Be self-aware and speak authentically about your experiences when interviewing.
It was wonderful for our students to have an open conversation with experienced communication leaders about the different paths they can take, and the exciting journeys on which they can find themselves.
Our next stop was the young and vibrant agency Milli, focused on helping smaller businesses and creative artists. We met with Founder and Principal, Mike Huang, Digital Strategist and Program Manager, Wole Akinlosotu (both UW alumni), and Program Manager, Marla Jo.
Mike founded the UW Hip Hop Student Association when he was a student, and it helped him build a foundation of entrepreneurship. He was able to pass on this legacy to future students, including Wole. They both stressed the importance of building social skills and creating communities by getting involved in activities for which you have a passion.
Mike and Wole talked about the Tidelands project, a creative endeavor that highlights the artistic roots of Seattle. Through the project, they were able to:
- Showcase their expertise and passion.
- Help others in their community and provide a space for young people to express themselves.
Milli was exemplary of what young people can do if they are driven and committed to helping others achieve their full potential.
In brief, both Seattle career exploration trips were a blast, and full of invaluable advice that will serve our students well as they start mapping out their own careers. Our deepest gratitude to our alumni hosts for their support and help in making our trips a success!