A Final Reflection of My Time at NPM

Looking back on my summer experience at NPR and the months leading up to it, I am incredibly grateful to be able to say, my time there was better than anything I could have anticipated. Some of the goals I outlined in preparation for my internship were pretty generic to a typical finance internship at a media company. I wanted to have a better grasp of finance, marketing, and sales concepts to piggy back on my courses in leadership studies and economics and learn the ins and outs of communication and networking outside of the Richmond bubble.

I am happy to say that working with the National Public Media branch at NPR, gave me the opportunity to reach all of these goals. I spent time with the finance team, learning the ins and outs of forecasting, the accounting process and data analysis; I also spent time with the CEO and upper level management of NPM, giving me access to different marketing techniques, company growth strategies and different leadership styles. Working face to face with the seven upper level managers on a regular basis not only exposed me to the fields I wanted to learn more about but also allowed me to practice my communication and networking skills with people who could be very valuable connections to have now and in the future. On our first day at NPM in New York, each intern had an introductory meeting with the CEO, Gina. She told all of us to meet everyone we could at the company, learn what they do and how they got to where they are now. I am extremely grateful to her for offering us this advice so early on, because it gave me time to truly get to know everyone and learn from their experiences.

One thing that has stuck with me, is the advice that two of the upper level managers offered me. Bryan, the COO of NPM, created his own position. He has been working at NPR on their sponsorship team for about 20 years, since before they even had the separate NPM branch. He explained to me that a few years ago, while he was working as the manager of operations for NPM, the company was looking for a new CEO. During this time, he served as the interim CEO. Once they found Gina, the current CEO, Bryan expressed his belief that the company also needed a COO. After seeing all the work that the CEO does, Bryan, made the case that the company could be more successful if there was another manager to help out. He then vouched for himself as the candidate to fill the position and was offered the job.

Another upper level manager, Erica, saw Bryan create the job he wanted at the company while she was working under him and decided to try the idea out herself. She is now the manager of NPM Creative, a team that develops and produces full campaigns for clients. This was not offered before she suggested it was something the company should try. After successfully pitching her idea and vouching for herself to run the team, Erica managed to find herself as an upper level manager at a fairly young age and doing something she truly wanted to do, not just filling the shoes of someone before her that had left the next promotion available.

Both Erica and Bryan, gave me the advice to seek out areas for growth, find a job that doesn’t exist but should and then explain why the company should hire me for that job. Having the opportunity to work so closely with these managers and really learn from them was a bonus that I didn’t anticipate before at NPM. While I wasn’t sure how the divide between NPR and NPM would end up effecting my time there, I am very grateful to have been at the smaller branch of NPM, so that I was exposed to not only the different managers, but also the different teams at NPM. With a small but growing company, there was much more communication between the different teams than I expected and the ability to have company events that included everyone but still provided a space to get to know each other a little bit more than with simple hellos and goodbyes at the office.

I’ve talked a fair bit about the organizational structure of both NPR and NPM in past reflections, because I think one of the most interesting parts about being at NPM was the difference between the two companies. Their separation, one producing news and one selling sponsorships, allows them both to do their jobs effectively and in the most honest manner possible. I found it fascinating how the different industries effected the culture of the different offices. Being a more creative, media oriented company, NPR has the freedom to be more casual. This was reflected in the way they dressed, the way they spoke to each other, and the way that managers lead their teams. NPM, being in a more business professional industry, where they interact with clients in sales and marketing, has to dress and act in more typical professional ways. While the sales reps at NPM were expected to be in the office from 9:00am-5:00pm, those at NPR had deadlines that they were expected to meet, but within those deadlines they could come and go as they pleased.

The managers responded to these different cultures. When I had the chance to see teams at NPR working together, the managers were simply part of the team that was helping make sure the show got produced. Everyone on the team was sharing ideas with each other and brainstorming in a circle. It did not matter what level an employee was, their ideas and help was welcomed. While the NPM teams were still very open to ideas from younger employees and there was a more casual environment than I would expect from other business environments, there were certain techniques and processes that were often followed as the more senior employees passed their knowledge on sales and experience on to the younger ones.

While there were situations that NPM could be slightly more casual in their policies and work because that branch is about 1/10th of the size of NPR as a whole, the different cultures I observed between the companies, NPM as more formal and NPR as more casual, lead me back to the Contingency Theory of Leadership. I could see how the different situations and cultures of NPM and NPR, lead their managers to lead the teams in different ways. NPR as more of a brainstorming guide and NPM as more of a teacher with more formal structure to their guidance.

Another thing from my Jepson classes that helped me understand and work in the NPM office, was the research project we were required to do during Theories and Models in the spring. There were quite a few times that I found myself discussing Jepson, what we learn, what I hope to do with what I’ve learned and how awesome of an opportunity it is. On my first day at NPM, I had a one on one meeting with the CFO, whose team I would be working with. He asked me what work I have done in my leadership studies and I explained that just last semester I had worked with 2 other classmates to test implicit biases in leadership within one of the clubs at school. He was not only intrigued but also impressed that we were exploring and analyzing group dynamics and the way that gender can play a role in who is given attention within a group. Not only was it a great conversation topic, but our research also showed the CFO the type of research and analytical work I could help his team with.

A final thing I am grateful to have had in my toolbox during my internship, was my elevator pitch. Having so much facetime with different people at NPM and NPR, gave me the chance to not only learn about them, but tell them a little bit about myself. While in the end I had the chance to talk with them in much more depth than just the brief elevator pitch I had worked on in the spring, it was very helpful to have somewhere to start. As I mentioned earlier, I ended up discussing Jepson and the curriculum with quite a few of the people I met during my internship. These conversations often branched out of my initial spiel about myself. One conversation initiated by my elevator pitch was so successful that the person I was speaking with emailed our CEO to acknowledge how impressed he was.

After our internship class in the spring, I felt prepared to not only introduce myself effectively and briefly but I also understood the importance of networking. In my personal plan paper I expressed a goal of making professional connections in every department at NPM and while this was stressed again by our CEO, I felt I already understood it’s importance and was eager to meet that goal. Overall, the spring internship class prepared me well, to not only understand the importance of making connections, but also gave me the tool of an elevator pitch to initiate that conversation.

In the end, I couldn’t have imagined a better internship experience and am incredibly grateful to the people at NPR, NPM and everyone at Richmond who helped me make the most of my summer opportunity. I feel I achieved all the goals I had expressed before the summer and more, while also getting great exposure to different types of leadership, organizational cultures and team dynamics.