My Internship Experience in Cleveland

A Summer Working for a Digital Marketing Agency


My Project

This summer, My STEP project financed an apartment for me to sublease in the greater Cleveland area for an internship to experience what life could be like working downtown. The other focus was to leverage the benefits of being close to home, while being exposed to a city I’ve lived near, but never taken full advantage of. For me, the theme is discovering the things in life I’ve been ignoring, but could make a substantial change if embraced.

Shifting Assumptions

For my STEP project, I used my money to finance an apartment to stay for the summer in Cleveland. While it may lack some of the flash of a city like Chicago or New York, it was important for me to consider a career that I could remain relatively close to home. I wanted to get a sense of independence living close to home in Akron, yet I know that after college being near my family, and my families business, is important to me. My STEP project was a fantastic opportunity for me to develop a greater understanding of my self, and my self interests. By living in a city as close to home and as small as Cleveland, I realized there would not be as great an opportunity to immerse myself in a world of completely new things. At the end of the day I was still in Northeast Ohio. Rather than chasing external excitement, I wanted the summer to challenge my internal thoughts and cultivate the life that I want to live for decades to come. This means that work life balance and finding passions is important to me, although I’m not 100% clear that I’ve found them yet. Similar to living in a rural area, Cleveland’s simple offerings gave me more time to appreciate the simpler things. I remember fondly concerts in Cleveland this summer with my girlfriend where we could walk from the apartment to the venue, and as the night would end the city would quiet down too. My internship was with a digital marketing agency in downtown Cleveland called the Hileman group. It was a fantastic experience, and I learned a lot about the industry while I was working. Living so close to my job was an enormous benefit, as it gave me time to experience life in the city, and to get involved with coworkers and other friends around Cleveland. I’m enormously grateful not to have had a hour+ commute each way, each day this summer. My assumptions for the summer were largely unknown. I knew that the decision felt a little mundane choosing to go back to my hometown/city that I’ve lived near all of my life, but I didn’t expect some of the benefits I had. Rather than starting from scratch I found that my existing friends and family provided a massive beneficial support network for me throughout the summer. Whether it was working out everyday with a friend who encouraged me to get started, or having my parents occasionally surprise me for dinner, it was very nice being s

o close to home. The STEP grant showed me the true benefits of the familiar, and not to fear that there’s something wrong with diving deeper into the internal mindset for finding happiness.


The Moments and Activities that provided Change

My roommate this summer was one of the people most responsible for helping me make the summer a transformational experience. Ryan is an extremely motivated, hardworking individual who prides himself on both his academic and athletic pursuits. While Ryan’s studying to be a doctor, he too has transformed his body through weight training almost every day. Living with him this summer, he encouraged me to join him, and by the end of the summer I was right there with him at least 3 times a week. It was a fantastic experience for me to establish a weight training routine, and see some actual improvement. While all of my numbers are still certainly beginner’s, I would say I saw both physical and mental benefits come from developing my strength. I was shocked to see the benefits it created for me mentally, and I loved the experience by the end. Knowing that at the end of each work day, a session in the gym awaited me, I was forced to develop a stronger mental attitude to embrace the workouts. While I certainly struggled at first, and did not always want to be there, I could feel myself improving and that was invaluable.

Another such experience that was transformational was getting the experience to work with my manager this summer at my internship. She played a valuable role in supporting me as I learned various new softwares for digital marketing within my role. There was certainly some learning curves, but having her expertise ensured that I was able to grow into being a valuable contributor for the team. She ensured that early in my internship I was sitting in on key client meetings, walking me through different email and nurture builds, and ensuring that I was taking the requisite online courses to ensure I was best prepared for the role. On top of all of this, my internship exposed us to some great professional development material such as books, personality tests, and professional mentoring. One of the pieces I found particularly transformative was the Gallup’s Strength Finders test. Which informed me of my top 5 strengths…

  1. Ideation
  2. Connectedness
  3. Intellection
  4. Learner
  5. Restorative

I could go on, at length, but this test was hugely eye opening and I made several friends and family take it too. My number one strength is all about the fascination with ideas, and how we strive to make the complex simple. My secondary strength is all about the interconnectedness of things. While this is often spiritual, which I would agree that I am, there’s an interesting connection with ideation where I view complex ideas that may seem entirely separate as related at the root level. I had an incredible time exploring the strengths finders test, and I was thrilled to have taken it this summer.

An additional piece of the summer that was transformational came as a result of the books I read this summer. In totality I read 10 different books.

  1. The Yamas and Niyamas
  2. You’re Always Being Interviewed
  3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  4. The Bhagavad Gita
  5. Good to Great
  6. Can’t Hurt Me
  7. The Art of Learning
  8. Living with a SEAL
  9. The Third Door
  10. Infinite Jest

These books I read were a combination of recommendation of friends and family, as well as requirements for my internship. My summer internship had me read 7 Habits, Good to Great, and You’re Always Being Interviewed. Of the 3, 7 Habits resonated strongly with me. It was a fantastic book for a reader like myself to help return to the foundations of self improvement and professional development. I saw how the book created connective tissue, of sorts, between many of the ideas I have read about in countless other business/self improvement books. I saw it as a foundational text, and the way it explained things from a birds eye level was massively beneficial to gaining clarity over my life, and how I could work to transform myself. I also found the Bhagavad Gita to be hugely beneficial. I consistently found myself reflecting on how I’ve turned away from action, and how the text encourages us to face our difficulties, precisely because they are difficult. We can’t run from our fears, we must become someone who acts, and be someone who the world adjusts to. I would certainly say that the book is a confidence builder and would recommend it to anyone who is currently dealing with uncertainty in their lives.


The Why: Should we Transform?

Life is constant transformation. This is a reality that is an absolute fact and is not something that can be escaped.

“You cannot step into the same river twice.” -Heraclitus.

While I did live in Cleveland instead of Akron this summer was spent, technically, “at home.” Growing up in Northeastern Ohio, I’ve always considered myself as someone who is from Cleveland, even though that’s not entirely true. I could have chosen to go anywhere in the world for this summer, and experience any city for my STEP project and my internship. The decision to choose Cleveland wasn’t entirely easy, but the decision goes much deeper than the external fact of where you live. Ultimately, I wanted my STEP project to challenge me to overcome this stigma of home and find transformation from within. Rather than needing to rely on what city you are in, I wanted to make the most of my summer while I was there. While it can be uncomfortable to fear that you are standing still by heading home to work, you must acknowledge your personal growth and the changes you’ve had as you’ve lived your life. Change is phenomenally important and that’s why I spent so much of the summer in the gym. I knew that this would be something I could do to cultivate better health, emotional strength, motivation and so much more. This summer I read like crazy and tried to expose myself to new, exciting ideas. This summer I saw the opportunity to understand what change means even if you decide to come home. You still have plenty of areas to grow, and it runs much deeper than just the place where you decide to live.