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A Summer of Sharks: My Internship at Discovery Communications

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A Summer of Sharks: My Internship at Discovery Communications

By Jack Nessman

I spent my summer in “The Agency,” working not as a spy but as an account intern. The Agency is the in-house ad agency for Discovery Communications, the company that owns everything from Discovery Channel to TLC to Eurosport and holds the title of #1 pay-TV programmer in the world.  

Because Discovery owns fourteen networks in the US alone, the Agency was an exciting place to be — a creative sandbox for branding and advertising. Every day, important projects were in the works, from pitches for television campaigns to rebranding brainstorms for Discovery’s networks. I worked with a terrific creative team to realize client visions on everything from corporate event signage to Shark Week. I spent most of my days briefing a design team on client requests and passing feedback from clients to creatives through the many stages of the creative process.

I was lucky to be part of an incredibly welcoming and trusting team that encouraged me to take on real jobs from the get-go. My supervisors also let me tag along to meetings and brainstorms for campaigns and shows. Though I initially doubted that industry professionals would want to hear from an intern, I was surprised and grateful to see my ideas written down with the rest on the whiteboard. My supervisors made me feel like part of the team, which made me want to immerse myself in the industry. I became an avid reader of, Hollywood Reporter, and Variety. I shot emails to my intern friend in corporate whenever a big acquisition seemed to be on the horizon. At happy hours, I’d brag to my friends that I was working on Shark Week.

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I learned that account coordination requires diplomacy, teamwork, and, perhaps most of all, precise email communications. Fortunately, it turns out that well-worded emails and fifteen-page English papers draw on pretty similar skills. In time crunches, a background in clear and concise writing helped me communicate critical points to a creative team. In a high-energy office where email inboxes filled up fast, I realized how essential it was that emails be easy to read and easy to act on. As an English major in a corporate setting, I was happy to pull from my liberal arts background in my everyday work. From pinning down the full picture of a client’s request to researching social media trends in the television industry, I was fundamentally analyzing ideas and synthesizing them into some sort of logical form — a process that felt very natural after three years in the College of Arts and Sciences.

I loved being part of a massive intern class of more than a hundred young people. I not only learned so much about the company by chatting with them about their work and their departments, I also made friends who became my summer-long lunchmates! The intern program lined us up with great speakers including Discovery’s CEO, David Zaslav. He taught us that you should always dress as nicely as your coworkers — unless you’re the CEO, in which case you have free reign to wear a vest and jeans.

I jumped on any chances to volunteer. I manned a carnival game at a corporate picnic where I networked with executives’ children. At an internal Shark Week event, I took photos of Discovery employees as they popped their heads into a photo-op cutout of Rob Lowe. I fared much better that day than a friend of mine dressed as Chompie, Shark Week’s iconic shark, who was playfully mauled by a service dog. On the last day of my internship, I volunteered at a Shark Week screening in Silver Spring, and saw my photos published in the local paper the next week. It was bittersweet to leave before Shark Week actually kicked off, but I was proud to break out my extensive Shark Week wardrobe the following week and play my part as walking advertising.

As an intern, I never expected that to feel so genuinely like part of the team and to be given such valuable project management experience. I couldn’t have asked for a more fun or rewarding summer. I gained fantastic exposure to the industry I hope to work in and a company I’d love to work for. I’m grateful to have met so many wonderful friends and mentors — and happy that I live close enough to Silver Spring that I can drop by and see them over Fall Break!

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Jack Nessman is a senior in the College studying English, and a webmaster at the Kelly Writers House. He is editor-in-chief of Filament Magazine and a coach for Write On — a creative writing mentoring program for students from Lea School. Jack has interned at Discovery Communications and the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. He also studied English abroad at King’s College London the fall of his junior year. Jack has done freelance graphic design work for the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative and projects in the Writers House community.

Edited by Kenna O'Rourke