Meet-a-Ram: Kevin Nguyen – VCU News
Editor’s Note: Meet-a-Ram is a VCU news series about the students, employees, and alumni that make Virginia Commonwealth University such a dynamic place to live, work, and study.
Some members of the team that created the Inturnship program lost their advertising jobs in 2020, and you and your VCU undergraduate classmates have been running Camp ADventure for students who needed an education in advertising during the pandemic. How did The Inturnship grow out of these programs and themes?
2020 has impacted many people, which has sparked and created many initiatives around giving back. Much of this was education-based, but not many of these programs led to full-time career opportunities, and that’s where The Inturnship comes in.
After the initial Camp ADventure program ended, we sent out a survey asking participants if they had any success in finding a job. And although about half said yes, the other half said they weren’t sure yet what their next steps were – they wanted a little more room to learn with mentoring.
I worked very closely with senior creatives from companies like Google and my VCU graduate student Megan Watt to get The Inturnship rolling. Then we officially launched in November 2020 and essentially had two to three months of promotion to get our name out there
Why did you call the program The Inturnship?
We created The Inturnship (spelled with a U) with the message Embracing the Detour, which basically tells everyone, ‘If you don’t have a full-time job now, it’s not the end of the world. And sometimes the journey to finding a job can be just as important as the destination.”
Along the way, The Inturnship is there to alleviate some of the financial stress by letting our “Inturns” work with real clients, receive more curated professional mentorship, and ultimately help them land a full-time job offer.
All of the clients we had were paying clients and we budgeted and scheduled the work to ensure the income that was part of our program was paid for through freelance contracts. For those not working full-time for clients, we matched them with mentors to receive direct mentorship and learn about the advertising industry.
That way, when our employees start working, they can enter a full-time position or even a paid internship, with the skills needed to negotiate salaries and titles, and even have the opportunity to use what we pay them to do One Base.
Any standout moments from the experience of leading The Inturnship?
It was so cool to see everyone starting their careers – from our interns to the people who helped create the program – and working in great programs and companies. People have gone to work at Google, Droga5, the Martin Agency and so many others and knowing how supportive everyone is, not just the founding members but also the participants who have come through and left the program has been easy so fulfilling. and it feels like we really have built our own family.
One of the coolest things was seeing a person I looked up to before applying to Brand Center and seeing their name on the program as a mentor. It’s been incredible to see the reach of The Inturnship. The way people have come across us and found this program themselves, whether it’s through LinkedIn or Instagram or just word of mouth, reminds everyone that this industry – like this program – is small but also incredibly supportive. So I think The Inturnship is a testament to that kind of mentality and it’s really refreshing to see that.
One of the most surreal moments that I will never forget is the email that The Inturnship won a Silver Anthem Award, beating out big brands like Pepsi and Snapchat. The Anthem Awards are organized by the Webbys to celebrate purposeful work and to see us being recognized internationally was so surreal. I was so excited I literally yelled everyone!
Does The Inturnship go on?
Yes! We officially became an LLC, so we’re still actively recruiting participants, and we’ve just added four new clients. We’re growing and don’t plan to stop anytime soon.
What was your favorite college course?
My favorite graduate class was called Persuasion with Peter Coughter. He literally wrote the book on presentation skills. It’s called The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that Win Business.
It’s an amazing read because it’s informative but also very funny. Peter is an incredible professor. The way the class is conducted, we can talk about almost anything we want as long as it is on a specific topic. He critiques us in terms of our stage presence, our announcement and pacing, and our general ability to persuade or persuade the class to agree to an idea. He reminds everyone of the importance of storytelling. The lessons are really so much fun. Storytelling is the backbone of advertising, and Peter Coughter knows that better than anyone.
My favorite professor in my undergraduate degree at VCU was Jessica Collins. i still love her Jessica has always been my biggest supporter. I think everything I did during my studies and since then I’ve been able to do it thanks to their support. She’s always been a cheerleader, not just for me, but for all of VCU’s advertising students. She’s the first to know about everything I’m up to. She is great.
What is your favorite spot on campus?
The Graduate Student and Faculty Research Center on the fourth floor of the library is my favorite spot. The architecture and design of the area is stunning because it is so open and the windows let in so much natural light.
A quote that sticks with you?
“What matters is not whether people are good or bad. What matters is whether they try to be better today than they were yesterday.”
I always think of this quote because it reminds me to always treat people with grace and know that there is always room for improvement. Whether it’s personal or professional growth, nothing is ever finite and we can always strive to be better.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Or the worst?
“Don’t find problems, find solutions.” I think it’s important to be able to spot problems and set warning signals when you see them, but we need to bring more to the table than just pointing out problems. We should also come up with ideas on how to improve things. Being proactive and finding a solution and ways to bring it to life will always go much further.
What motivates you?
can influence. One of the biggest motivators for me is knowing that I could potentially have created something that made a positive impact on someone else’s life, no matter how big or small the impact.
Why did you choose the VCU?
The human. I chose VCU because I knew the people here would be creative, smart and inspiring, and I wanted to be surrounded by that kind of energy. The people at VCU are the kind of people who push you not only to get better, but to do better.
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