As a college student studying graphic communication, I started my internship at HDMZ looking to explore career opportunities through the insight and operations of a marketing agency. Over the course of twelve weeks, I shadowed coworkers in eight departments, pitched in on their projects, and learned their daily workflows while completing creative assignments for HDMZ external clients, in addition to internal assignments.

Before starting the internship, my assumptions about agency life were daunting. I expected to feel under pressure, burdening others with my rudimentary intern-level skill set and my level of science knowledge relative to the very accomplished staff. These fears arose when I was asked to format and resize a set of 21 web banners. I knew from the kickoff meeting that the file would get large and would be difficult to handle. But I didn’t know how best to manage them. 

There were many layers to the design, and I had to pick apart each one to get everything sized properly, which took me at least three times as long as it should have. I thought I’d had a moment of genius when I tried placing the files as images, which eased the resizing process and cut down on file size. However, when I sent this draft for feedback, I learned they needed to be placed as native files.

Back at square one, admittedly, I needed help. So, I asked a senior art director how she would approach this task. She made it clear that I’d have to use the full files, and it would be a “pain in the you-know-what.” However, it was the only way to export properly. 

I took her advice and put in the time to resize each banner, but remained worried about finishing before the deadline. She reminded me that these tasks are never as easy as we might think, but that I was fully capable, even if I needed some help.

The next day, I did need help. First, I called her about replacing missing links. I called again to learn how to export properly, and a third time, when I wasn’t sure how to change some settings. She responded to every question with guidance and encouragement, and I began to hesitate less before reaching out. 

Eventually I realized I was the only person on the project who doubted me. Surprisingly, even with the extra time spent asking for help, I was able to deliver the banners on time. 

I leaned on the confidence I gained during this project to be more curious as I transitioned from department to department. My favorite question to ask each of my mentors over the 12 weeks was how they came into their roles at HDMZ. More often than not, they recounted having their own insecurities upon starting out. 

Some colleagues who lacked a deep science background worried about applying their skills at an agency that specializes in communications for life science and biotech companies. My digital solutions mentor started as a front desk intern before climbing the ladder to her current position, and reflected on the challenges she had to overcome to get there. The creative team expressed having to do a lot of research on their clients’ disciplines to understand the best ways to showcase their products and discoveries. Conversely, some coworkers with science backgrounds faced a learning curve when they transitioned to a communications role, like my content mentor, who’s currently taking on more PR responsibilities. 

In the same way I was struggling to trust my ability to accomplish various tasks, some of my mentors didn’t initially feel as if they belonged in this exclusive, highly appreciated field. It’s been fascinating to witness my coworkers excel at their jobs knowing they started in my shoes at some point in time. This has taught me that we might not start out as experts, but we can certainly get there. 

I’ve also learned that HDMZers are naturally curious with regard to their clients and enthusiastic about their missions. Getting to experience how each branch works among themselves and with their touch points across the company showed me that true collaboration and teamwork happens in every direction, not just from top to bottom. People here make space for each other and their clients, practicing the key element of teamwork: trust. This culture is contagious. 

As the weeks went by, I found myself reaching out to more people for help, asking for more details during project kickoffs, and speaking up during meetings. It became easier for me to trust myself when I knew I was working with others who had experienced being in my shoes and sincerely believed in my ability to succeed. Heading into my fourth year of college, I now feel equipped and empowered to try new things, explore new paths, and make the best decisions for myself, thanks to HDMZ.