My name is Jake Milne, and I am a student majoring in Economics with a Finance Concentration at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. I had the distinct pleasure to work as an intern this summer with Sparksight, a creative agency in Austin, Texas (while I was in town visiting family) that focuses on live action and animated video production. With my academic background, this made for somewhat of a challenge for the company in that my skill set was unaligned with that of the “typical” Sparksight intern. Not only was I completely useless when it came to wielding a camera or editing in Adobe Creative Suite, my analytical, procedural approach to problem solving felt a bit of an anomaly at times in the office. In the end, it was the creative approaches of the Sparksight team that I credit with the success of my internship and the valuable experience that I gained.
So what could a statistics-obsessed future stockbroker like me do to help a 10-person video production agency? There is a mantra repeated regularly around the office, used in reference to vendors, clients, and Sparksight interns: “start small and build trust”. That pretty much sums up the course of my time at Sparksight. I started out in small, relatively inconsequential tasks, such as doing some cleaning up on the company’s Youtube channel and sound treating the new video studio. These may not be the most “glamourous” tasks, but I will point out that not once was I asked to fetch coffee for anyone in my entire time at Sparksight-a considerable departure from your typical internship.
As I started to learn how everything worked, (and how to operate the water dispenser on the fridge) my role grew. Soon enough, I was regularly writing content for the Sparksight blog which served as a sort of bridge into working with the marketing team on creating, managing, and optimising content for our various online properties. Through this I gained invaluable experience with search engine optimisation and content marketing best practices and tools. Soon enough, this was consuming 60-75% of my time at the office, all based off of the crossover of my business degree knowledge with the efforts of the sales and marketing team here at Sparksight.
It was a really cool perk of the job that I, as a seasonal Sparksight intern, was able to directly work on the marketing content that went out to clients. I saw webpages that I worked on get ranked on Google, and saw the results of my blog content bring in scores of visitors to the websites. As an intern, many people ask themselves “what am I accomplishing here?”, but as a Sparksight intern, evidence of the work I was doing there was apparent on the company social properties and website pretty much daily.
My last few projects reflected the trust that I had been able to build at the company over my brief 3 month Sparksight internship. I was assigned the task of generating some interactive models to represent the long-term financials of the company to aid in top-level decision making. The marketing team asked me to pull together some information and data on our prospects and leads to help sales efforts. Not only was I more than just a coffee boy, I was working on important projects that were helpful for the success of the company and supremely valuable to me in terms of experience and learning.
All of this serves to challenge the traditional thinking that surrounds working at companies like Sparksight. It’s taken as an understood “fact” that these creative agencies are places only for artistic types with degrees in photography, english, or radio-television-film. Sure, it’s easier to fit in with the video team if you’re a film nerd. But that’s true of any situation. Sparksight is full of open-minded, curious, and inclusive people. As such, it wouldn’t shock me if they found a way to put an actuary to work with great success.
If you’re a student in one of those distinctly analytical fields of study, (math, accounting, finance, etc.) working as a Sparksight intern can be immensely valuable, since it requires you to work with people with a very different skills and experience set from you. What’s more, you might discover that there’s more creativity in you than you might think. You might even find yourself identifying the lighting in the rooms you walk into. (Tungsten may become a part of your vocabulary) For me, this was writing. For you it could be something entirely different and unique. One thing is for certain: the Sparksight team will help you to identify this talent and incorporate it-no coffee runs necessary! And, as a side note, even if you believe yourself to have no interest in video or photography, make sure to go on shoots. It’s fun to meet the clients and see how their companies work, plus you get to be the super cool guy that they trust to make decisions on the video. (how would they know you’re just an intern?)
Another important note, though it’s sometimes far from your main consideration, is compensation. Sparksight pays its interns. Many companies do not, to protest from students and responsible employers alike. It’s no secret that a paid internship advances your career more effectively than an unpaid one does, as a prospective employer recognises the endorsement of your skill and work that compensation implies. And besides, a little beer money at school rarely did anyone much harm!
I cannot speak highly enough of the Sparksight team, the culture around the office, and the passionate concern they have for producing an excellent product for their clients. I would recommend working with them whether as a client, intern, employee, or vendor. And without a doubt, be sure to stop by any time you hear about an open house. There’s rarely a dull moment or bad time to be had at the Sparksight office!