The camera pans across the office and lands on a young ingénue. She weaves between the various secretarial desks arranged in the large central space of the office, clutching a small box of personal possessions with which she will adorn her own desk. The men of Sterling Cooper gather around the perimeter to gawk at Peggy Olson, who is unaware that this will be her first day as Don Draper’s personal assistant--
Okay, so my externship experience was by no means analogous to Peggy Olson’s introductory scene in the premiere episode of AMC’s Mad Men. But it is approximately representative of my familiarity with advertising when I applied for a winter externship with Cooke & Co., a marketing start up located in Brooklyn, New York and founded by the supremely cool Steve Wax ’65. My existence is surprisingly divorced from the deluge of advertising media some people may experience. There are no commercial breaks on Netflix, I was an early adopter of AdBlock, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up a physical piece of print media. Figuratively, I was Peggy Olson on her first day at Sterling Cooper, and literally, all that I knew of advertising was Peggy Olson’s character arch from secretary to senior copywriter.
I can tell you now that Cooke & Co. is nothing like Sterling Cooper, and modern marketing has come a long way since Don Draper. The scope of marketing has expanded from print, radio, and brief television commercials to websites, social media, and beyond. In many ways, advertising platforms are more accessible to brands than ever before, and perhaps as a result, the “market” is a bit saturated. Thus, the need for brands to differentiate both themselves and the ways in which they engage with their audiences has become extremely pronounced.
David Smirnow and his family are fabulous hosts. They let me stay in their home for five days while I shadowed different doctors including David at the city hospital. I was able to see the beautiful Montana landscape every morning on my way to "work" with David. I say "work" because I got to watch everything but did not actually have to do anything. After all I am not certified to cut someone open, not to mention it was too much fun to be called work. David was invaluable in setting up day for me to shadow in pathology, radiology, anesthesiology, and surgery. I had the opportunity to see cancerous cells under a microscope, bones and the womb through CT, MRI, and X-ray scans, brain surgery, and more. The doctors were friendly and full of information to help lead me along my path to medicine. I was also able to see an autopsy, which I admit was a little unnerving but very educational. It was like an anatomy class but more smelly. Overall, definitely an experience not to be forgotten!
The heavens had already started to rumble and give the East Coast a hard time as I flew into NYC a few days after New Year. The first day of work I took the wrong bus and ended up walking 31 blocks down Madison Avenue. Although it wasn’t the most pleasing thing, it was an experience on its own – weaving my way through herds of humans that flock midtown Manhattan every morning. Seeing those skyscrapers tower above me, the financial powerhouses of the world, was an enthralling sight.
I strode into the Conquest Capital office and all I could hear was the buzz of CNBC market tickers signaling stocks, futures, currencies, commodities and what have you. Conquest is a hedge fund involved in trading futures and currencies based on signals from the mathematical mazes underlying their strategies. As a result, most of my work was based on grasping the very elements that make up a trading strategy. I was using a combination of MS Excel and Visual Basic (VBA) to build my model which revolved around what is called a “moving average” in the financial world.
Another part of this great experience was observing traders strike out deals and place orders depending on market conditions. The release of job numbers and retail industry figures for the holiday season coincided with the time I spent there, and I got to see Economics 201 (which I had taken in the fall semester before) at work. I got a real sense of market volatilities and how significantly market indicators can impact trades in S&P 500 and the world currency market.