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Building a Smarter Planet—and Smarter Interns—at IBM

Written by Christianne Enos '11

Christianne Enos '11

When I got the e-mail from my professor—“Well, you got one. A good one. Congratulations,” an internship at IBM was the last thing I expected to receive. All sorts of things were going through my head: Is IBM even around anymore? Do they still make computers? Where is Armonk, New York? And, most importantly, what am I going to learn about advertising from a company that I haven’t seen an ad for in, well, ever? 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Most of the shock surrounding my placement revolved around the Vance L. Stickell Memorial Student Internship Program and how internships are awarded. Students apply, but have no idea where their internship may be. Administered through the American Advertising Federation (AAF), the program assigns students to three-month summer placements at top agencies or companies— which is why I was expecting an assignment at someplace like Leo Burnett in Chicago, or Saatchi & Saatchi in New York City, where two of my 14 fellow interns ended up. But the mystery is well worth it: Winners get paid a $4,000 stipend, plus a $1,000 scholarship for travel costs associated with moving and living expenses. Plus, there’s the prestige factor. AAF allows the adviser of each college chapter to nominate just one student for the program, so Stickell interns are considered some of the top advertising prospects in the country—not a bad thing to have on the résumé. Mostly, though, it’s the experience itself. 

Walking into the headquarters in Armonk (which, by the way, is a small town about 50 minutes outside New York City), I found out very quickly what IBM’s global advertising and brand expression department had to offer. Between working with the globally based advertising team, learning the function of a business-to-business brand, going to radio recordings and photo shoots, watching focus groups, and meeting the account team at Ogilvy & Mather, an international advertising agency, there was never a boring day on the job. 

On a day-to-day basis, I participated in meetings with the IBM advertising team, the Ogilvy account team, IBMers outside the advertising team, and IBM customers who were being used in ads. Once a week, I accompanied my team to Ogilvy’s offices in the city to participate in creative reviews by critiquing the work Ogilvy’s creative team presented (mostly for hardware and software products and services that aid businesses in the storage and processing of data), meetings for IBM’s 2011 centennial celebration, and media and search planning meetings. I also had a number of projects I was responsible for, and even presented one—a new method of nominating customers for use in new ads—on a worldwide update call with the entire IBM ad team.

My bosses and team members at IBM and at Ogilvy really pushed me to challenge myself. I learned so much about business-to business marketing, the difference between client- and account-side ad teams and the way they work, how to keep a unified brand image across multiple media and audiences, and simple things like maintaining a client-agency relationship and communication skills. Not only did I get to explore an amazing global company, but I got to see the ad agency that helps keep them in front of the people and businesses that matter. This opportunity really opened my eyes to advertising outside of the consumer goods I’m exposed to every day, and to potential career paths on both the agency and client sides.

The connections I made at IBM and the relationships I fostered after I left definitely came in handy when starting my job search. In fact, I am now an assistant account executive at Ogilvy, working on the IBM account. There’s no way I could have accomplished any of this without the support and guidance of my professors at IC and everything they taught me.




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