How My Career Changed in a Single Semester

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Written by Digital Surgeons,
• 10 min read

Briana Raucci, a graduate of our interactive media internship program, shares what brought her to Digital Surgeons, her favorite Pink Floyd album, and how she leveled up during her time with us.

In March of 2016, it had been two years since I graduated with my bachelor’s, and I had yet to find anything but a retail job. While there is nothing wrong with retail, I hoped that after paying thousands of dollars for my degree in photojournalism, I would be able to find a job in my field and pay off my loans.

After a few months of unsuccessful job searching, I decided to pivot my search to Interactive Media. It was clear that there would be more opportunities for me in that industry, so I decided to apply to Quinnipiac's masters of science program.

Flash forward to August 2016, and I was beginning my first semester at QU as a graduate student. While I hoped that getting a master’s degree would give me a better shot at a job, I had no idea just how helpful it would be.

Within a semester, I had an entirely new skill set and a level of confidence in my abilities that I hadn’t felt in years. I learned about typography, information design, creating a visual hierarchy, marketing and social media, user research, and website usability. I even learned how to prototype apps and websites, along with basic HTML and CSS website code manipulation.

After the success of my first semester, and with twice as many useful skills, I decided to start applying for internships.

Enter: Digital Surgeons

I’ve driven on I-91 more times than I can count, and a particular sign off the highway caught my eye for years. While I’d always admired it, I didn’t give it much thought beyond that. But now that I was intrigued about design, and looking for a job, I decided to research what this “Digital Surgeons” place was all about.

I was immediately impressed with the design, layout, and usability of the website (all things of which I was now hyper-aware of). I looked into the careers page and saw a few jobs that I knew I was far from qualified for…but I also saw a few internships.

I put my application in and sure enough within a few days received an email back expressing their interest. I was invited for an interview and advised to look at their “values.”

Embrace Your Curiosity, Find Your Audacity, Lead With Empathy, Be Responsive To Change, and Get Disruptive

“Those,” I thought “are some pretty unique values for a business.” Reading them actually made me question if the company was too good to be true. A business that encourages asking questions and learning…facing your fears head on, despite how intimidating it could be, in order to inspire self-growth…being empathetic to the people they work with…knowing change is inevitable, and undoubtedly the only constant in life…and encouraging their employees to “F*ck the Status Quo” in order to find new, innovative ideas to reinvent the norms of Digital Marketing? Nah, this definitely can’t be real.

Yet, a week later, I found myself inside the building I’d passed so many times before for an interview. As if I wasn’t excited enough by the open floor plan and the welcoming light shed by the massive windows, I met with a few employees that made it difficult to wipe the smile off of my face. 

The Interview

Or should I say, discussion about my passions and hopes for my future career. Sitting down with Jason Rose and Michael Zimm confirmed that Digital Surgeons was the place I wanted needed to be. Jason asked me what I had learned in school thus far, and was hoping to learn more of. We discussed what the potential job would entail…and our favorite Pink Floyd album (Wish You Were Here), because why not talk about Pink Floyd during an interview? 

Zimm and I chatted about our interest in photography — my passion for taking pictures, and his for the aesthetic and beauty of the results. We talked about how he was a Yale PhD classicist turned creative strategist for Digital Surgeons.

Zimm also said something that struck me – “I genuinely love every single person I work with.” I remember the more cynical part of me immediately thinking, “okay, he’s clearly the nicest guy on the planet who sees the best in everyone, because there’s no way that everyone here could be a peach to work with.” Later, I would find that Zimm’s statement was not only genuine, but that I agreed with it.

The Internship

I was terrified at the prospect of actually getting the internship. I was used to interviews. Interviews were no big deal…but actually getting a job, yikes…scary. This would be my first real job…meaning, not freelancing, and not some sort of retail or service job. This would be an internship to help my career.

I was offered and accepted the position, terrified and overwhelmingly excited at the same time. Would I do a good enough job? Would I meet their expectations? Would I get along with everyone? With a million self-doubting questions in my head, I remembered to have the audacity to face the fear of the challenges that were to come and embrace the new changes with open arms.

I arrived on my first day, nervous yet excited to soak up whatever I could learn. On that day alone, I learned a few days worth of information on inbound marketing. Jason gave me a few Moz Academy & Hubspot classes on the topic, as well as several other resources to get me up to speed with the content marketing methods at DS.

The first thing that I realized was the unspoken trust that he had in me to do my research when left alone with a list of readings and videos all day. That showed a level of respect for me as an employee that I had never experienced before. I was trusted to do my research, and able to vocalize my learnings at the end of the day. I instantly felt valued and mutually respected. Given that I love learning, by the end of the day I found myself with 10 pages of notes. I could have gone for just the first day and still left more knowledgeable than when I walked in.

The point of a day's worth of research was so that I could begin to understand how Digital Surgeons works with their clients, where my current skills could be utilized, and what I was interested in learning more about.  

What I Did

My position as an Interactive Media intern allowed me to get my hands on a lot of fun new projects. I started by using my photography skills to build a backlog of photos for DS to use in the future — whether it’s for their website, social media, clients, or employee reference. I then began to stretch my Photoshop skills by making “Now Hiring” graphics for LinkedIn. That’s right…the intern made something practical!

Say goodbye to the idea of internships where you make coffee runs and copy papers. If you really want to learn, Digital Surgeons is the place to go.

I also captured videos and learned how to edit them in both Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. Once I created some assets, I was able to learn more about UX, which is what I am concentrating on in my degree. By doing some competitive research, I was able to figure out the best way to create a culture page for DS.

With my research in mind, I wireframed a culture page, and learned more about prototyping tool InVision. I was also able to do competitive research for a client to assist the team in deciding how to best tackle a certain webpage. In addition, I’ve been working in content management systems (CMS) applying alt tags, and entering content into client websites.

By getting my hands on real projects, not only did I learn about the industry, but it also complemented my classes. I’d learn something at school, and instantly after, find an opportunity to apply my new knowledge first hand in the business world.  While I was constantly challenged and faced with tasks I’ve never faced before, I loved every second of it.

Added Fun

Aside from enjoying learning something new every day, Digital Surgeons has a lot of fun activities and events for their employees. For example, lunch and learns! What is a lunch and learn? Well, employees take turns explaining a subject that they have mastered to anyone willing to listen over lunch.

You want to learn about coding? Adam Chambers had a lunch and learn on the basics. Want to learn more about Git? Jake Burden and Cory Zibell have the answers. What about storytelling? James Dowd had a lunch and learn on storytelling.

Speaking of stories, James also lead Storytelling night — a new event where employees are encouraged to get up and practice both their storytelling skills, as well as public speaking. Although I was intimidated by the idea, it turned out to be an amazing way to level up while bonding with my colleagues.

In such a fast-paced environment, it is also important to remember to slow down, which is why DS has the option to join a guided meditation every other Tuesday. DS creates an environment that encourages learning, working hard, and having fun — but don’t forget to breathe.

What I’ve Learned

Simply put: new skill sets, how to have confidence in my abilities, and that everyone at DS is amazing. I have never had a job that I so deeply enjoyed both the work I do and the people there. By being challenged by my colleagues, as well as challenging myself, I have learned that even if you don’t know the answers to everything, you can still add value if you apply yourself and do your best.

Believing in yourself will lead to you surpass your own expectations, and result in a positive experience for yourself, and everyone around you.

The Results & My Personal Advice

Remember how I mentioned how difficult it is to find a job? Well after just a semester of both QU and Digital Surgeons, my new found abilities have allowed me to apply for positions that I didn’t think I would be qualified for this soon. Not only are more job opportunities available, but also I am now getting responses and offers.

If all of this sounds like something you’d be interested in, do it. It’s been an incredible, invaluable experience, which I couldn’t be more thankful for.

To have a successful experience yourself, be proactive. Listen to the information that is constantly being offered. Take on any new task you can. Get to know your colleagues.  Learn as much as you can from them. Teach yourself things on your own. Watch tutorials. Get stuff done, and have fun.

Interested in an internship at Digital Surgeons? Apply here.