This fall marked my fourth year at RIT, and my third year in the New Media Design program. After switching my major, occasionally I would doubt whether or not switching was the right decision. This summer, I interned at a creative marketing agency and I now am 100% sure I am where I want to be.
Co-ops and internships are required for about 80% of all majors at RIT. Programs requiring them typically have blocks built into the schedule. Most programs in engineering and computing, for example, are considered 5-year programs with co-ops built in. Students will spend typically four full years on campus studying and learning from RIT faculty and staff. The other "year" is a total of the co-ops completed throughout the students' time at RIT. Co-ops and internships could be summer/fall, spring/summer, or even multiple summers. However each program breaks it down, students leave here with actual experience in the field and a better understand of what's out there after graduation.
My major is one of few that does not require co-ops or internships, but they are still highly recommended. Last spring, I started looking into potential internship opportunities for the summer. I focused mainly on Rochester, since I'm local and could easily live at home and commute. My professor for my Principles of Advertising class, Barry, has worked for multiple advertising firms in Rochester and has a company of his own. He loves teaching and is always trying to help his students - especially those looking for work. Each week he would send out opportunities from various companies. One company, Butler/Till, really stood out to me and I decided to go for it. My professor reviewed my portfolio and resume, and even sent a reference letter to a personal contact within the company.
A little while later, I saw Butler/Till at Creative Industry Day on campus., which is a career fair hosted by RIT specifically for design and creative majors. I talked to the representatives, showed them some examples of my work from my portfolio, and submitted a resume. A few days later, I got a call for the Creative Service Intern for their summer program. I was thrilled!
The program was 9 weeks over the summer and consisted of shadowing/projects for different departments as well as team time. There were 8 interns in all, and we were divided into two teams for our main summer-long project. Our client was The Strong National Museum of Play. To say the least, I had a blast working for this client and touring their facility.
This internship gave me a lot of insight into the day-to-day design work in a research-driven creative marketing agency. I saw first-hand how different departments interact and communicate with each other, and how the company works under quick deadlines. We learned a lot through company classes geared towards teaching their own employees news skills and lead them on their own paths to personal success. Butler/Till is employee -focused. Every employee receives stock when they are hired. It's a great way to motivate employees - if they work hard and the company is successful, they will see their hard work pay off and see the value of their work. The culture of the company was fun and inspirational. Each Wednesday of the summer is Wiener Wednesday - a grilling event for everyone to enjoy a free hamburger or hotdog (or 2) - in addition to their summer olympic games. Fridays are Bring-Your-Dog-to-Work days. Each year, everyone also receives several days of paid leave to go do community service. Everyone really seemed extremely happy to work there, and always went out of their way to see if we needed anything.
I am so glad to have had this opportunity. I now have a better understanding of what to look for in a company and its culture, more than just what kind of work they do. It's also reassuring to feel so comfortable in that environment and to know that I made the right decision switching into New Media Design - I would wake up each day excited to go to Butler/Till and see what the day had in store. Throughout the summer, I learned so much about the business, and the various aspects of the company - things I would never learn in the class. Additionally, I received a lot of life advice from some of the more recent graduates and well as the VP's and higher-ups of the company. I highly recommend internships/co-ops to everyone, regardless of whether or not your major requires it. Even if your experience ends up not being all that you wanted, there is always something you can take away from the engagement.