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The Carroll News sits down with Walker Jacobs

April 29th, 2013

The Carroll News: Why did you create the internship and is it going to be an annual program?

Walker Jacobs: That is certainty our intention. This is our first year, so hopefully it will be a great experience for us and it will be a great experience for the student involved. We created the program because we see tremendous value in the students here and we think that they have an opportunity to help our company. This is a way as a graduate of John Carroll to give back and it is much more than that, it is about brining really high caliber students into our offices so they can help us.

CN: Why do you think that they can help you?

WJ: Well, I think that finding well-educated, smart, ambitious people who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and work hard and are curious about learning new things is sometimes easier said than done. In my experience at John Carroll, the make-up of the student body and the caliber of the students, I think, will fit in very nicely with our culture and with what we are all about.

CN: One of the things that I noticed was unique about this particular internship was that it targets students of the College of Arts and Sciences, not just Communications or Political Science. Is there a reason that you wanted to do the whole College of Arts and Sciences?

WJ: We wanted to get the broadest possible…we wanted to cast the widest possible net hoping to get as many applicants as we could, so that we could get people who were the best fit for us.

CN: So you were not looking for a particular, because I know it is for Internet sources, but you had no need for just communications majors to do it?

WJ: No. So, what is interesting about the opportunities where we work is that we hire people we think, long term, are going to do the best work for us and then we invest a lot of time and energy training them on the unique skill sets they need to be successful with us. So, we have a formal training process where it is everything from doing research, understanding our strategic planning and inventory management, as well as understanding advertising sales and presentation skills, as well as understanding, from an operational perspective, how our system work. So, practically speaking, we would not expect them to walk in on the first day and understand how any of these things work, but that is not what we are looking for. What we are looking for is the type of people who are interested in being part of our community and putting in the time and putting in the hard work and who are ambitious enough to want to develop a career.

CN: More so do you see it as it doesn’t really matter what your major is because you are going to be trained in it anyway? 

WJ: I think for what we are looking for, that is probably true. Mostly because the world is changing so fast and how people engage with media and advances in technology and what is happening with social and sort of the engagement levels of different types of media, the world is changing very fast. We would never expect somebody to be able to read in a book or get trained in what is going to happen in the future, so we need people who are thoughtful and well-trained so they can help us respond and help us win in a constantly changing market place.

CN: I understand that you are a graduate of John Carroll, so did you just want to come back because of the caliber of the school, or you said to give back, but is there a particular reason?

WJ: I think that I have a tremendous deal of respect for the way John Carroll educates its students and I think that, largely speaking, John Carroll grads have a curiosity and a discipline and I think it is that combination of curiosity, ambition and hard work that is increasingly difficult to find. So, I think that that type of mentality would fit really well in our environment.

CN: When you graduated, did you think that the education you got kind of gave you a leg up on other people in the industry?

WJ: I think that I was very well prepared to be competitive and I think that if you are fully honest about it, you need to get a little bit of luck and you need to be able to create your own luck. I think that what John Carroll prepared me for was how to respond when you are in the right place at the right time. To make sure that you are able to seize upon opportunities when they come and not pass you by. Very much, I think I was well prepared for that.

CN: I know that most graduates are thinking, “Small liberal arts school in Cleveland, no one has really heard of it, what am I going to do?” Was that a concern when you left?

WJ: No, that is not a concern of mine at all. But, I think that if I could give any advice to students today, it is that nobody is going to come give you something. You have to go and take what you want and you have to go get it. I think what the opportunity is to frame out for themselves what their ambitions are and try and best understand how to get your foot in the door and these opportunities and not to expect to get the perfect scenario at the beginning. It is sort of a take your lumps, take your medicine and develop a career that way. So, there is nothing more appealing to us than competitive ambitious people that seek out what we have to offer.

CN: This kind of seemed like, because it is in New York, a little reminiscent of the Russert fellowship. So do you feel that it is important for students to get out of Cleveland or Ohio or Pennsylvania?

WJ: No, I am from Cleveland, I would never say that. I think that there are tremendous communications and media opportunities in this marketplace as well. That is one of the things that is so unique about television and the Internet, that it is ubiquitous. That is every market, and you yourself are a journalist and it is one of the things that is great about training as a journalist, you can do it anywhere. So no, I think that there is no shortage of opportunities here in Cleveland. I happen to live and work in New York, so that is where I can offer help. But we have sales offices in Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. So that is where my business runs out of, because so much of our infrastructure is based in New York, we will be able to offer students the most diverse experience and rounded experience in terms of understanding the various components of working in a marketplace, everything from marketing to operations to ad sales and so forth, it just seemed like the best place for us to put the job.

CN: The internship doesn’t just focus on the online aspects, right?

WJ: So, I run the digital ad sales and marketing team and that is where we are going to house the position. They (the intern) are going to work closely with the television ad team as well, so the intern will have a lot of exposure to our television ad sales as well. As well as the various support teams that support our advertising teams: our sales marking teams, our operational teams, our strategic planning teams and our research teams.

CN: The student who gets the internship, are they going to be doing projects? Are they going to be observing?

WJ: Very much project based work and it is very much a formal program. We have around 14 interns this year that are paid from universities around the country and we have people inside our company that are responsible for managing to the program. The interns will be on a rotation and they will be assigned projects that interest them the most.

CN: So it is very much a “come into the office and do the projects?…”

WJ: Very much so. Definitely a 9 to 5 job, at the minimum, and they will have an opportunity to develop relationships with similarly situated students.

CN: Developing relationships with people in the industry seems to be a very important part of the business world these days. How does that play into your career?

WJ: What is great about this, is that is it not who you know, it has been a competitive process. We are meeting four finalists today and it is very much a meritocracy. I think that a big part of our business, we are in a relationship business and so people who are able to successfully curate and manage relationships have a high likelihood of being successful. So what they are able to do once they get their feet on the ground will be a big part of what opportunities are ahead of them.

CN: Did this generate a lot of buzz? Did you get a lot of intern applications? 

Luckily for us, the College of Arts and Sciences managed the process up until this point for us. So, we co-developed the opportunity and what the program is and the details involved. Today we are engaging a meeting with four finalists so we are deciding who gets to position through these interviews.