Adventures of an EPICS Intern: Communication Studies Major to Special Agent!

Mercy Yang OLRFI signGreetings from Washington, D.C.! Today wraps up my summer internship with the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations (OLRFI). Ignore the long name – we are essentially the criminal investigations and law enforcement arm of the Labor department. See our website.

I picked this “white-collar” criminal investigations internship after working as an intern investigator at another federal law enforcement agency. While my communication studies major didn’t relate to the job directly, my curious and inquisitive personality, passion for justice, and fascination about crime inspired me to learn more about criminal justice. As an intern, I work with the special agents and analysts on open cases or potential leads by collecting, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence information. This includes reviewing and evaluating surveillance footage, writing intel memos to present to special agents, or preparing comprehensive reports on subjects. This information is critical to special agents who use my findings to execute search warrants, interview subjects, make arrests, collaborate with U.S. Attorneys to prosecute criminals, and testify in court.

Special Agent vest croppedAfter years of obsessing over TV shows and movies featuring cool and suave federal special agents, I’ve finally seen what it’s really all about in real life. Federal special agents have challenging but important jobs because of their willingness to serve the public and devote the majority of their waking hours to their work. No movie or show will parallel the first-hand experience and relationships I gained this summer.

My greatest takeaway from working in Washington, D.C. is the value of my communication studies major, a very vague and broad field of study. Being a comm studies major has forced me to demonstrate and play up my interests rather than stick to industries traditionally relevant to the major. I have leveraged my broad background to step foot in the fields that I’ve never formally studied but have always been interested in: criminal justice, marketing and sales, social justice, education, journalism and even foreign affairs.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that a liberal arts degree – or a communication studies major – is useless. For all we know, you or I could be the next big federal special agent catching criminals.

Mercy Yang is a rising senior studying Communication Studies who interned with U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations (OLRFI) over the summer. 

Adventures of an EPICS Intern: Atypical Day at Funny or Die, Choose Your Own Adventure Edition!

When you go into the Funny or Die offices in Los Angeles, it has the vibe of a tech startup rather than a production company.

FOD Horse[1]Then you see the giant horse wearing a top hat. Then you see people riding around on handless Segways called “Aisle Hawks”. Then you see some celebrity having a meeting about filming a sketch where they weep over the One Direction break up.

These three things are not exclusive to a “Fun Friday” or some holiday party. No, these things happened every day this summer while I interned at Funny or Die. It’s an unconventional workplace , but it’s unconventional nature showed me how creativity can still exist (even in the depths of Hollywood).

I thought for the sake of this blog I would walk you through my average day at Funny or Die. A place where I worked 9 am-7:30 pm and loved every minute of it. So without further ado, here’s what a typical (or an atypical) day looks like…

9:00 am: Arrive at FoD’s building, which is located on a lot in West Hollywood.

9:05 am: You’ve made coffee, stocked the refrigerator and made the grocery list.

9:10 am: Don’t forget the bathrooms! The men’s room needs the scented candle lit, an iPad playing Frank Sinatra, headlines posted above the urinals. MOST IMPORTANTLY: urinals need blue ice cubes put in every 2 hours to preserve “freshness and esteem”.

9:20 am: You go grocery shopping and see one of the guys from Reno 911!  Buying lettuce. He likes Romaine. Hmm.

10:10 am: Back at FoD. You stock everything you just bought, and then go to the downstairs reception desk. That’s your assignment for the day.

Wes Humphrey- Funny or Die10:30 am: You do the duties of the Front Desk Greeter! You greet everyone who comes in, and help him or her get to the right place. BE ON YOUR TOES THOUGH: If the phone rings more than three times, you have to answer it because the people upstairs couldn’t get it in time.

11:00 am: You are doing script coverage, feedback and notes, for a bad script when your boss tells you that you have a high profile job: A big celeb is coming in and she needs her lunch.

11:30 am: You return with her Curried Chicken Sandwich (YUM). You killed it. Celeb #1 thanks you for the lunch. You try to keep it together because she is Celeb #1 and she is talking to you.

NOON: One of the Execs had a baby! Hooray for him! And he is an NU Alum! Double hooray. You need to drive to his house and drop off a basket of goodies from FoD.

12:30 pm:  You drive to the exec’s house. He answers the door and is so happy for the basket! Also, he looks extremely put together for just having a kid. Maybe that’s what the NU prep is good for?

1:00 pm: You return to FoD, and are immediately sent on another run. Runs are a typical thing in the life of an FoD intern. From lunch, to props for a shoot, you are vital in getting these things all together for the employees.

1:35 pm: You arrive at your destination! It’s a giant VHS tape warehouse. You get a box of tapes and head back to the office.

2:15 pm: You eat an avocado! It’s California, baby! They are EVERYWHERE.

3:00 pm: You have been running the phones. Taking calls, connecting them with employees. All in a day’s work.

4:00 pm: Celeb #2 and Celeb #3 come in for a meeting. They are very nice. They want to go get candy before their meeting.

4:05 pm: The Celebs are back. No Candy.

4:30 pm: Time for your last run of the day. It’s a two parter! You drop a broken phone off at the Apple Store. Then head over to a home goods store to pick up some stuff for a premiere happening.

5:00 pm: You picked up the “Burlap Floor Runner” and head back to the office. Now you are back at the front desk.

6:00 pm: You’ve finished the script coverage and advise them in your write up to not make the movie.


6:20 pm: You filled the bathroom ice. Crisis averted.

7:00 pm: You get to go upstairs and sit with the other interns because the front doors lock at 7. No more greeting for the day!

7:15 pm: You restock the fridge, the cabinets and make sure the bathroom is okay.

7:31 pm: You say goodbye to the office horse and head home for the day.

I hope this gives some sort of insight as to what it’s like to be an intern at a “Big Time Hollywood Moving Pictures Company”. It was a blast all summer, and I learned so much about not only the company, but also myself.

Menial tasks are not menial. And no job is too small. And at Funny or Die, they actually give interns a full, fun experience. And the chance to ride on a really cool handle less Segway.

Wes Humphrey is a rising senior studying Theatre. Wes interned with Funny or Die this summer.

2015 Writers Panel: Writing for the Screen + Stage

This year’s Writers Panel features writers from shows including:

  • HBO’s Girls and Looking
  • Showtime’s Nurse Jackie
  • Plays including GracelandHushabyeand Smart People
Also joining our writers is literary agent, Alexis Williams. Hope to see you there!


Career Advice from NUEA

NUEA (Northwestern University Entertainment Alliance) is the alumni organization for Northwestern grads working in the entertainment industry. They currently have two chapters; NUEA West in LA and NUEA East in NYC. While they do a great job engaging with students/alums when you get out to the coasts, they want to begin this relationship sooner. Below is a message from their Presidents.

Message from NUEA Leaders:

We are the leaders of NUEA West and NUEA East, Northwestern’s entertainment alumni clubs in LA and New York, respectively. We wanted to introduce ourselves and wish you all an amazing 2015!

If you’re not familiar with the NUEAs: our purpose is to strengthen the NU entertainment communities on both coasts. Our clubs organize panels, mixers, screenings, and other events year-round, and we are the go-to resource for new grads who move to the coasts to pursue careers in film, television, media, music, theater, and any other aspect of entertainment.

We’ll be in touch throughout the year, but here are two things we wanted you to know right away:

1) Give us a heads up

If you are planning on moving to LA or NYC after graduation, or if you’re spending a quarter in either city and interning, please get in touch with us! We would love to hear from you.

2) Here is our email address:

We’re also really excited to announce a new way for current students to reach out to us before moving out to the coasts. Starting right now, feel free to email at any time to reach club leaders on either coast.

This is an all-purpose email address — send us your questions about the industry, ideas for new programming, or anything else. We’ll get back to you with advice when we can, and we’ll post responses to common questions online.

We hope you’re all having an amazing start to the year. We loved our time at NU, and we’re excited to connect with you!

Go ‘Cats!

Mike Cavalier (NUEA East,
Marcus Folmar (NUEA West,
Jackie Laine (NUEA West,

Life After NU: A Month of Changes

The days of ten years at a company have passed, I’ve been told by multiple people over the past month. Things change rapidly in the working world, especially if you’re in the tech industry. Although change can be stressful it also opens up opportunities to demonstrate what a valuable asset you are to a business, and explore skills you may not have even known you had.

The Duo Marketing Team, despite all of the changes, I still feel like I have a lot to learn here.
The Duo Marketing Team, despite all of the changes, I still feel like I have a lot to learn at Duo.

It’s been a month of changes here at Duo. We’ve seen a new Outbound Salesman join the team, as well as a new UX intern, and we’re looking forward to a few new faces in different areas of the company. We’ve also seen a Business Developer, Project Manager and, my supervisor, our Marketing Manager Ariel leave. With several years at Duo and even more in the marketing industry she is one to new challenges at a larger company, unlike anywhere she’s worked before.

What has all of this meant for me? What was supposed to be my twelve-week training plan was shortened to six. I’ve spent the last two weeks finalizing a marketing strategy for one of our clients, laying the groundwork for a Marketing summit that we plan on hosting in the winter or spring, and preparing myself to take on all new responsibility.  As of August 18th I’m responsible for all things marketing (two clients and all inhouse marketing) at Duo.

All in all there have been some stressful moments. I’ve taught myself several of our media management and web analytics softwares. I’ve had make calls asking for help when I’ve been in over my head. But I’ve also become much more resourceful and confident in what I do and how I do it. That’s the benefit of doing things on your own, of learning as you go, you develop a holistic understanding of your job, rather than the easily digestible bits and pieces someone feeds you.

It’s hard to go from training, with someone constantly reading over your shoulder, or holding your hand through the whole process, to making decision for yourself about a company, with little guidance except your own intuition. But more than anything else I’m excited for a new, unexpected challenge. I’m looking forward to making my mark on this company, to making decisions with an appreciable impact, and seeing what other opportunities open up because of this change.

I’m looking forward to managing a client’s account on my own, to putting on my first summit for people in the industry, I’m even excited just to be in charge of the day to day aspects of the job from Social Media posts to Blog Writing.

When I first met Ariel she said that everyday you should be learning something new at your job. And if you ever stop learning that’s your signal to leave. If that’s true I imagine I will have several years and a lot to learn here at Duo.

Jon Gleason is a recent graduate of the School of Communication, and majored in RTVF and English (Creative Writing). He now works for Duo Consulting in Chicago.

Life After NU: I’m an Angeleno Now.

Last week, I watched SNL’s hilarious “The Californians” sketches for the first time. I don’t know how I missed them. While no one I’ve met is obsessed with his or her own reflection, the inescapable compulsion to discuss directions and brag about your private shortcuts is absolutely true. I’ve even fallen into the habit myself. Didn’t take long! I guess that means that after a fast month, I’m officially a Los Angeles resident.

Aside from driving—and getting used to the not-so-patient drivers that cruise the LA streets—my transition to post-grad, full-time working life has been going smoothly, with nary a hiccup. Though that may be due to the fact that I haven’t hiccupped in years, as opposed to me growing accustomed to this new stage of life. Let’s put bodily musings on pause for a moment (for the rest of the post, don’t worry) to get to the thing that occupies most of my time: work!

The excitement that exclamation point conveys is absolutely true. My job working at Abominable Pictures has definitely been fun. I’m kept busy, my coworkers are great, and the shows are hilarious, so what more can I ask for? As a Post Production Assistant my tasks vary, but they usually include: making and managing hundreds (only a slight exaggeration) of Google docs to handle everything from post production budgets to producers’ notes on episodes, organizing dailies for producer and director viewing, backing up precious footage, transcribing cuts (allowing me to vicariously live as a TV writer), and searching for stock footage (why is everything a time-lapse when you never need it to be?).

On the set (in the production office area) of Childrens Hospital.
On the set (in the production office area) of Childrens Hospital.

Childrens Hospital wrapped two weeks ago, so we’re now fully in the throes of post. After a fun wrap party, work transitioned from preparing dailies to readying cuts for the higher-ups. I get to watch the incremental edits of each episode; reading the producers’ comments, then seeing how the subsequent versions reflect their compromises, is a fascinating process. Abominable juggles an impressive number of shows, so while four shows are in various stages of post and finishing, we’re gearing up for two more productions. Everyone’s hands are always full, hopefully with comedy gold.

I also often get little random tasks thrown my way. For example, one of my most amusing jobs was ensuring every curse word for a show was fully bleeped out. I found myself playing the bleeps on repeat, making sure every “f” and “t” and “k” and “sh,” not necessarily in that order, was covered. Needless to say, these were the most risqué—and potentially offensive—notes and emails I’ve ever written. Another project I’m in the middle of is creating a poster for an old web series. If it gets approved, my work will adorn the office walls!

At home, I’m now fully moved in to my apartment. The best part: having a parking space. That thing is priceless. Another best part: there’s a Ralph’s (much better than Chicago’s Jewel-Osco) at the end of the street. Plus the apartment itself is great! It still hasn’t rained here, apart from a few raindrops that got lost and accidentally fell over LA, and it looks like that won’t be changing anytime soon. Unfortunate for the drought conditions, but fortunate for…no, the place really needs some rain.

To conclude the post, here’s today’s parting wisdom: Explore! I definitely want to get to know the area I’ll be calling home. Also, you need to have stories when coworkers ask how you like LA. My list of accomplishments includes going to the Pacific (very different than my home Atlantic), visiting the Getty Center, seeing the Walk of Fame, and general exploring. In other words, a lot more to do! Which is fine, because I’m here, and an Angeleno, now.

Robbie Stern is a recent graduate of the School of Communication and majored in RTVF. He now works for Abominable Pictures.

Life After NU: Post Grad State of Mind

“People looking for information are looking for text, not pictures,” writes copywriter Dean Rieck. I, like many students of my generation, was surprised to hear this. I had always assumed that it was graphics that were the most important aspect of marketing, and appearance that was the most important aspect of design. But good writing matters. It matters both in art and in business, so it’s not surprising to find that there are plenty of jobs that will pay you to spend your time writing.

I ran into a friend the other day on Church Street in Evanston. We had both been writing majors together at school, and she knew that I had started a new job since graduation. What amazed her, as I told her how my first month’s been, was the amount of time I spent writing. After four years of parents asking how our majors will ever translate into salaried jobs that amazement shouldn’t be a surprise. But in my first month here at Duo I’ve learned that nearly any skill you have can be turned into a profession, especially if you stay open to all of the possibilities out there.

In my case, I didn’t know anything about Inbound Marketing before I began at Duo, nor had I ever thought of myself as a skilled copywriter, and I certainly didn’t have any plans to work for a consulting firm after I graduated. In fact, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Except maybe pay back those student loans. But that all just goes to show that there’s a world of possibilities out there is you push lightly in many directions.

So what does my job actually look like?

A photo of me and the Duo Team on a summer outing!

In short companies hire me to write about them. Perhaps they have a blog that doesn’t get enough traffic. Or maybe major changes in the company has left the copy on their main page out of date. They come to Duo looking for a refresh or for more content. The trick, however, is that these companies might do any number of things. We have in our rolodex CRM software developers, mid sized fleet management companies, The Episcopal Church, The Sperm Bank of California, the list goes on. I know nothing about most of these companies, so the act of writing is first and foremost the act of researching–something most Northwestern students are very familiar with.

Our partnership with an average client usually looks something like this: we sit down for a meeting to get a base knowledge of their business, we formulate a strategy for what kind of content needs to be generated and where it needs to go, we begin more in depth interviews with different members of the company to get specific insights and industry relevant knowledge. Then, and only then, do we begin to put anything on the page. And what comes out is usually not as lengthy as you might expect from this long process. But as the other member of our marketing team likes to point out “there’s a lot of terrible content on the internet, we’re after quality, not quantity.”

Jon Gleason is a recent graduate of the School of Communication, and majored in RTVF and English (Creative Writing). He now works for Duo Consulting in Chicago.