Art by David Sandoval

H&P From the Eyes of Interns

July 28, 2021

By Rebecca Bustamante, 2021 Summer Intern, Copy & Content

What’s worse than spending thousands of dollars to take a dry college course just to fill a state requirement? How about commuting to a job that doesn’t pay and then uses your skill, passion and time to fetch coffee, shred paper and organize documents in reverse alphabetical order? Internships, am I right?

We all know someone, or maybe we are that someone, who has experienced a less-than-fulfilling internship. I’m happy to report that H&P is not that company. In fact, I’m quickly learning that the internship program at H&P is starkly different from the horror stories we’ve all heard. I sat down, virtually speaking, with my fellow interns to chat about our experiences and to uncover what’s going on behind the screens at an agency bold enough to trust virtual interns with actual client work.

Nicolet Gatewood, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, is also the self-proclaimed den momma to the interns, and she takes this role seriously. She is one of the highlights of the whole experience. She makes it clear to all that her agenda is to ensure that we are truly getting the experience and exposure that we desire. She encourages us weekly to put ourselves out there, helps us to make connections and cheers us on to “fly little birdies, fly!”

It didn’t take long to realize that this company means business when they call themselves a family. Many H&Peeps have found their way in through friendships and personal connections. Project Management intern, Malcolm Christie, was referred to H&P by his sister, Jasmyne Christie, who is a Creative Manager and UX Designer on staff; and Animation Administration and QA intern, Hannah Latorre, was referred by her best friend’s mother, who works for one of H&P’s biggest clients. I’m here as a Copy & Content intern because of a referral by my superstar husband, Freddy Bustamante, an Animation Director.

Rab Moran, Project Management & QA

What I find even more interesting is that most of the interns have been here before. I just had to know what kept everyone coming back, considering college credits are no longer an incentive. Working in Project Management and QA, Rab Moran is a twice-returning intern who shared with me that he keeps coming back because of how meaningful the work has been to his career. “I’m not just working on spreadsheets to pass the time, I’m touching H&P’s portfolio, I’m working alongside the company’s Founder & Prime Minister of Design, DJ Haddad, and my ideas to help optimize the SEO template were not only considered, they were implemented.” This isn’t an odd occurrence either, as all of the summer interns had stories to share about the projects they’ve worked on that have had impact and significance to the company as well as their personal careers.

Brandon Bush, Copy & DE&I

Brandon Bush, former Project Management intern turned Copy and DE&I intern, had a similar story to share after three rounds of internships. “Working on introducing pronouns to email signatures within the company has been a rewarding project. Having a hand in shaping culture, even in a small way, always feels significant and meaningful.” Brandon has also worked alongside Nicolet to bring greater awareness to social justice topics for the staff engagement program, Learning to Unlearn, and has authored a feature story on the company’s blog.

Luke Stahl, Development

It’s becoming clearer to me that H&P doesn’t just bring on interns for low-cost labor, but actually values people and the diverse skills they have to offer. That’s not to say we don’t get the occasional “organize all of these files” tasks, but even then, we all agreed that they had impact, however small they may seem. Development intern, Luke Stahl, has found that the general exposure to all things related to his field of work has been worthwhile in itself. “The work is definitely meaningful. There are tons of programs I get exposure to, and just getting used to those programs has been very helpful.”

On our weekly intern calls with Nicolet, we’ve been introduced to a few people from around the office. As each person shared their career journey, it has inspired many of us to realize that while our careers may begin at H&P, the future might take us somewhere completely unknown. This personally resonated with me, as I landed at H&P after a 10-year career in photography. Nicolet didn’t flinch when I told her I had no industry experience when I applied for an internship in Copy & Content. It’s clear to see why after hearing stories from CEO Ryan Cayer, Chief Content Officer Marni Manko and Director of Public Relations Cindy Carrasquilla to name a few—they all started their careers with very different paths in mind. Every person I’ve talked to has encouraged me in this transition and prompted me to continue to take risks and learn wherever I can.

Maria Lozada, Public Relations

We’ve also noticed that everyone here offers their help, personal connections and resources freely. Public Relations intern, Maria Lozada, who has been working alongside Cindy Carrasquilla, said “I didn’t study PR or communications in school, but after talking to Nicolet and not knowing what exactly I wanted to do with my career, she placed me with Cindy in Public Relations, and I’ve gained so much knowledge and understanding from her that I can now take to the PR field.” Many of the interns’ supervisors have gone out of their way to teach and train us without a second thought.

Rab put it best when he said, “People are always willing to teach their skills and share their expertise. They’re always helpful and willing to partner to help one another succeed. I’ve been in other environments where everyone else is doing their own stuff, so you have to just figure it out. But it’s different at H&P. It’s a more efficient and kinder environment.”

Right before I finished college, I interned for a photographer in Chicago. I dreamed of learning lighting techniques and best business practices. Instead, I found myself having to look busy, water plants and memorize the contents of every cabinet (even kitchen cabinets) in her home/studio. She was openly rude and annoyed by any mistakes I made and expected me to be there 40 hours a week, unpaid. I swiftly quit that internship because the environment was just plain hostile.

Malcolm Christie, Project Management

Here at H&P, even as a remote company, there is a work culture and environment that exemplifies honor and respect. As Project Management intern, Malcolm Christie, pointed out, “The work environment is really interesting here because we all move at our own pace and yet stay in step with each other. Everyone has the same motive to work hard, but also have fun and enjoy working in the company together.”

Hannah Latorre, Animation Administration & QA

Interning remotely. It just sounds like a bad idea. A bunch of young people, with limited experience…working alone? And yet, somehow in this environment, it works. Really well, actually. Hannah Latorre was surprised at the quality of our experiences working remotely. “Going into remote interning, I didn’t imagine I’d be as independent as I am, but I’ve learned to find other resources when I’m unable to ask my supervisor because she’s in a meeting or presenting. At first, it was scary, because no one was holding my hand and telling me what to do after every task, but over time I learned to self-manage and figure out where to go and what to do.”

Heaven Gallon, Graphic Design

Self-management is the skill every one of us said we would take away from this experience. We were all taught, trained and then trusted with work that mattered—client work with deadlines and expectations. We’ve all had to learn how to schedule and discipline ourselves to say “no” to Netflix and “yes” to accomplishing tasks and meeting deadlines. Graphic Design intern, Heaven Gallon, told me, “I honestly didn’t expect that boundaries for time and schedules would be honored, but people don’t cross boundaries and everyone works hard to maintain realistic expectations. I really enjoy working remotely and having the freedom in my lifestyle. Working remotely has helped me better hone the skill of managing life and work. You don’t think it’s a big deal, but having to take breaks from the screen has been essential, and I’ve had to give actual priority to that.”

Rebecca Bustamante, Copy & Content

All of the interns, myself included, are gaining valuable knowledge, genuine friendships and key insights to take with us wherever we land after this (though not one of us would refuse an offer from H&P, just sayin’). I’m reminded of an episode of the TV show “The Office,” where the interns all share what they’ve learned during their time at a paper company called Dunder Mifflin. Maurie learned that there is no law against a company advertising its internship program as “full of exciting experiences,” even if it’s not true. Meghan learned that most of the Scranton branch uses the word “password” as their password. And Eric learned that a ream of paper is 300 sheets, only to be corrected, as it’s actually 500 sheets. H&P may not promote that the program is “full of exciting experiences,” but we all agreed that we’ve had a chance to do work that has helped us focus on what we’d love to do, and we’ve met incredible people who have helped prepare us for our careers ahead.

Thank you, H&Peeps, for a way more valuable and productive experience!