Placement blogs

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

Posts By: nj331

A Placement in London: The Pros and Cons

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies, Uncategorized

Before another post updating about life at NBCU, I thought I’d write a piece on what it’s like to be a POLIS placement student in London. I had always figured that I would live in London at some point in my life; I grew up in Reading (30 mins away from Paddington by train) and my sister has lived in the city for a number of years. All of my media work experience has also been in the city, albeit only for sporadic weeks at a time.

My first work experience when I was 16 - has anything really changed?

My first work experience when I was 16 - has anything really changed?

For me, a huge pro of London life came before I had even moved. I found searching for a flat incredibly easy in comparison to Bath, setting aside a day to look at suitable apartments and finding our perfect place by lunchtime. Now, I have to caveat this by saying that my flatmate (a friend from school, who I’d already agreed to live with a year before even getting my placement) was quite keen on living in Clapham; the issue of where to live in such a huge city was fairly immediately resolved. However, I definitely recommend looking in the Clapham area to any prospective Londoners as there’s a thriving young-professional community and it’s relatively affordable. I live literally opposite the Clapham North tube station, which definitely helps with any morning laziness. There was hardly a shortage of two-bedroom houses and flats in the area, which is immensely useful for anyone to find a place at short notice.

Featuring scenic views of the tube station.

Featuring scenic views of the tube station.

On the subject of the tube, there’s a bit of a mixed blessing when it comes to transport in London. On the one hand, it’s (usually) quick and frequent, meaning that darting from one end of London to the other isn’t too much hassle. However, it can be unbelievably unpleasant. I take the Northern line every single day (fun fact – the Northern line goes to the most Southern tube station in London) and, subsequently, I spend far too much of my time pressed up against a stranger in the tube equivalent of sardines. There’s also the case of heat; on the two or so days of summer that London actually has, I’ve been so hot on the tube that my makeup has melted by the time I’ve gotten to work. This is an aspect of London life that I’ve simply had to put up with, but I know it isn’t for everyone.

How my housemate feels about getting the tube all the time.

How my housemate feels about getting the tube all the time.

Of course, it’s also expensive. Everything is eye-wateringly expensive. Coming back to Bath makes everything feel cheap – the complete opposite of when I first moved to University.The extent of which this hits you will ultimately depend on how much you are paid. Without going into details, I have friends who are in other ends of the country who are paid less but are still able to save money overall. Admittedly, I have made a decision to enjoy London life as much as possible which, unfortunately for me, does come at a cost. Still, generally speaking, unless you’re on a banking placement, it’s a lot harder to save money if you’re living here.

And viva London! Nights with glitter and free signs being one of the things I spend my hard-earned money on.

And viva London! Nights with glitter and free signs being one of the things I spend my hard-earned money on.

However, there’s so much going on in the city that it makes shelling out money on events easy but worth it. Some personal highlights of the year have included attending an interactive Great Gatsby performance, going to a Secret Cinema event in black tie, playing ping pong in a UV bar and much, much more. Furthermore, as there are so many other POLIS students on placement in London, I am able to attend these events with a similar friendship group to what I had at university. Whilst this isn’t to say that I haven’t met people here, it certainly makes moving to a new city easier when you’ve got a lot of familiar faces on call.  If you’re even slightly interested in the arts, London will always have something new and quirky to offer you.

 

Fresh out of the 1920s.

Fresh out of the 1920s.

Whilst this is just a small overview on a big city, I hope it’s been informative!

 

Christmas Party, Free Coffees and Fifty Shades

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

As there’s so much to update on, I thought I’d go for four mini-posts! So without waiting any longer…

The Christmas Party

Now, the NBCUniversal Christmas party is an event that is hyped up to the point where you’re excited for Christmas from about mid-August. As the date approached, I found myself seriously considering the extent of which I was looking forward to this more than actual Christmas (sorry mum). Each year it happens in a different location, with plenty of music, food and drink. This year’s theme was “Night Circus” and took place in the Waterloo Vaults (a venue that stretches out under Waterloo train station).

All the NBCUniversal TV Research interns (and Matt, who just happened to also be in the lobby)

All the NBCUniversal TV Research interns (and Matt, who just happened to also be in the lobby)

Getting dressed up in the office was taken pretty seriously here in research, topped by one of the interns bringing in a light up mirror. The event itself definitely lived up to expectations, with room after room filled with something new. Highlights included challenging various people to an arcade dance machine, eating nitrogen ice-cream and subjecting my colleagues to my terrible dance moves.

The Digital Research team!

The Digital Research team!

M. Night Shyamalan and Free Coffee

This placement has led to a lot of slightly surreal showbiz moments, but up there has to be when M. Night Shyamalan was the reason for the café on the newly acquired floor of our building becoming completely free. It started with a business update at a theatre near the office, during which James McAvoy and M. Night Shyamalan answered questions about their new film Split (which I definitely recommend, even if I literally had to hide my eyes behind my hands for some of it). However, on the more logistical side of the business update, the prospect of a subsidised café with real-life baristas was raised. To cut a long story short, M. Night congratulated us on the cheap coffee which was enough to persuade the Chairman that we should actually be having this coffee for free. So thanks M. Night, can’t beat drinking an Americano whilst looking over London.

So close, yet so far.

So close, yet so far.

InterMedia

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am now a member of the committee for the LGBT+ employee resource group OUT London. Part of this has involved reaching out to the cross-media LGBT+ alliance InterMedia UK. Subsequently, I attend monthly steering committee meetings at offices across London (recently this has included Channel Four and ITV). Ultimately, the group’s aim is to make the media industry more LGBT+ friendly and getting to discuss issues with such a plethora of industry professionals has been incredibly insightful. It’s still early days, but there are some cracking events coming up.

Found the Channel 4 logo IRL

Found the Channel 4 logo IRL

50 Shades Darker Premiere

I first read Fifty Shades of Grey when I realised that I could get it for free because I shared a Kindle account with my mum who had already bought it (a mixed blessing). It was therefore incredibly exciting to open my emails one Thursday and see that I had won an internal contest to attend the premiere that evening. Walking to Leicester Square, I could see the lights and hear the crowds as we approached the cinema. As luck would have it, we arrived on the red carpet at the same time as Jamie Dornan and the flash of cameras was unreal. Security moved us down the red carpet quickly, but we still were able to take lots of pictures. Before the film itself, we were treated to a glass of champagne and a quick introduction from E. L. James herself. It’s safe to say I could get used to that lifestyle!

Not pictured: me basically throwing my phone at another intern to get this photo before security moved us on.

Not pictured: me basically throwing my phone at another intern to get this photo before security moved us on.

 

I've officially reached the halfway point of my placement, but I know the next half will likely be just as eventful!

 

Reality Stars and Living Digital

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

The big event of the past few months has hands down been getting to work at the National Reality TV Awards with hayu; a red carpet event which awards reality stars and TV shows for their work over the past year. This is, incidentally, how I ended up a few feet away from Bake Off (and general) queen Mary Berry. I was largely in the green room, where hayu interviewed stars directly after they had come off the stage. This was my first time working with “talent”, they seemed overwhelmingly glamourous (although I did get told by a stylist that my dress was very on trend, something tells me I was likely the only person wearing an outfit they got for £10 online).

Red Carpet!

I love making the most of NBCU’s employee perks, including watching free film screenings of  Universal Pictures theatrical releases. My favourite so far has been Nocturnal Animals, as it plays perfectly into my love of bold, colour-corrected landscape shots and Jake Gyllenhaal’s eyes. There’s also the office film club, which frequently streams releases in the company’s screening room– for free. That’s not to say that I didn’t watch a lot of film and TV before, it’s just that new releases can be a bit financially off limit as a student. Now, it quite literally comes with the job! The next film I hope to  see is Loving. Now, I must admit, I may have shed a tear when I recently saw the trailer for the second time. Yes, I knew exactly what was coming and yet two and a half minutes of footage still got me all emotional. I don’t have high hopes for my keeping it together during the actual film.

Capture2

I’ve recently seen my job title change from “New Media Intern” to “Digital Intern” amidst some restructures in the department. This is more reflective of the work that I do, as the number of my web and social media responsibilities have increased; including two new big projects. Firstly, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has launched in the UK and I have been tasked with tracking and reporting its performance on social media. This involved building a new, semi-automated report from scratch using systems that I frankly hadn’t heard of pre-placement.  Designing it has certainly been a learning curve; displaying data on Excel can be fiddly at the best of times, but it is certainly gratifying to see the time taken to complete the report sharply decreasing each week. Also on the social media front, I have designed the new social media section of the weekly hayu report and am responsible for updating it each week.

 

I can’t believe we’re already in February - time flies when you’re having fun!

 

OUT, Spielberg and Real Housewives

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

The weekend before starting my internship coincided with another important weekend for me; London LGBT+ Pride. It was my second year of being a flag bearer which, as the name suggests, largely involves waving a giant flag throughout the duration of the march. Whilst waiting for our time slot, I watched the march begin down Oxford Street in a flurry of glitter and music. I had noticed that NBC

Universal International was listed in the first section of the parade, but that didn’t quite prepare me for the double-decker purple beast of a bus that drove round the corner; emblazoned with the motto “Creativity is Universal”. Employees and their loved ones were both on the bus and walking beside it, handing out rainbow flags, t-shirts and stickers.

I now have a t-shirt with that same motto on the back, and have signed up to be on the bus at next year’s Pride. Commitment to diversity was a big reason why NBCUI stood out to me, so I made sure to join the internal LGBT and Straight Ally Employee Resource Group, OUT, shortly after I joined the company itself. Subsequently, I’ve been to an OUT BBQ where I met some great people and won a few prizes in a raffle (including a cracking Secret Life of Pets backpack in the shape of a dog). I’ve also signed up to be on the planning committee for the group, so hopefully watch this space!

Ultimately, I feel incredibly grateful to instantly have access to all these wonderfully supportive people across all departments (shout out to Daliah, I promise I will come and visit you up in editing). Starting any new job is nerve-wracking, but especially so if you feel you have to hide parts of yourself; something that neither helps your relationships or your work. As well as the OUT events, I’ve also attended events organised by the members of our International cultural awareness network (iCAN) and Women’s Network.

My attempts to get into the carnival spirit. My manager is the one with the pineapples.

My attempts to get into the carnival spirit. My manager is the one with the pineapples.

On a personal level, it’s made me come face to face with the level of inequality that does still persist in media today. When it comes to writing, the area that I would eventually like to enter myself, just 11% of film writers are women. ELEVEN. However, the benefit of working for a media company that fosters a positive attitude towards diversity is that I am able to maintain a shred of optimism in the face of statistics that inherently make me want to run away from professional life and live on an island only inhibited by cats. Discussions of persisting systematic inequality and who/what is to blame are not shied away from, rather, incorporated into the considerations of where to go next.

I have to mention another event that occurred last month; a town hall event at the BFI that featured a Q&A with Steven Spielberg. The first part of the event was an update on the business from the company’s Executives, including footage from upcoming films’ trailers (hello new 50 Shades), before the legend himself spoke to us. Now, I’m going to be honest here; I usually find standing ovations painfully awkward. Typically only a few people who actually mean it stand up first, followed by a general Mexican wave of people succumbing to peer pressure. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that when the man who worked on Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T and The BFG sits on a stage a few meters away from you, everyone gives a standing ovation with unwavering enthusiasm. Whilst answering his questions on stage, the thing that struck me the most was his unwavering dedication and enthusiasm for entertainment after so many years in the industry. He spoke of his excitement to work on a musical film for the first time and of the challenges that Virtual Reality present, on how he snuck into a Universal film lot and began his career with the company. The whole thing left me a bit star struck, and has stood out as a highlight of my (admittedly short!) time here so far.

Taken right before seeing the man himself. Photo does not capture inner freak.

Taken right before seeing the man himself. Photo does not capture inner freak.

Now, I realise I’ve gotten to nearly the end of my blog post without actually talking about my day-to-day job. It’s been remarkably busy, involving a couple of trips out the office, and has meant that my involvement with social media projects has increased. Most excitingly, an article I wrote for hayu got published this month! This involved the entertaining task of reading Real Housewives’ autobiographies and reviewing them, the results of which you can read here (https://news.hayu.com/real-housewives-nyc/news/5-housewives%E2%80%99-autobiographies-reviewed). I am continuing to pitch ideas to the team so once again, watch this space, but I’m incredibly happy to already be doing some editorial work.

 

The verbal knives come out.

The verbal knives come out.

Time seems to be flying by already, but I know next month should have some exciting opportunities in store!

 

Virtual Reality and Cacti

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

It was my first Saturday in London and I was just starting to feel as if I was getting some kind of grip on the city. We were sat in the Uber I had so expertly ordered, as if to give the illusion that I had had the app downloaded, or, rather, had lived in the city, for more than a couple of hours. I felt like I was ready for anything; to walk briskly and complain loudly about the Central line, or whatever it is that ‘Londoners’ do. Well, I was, until my friend turned to me and said, “you start your placement tomorrow”.

 

By tomorrow he meant Monday, of course, but the technical realisation hit hard. I had spent so long trying to get the job, find a place to live and generally pass my degree that actually doing the job itself had suddenly snuck up on me. I had no doubt in my mind that NBCUniversal International was the perfect company for me; I had been so keen to work there that I had actually applied for three different positions. Fast forward three cover letters, two video interviews and a couple of assessment days and  ‘The Call’ finally came in the middle of one of my development lectures. It’s safe to say I didn’t pay any attention after that!

 

NBCUniversal International has, as I would come to be reminded by a cheerful induction video, a rich history largely comprised of the National Broadcasting Company and Universal Pictures. It’s a subsidiary of Comcast, and is, by many measures, the largest media company in the world. Although my degree is in Politics with Economics, I knew from the onset that I wanted my placement to be in media and applied for very little else.

Drinks @ Digifest

Drinks on the tenth floor of the building

Thankfully, my efforts paid off and I found myself stepping into the NBCUniversal International halls as an employee. The company shares a bright, busy building off Tottenham Court Road with other companies (including Google); a building with fast revolving doors and lifts with no buttons inside. I had been inside the previous summer for a meeting but, naturally, it felt different entering knowing that I would be spending the next year as an intern.

 

I successfully secured the role of New Media Research Intern, the title that would come to adorn my placement documents and email signatures. After a week of inductions, a catalogue of new faces and a less than perfect ID photo, I was beginning to learn what I would be doing for the next year. Primarily, I would work with digital content sales and tracking social media, but I also get to work with the fantastic catalogue; from Jurassic World to The Office. Many of the partners are both familiar yet innovative, with names such as Apple, Amazon and Play Station coming up often. Furthermore, I will be assisting the hayu team (subscription reality video on demand) which is a befitting reward for my many years of watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Me, confirming my status as "the tall one" in a photo that is now on my desk.

Me, confirming my status as "the tall one" in a photo that is now on my desk.

It has now been a month since I joined NBCUniversal, althoughit has flown by. As Excel functions and digital terminology becomes second nature, I am amazed at how much I have learned in such a short period of time.  I don’t know if it’s the amount of film and TV posters throughout the office or simply the people, but the company has continued to be a friendly and collaborative place since my first day.

 

There have also been some incredible highlights. NBCUniversal hosted ‘Digifest’ for the first time; a digital festival showcasing the latest in media technology. After a panel of social media giants (including Facebook and Snapchat), I was able to walk around and try the newest prototypes; including a virtual reality headset that made me look like I was Iron Man. This was followed by drinks, where Made In Chelsea’s Stephanie Pratt was a guest, on the newly acquired tenth floor that overlooks the whole city. There were photos taken (that now line my desk) which made the whole event feel terribly glamourous. Less glamorous was the time I accidentally ordered ten cacti to the office; which now line both my and most of the research department’s desks.

 

Not shown: my frantic running to the bathroom, getting dirt everywhere

Not shown: my frantic running to the bathroom, getting dirt everywhere

 

Whilst this is just a brief overview of my first month, I hope to share more over the upcoming year. I’m sure it will be an incredible journey!