Setback, Step Forward

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Over the coming months, we will feature two Fellows in our summer internship series. They will share what they’re learning on the job and how they’re applying what they’ve learned through Braven. Our second blogger is Salonia Burt, a Rutgers University — Newark Fellow who is working at Viacom. 

By Salonia Burt | Rutgers University—Newark Fellow and a rising junior majoring in Information Systems with a minor in African American Studies

Salonia and Leadership Coach Taylor ClarksonTo an IT major, receiving an offer to work at Google is like being a basketball player and getting drafted to the NBA. It’s a huge deal. I’ve always viewed Google as a company whose employees were almost like celebrities. I never imagined that I would know people who were connected to Googlers.

During the fall of my sophomore year, I joined Braven and developed a mentor-mentee relationship with Eva Avramov, a former staff member. In December, she informed me about a program called Google Bold Immersion where students spend one week at Google’s Mountain View campus. Together, Eva and I worked tirelessly to make sure every component of my application was complete and compelling before I submitted. When March arrived, I constantly checked my email for news of my application status, and when I finally read the subject line “Google Bold Immersion Summer 2016,” I was thrilled. That is until I read the email: “We regret to inform you…”

I was disappointed and upset, but I didn’t let it discourage me. I continued my internship search and applied for a role at Viacom without any hopes of securing even an interview. Surprisingly, within a week, I received a phone call from the recruiting team. In complete shock, I stumbled on the phone with the recruiter as we discussed next steps. After the phone interview the following week with the Media and Technology Services Manager, I still had my doubts about being offered the position. I was only a sophomore, and I had only “worked” at a department on campus doing basic technology support. I didn’t think that I deserved it or was the most qualified candidate.

Well, here I am, almost a month into my internship at Viacom. I work with a team of two full-time techs and another intern. Together, the four of us support floors 20–31 by setting up video conferences and repairing hardware and other equipment. Before I started working at Viacom, I primarily associated the company with Nickelodeon (because of my favorite show SpongeBob). However, I have since learned that they also hold other major television networks such as MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, and Logo. Everyday I leave my internship excited and eager to return the next day to continue being part of something so amazing. It’s empowering.

When I’m at my internship, it feels familiar — as if I’m supposed to be in an environment like Viacom. There’s never a dull moment during the workday. I’ve stood in elevators with celebrities, attended a live taping of a television show, and watched the staff members edit popular cartoon shows. I’m literally in awe for eight hours a day.

Braven has played a large part in my comfort at Viacom especially with my critical thinking skills and my ability to prioritize tasks. On my first day when meeting the Executive Staff at Viacom, I immediately shared my elevator pitch, and when other interns asked me “What do you plan to do with IT?” my hustle statement fell off my lips smoothly. As a person from Newark, New Jersey, having countless classmates and friends who are incarcerated, deceased, or addicted to drugs, where the sounds of sirens are as constant as reading headlines like “Newark’s Death Toll Rises” — working at a place such as Viacom seems like a dream. It doesn’t seem possible but it is possible.

It is important to remember that people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it. Your purpose is what makes you unique, and it is your most valuable asset that you can bring to any company, organization, and institution. It’s important to hold on to it, and never forget it. Even if a company denies you, just remember that it is the employees who make the company, and not the other way around.

Salonia and her cohort