5 Questions. 5 Minutes. 1 Employer. This week: Ross from SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio.
1. What do you look for when you hire an intern?
I get asked this question a lot by career centers and applicants alike, and I wish I had a simple answer. At SIRIUS XM we recruit for interns in all of our departments. That’s everything from Finance and Accounting to Broadcasting. For each position, the requested or required skill set may differ a little or a lot, giving us a real challenge when recruiting each session. One thing that I can speak to that is critical when we recruit for interns is that they have passion. Whether it’s for their major, our company, the industry, or even for some element of our content. We are a company that has been built upon the passion of our programmers. I truly feel like enthusiasm that our programmers and on-air staff bring to our content really rubs off on the rest of business and that’s something really special. In building our internship program, I recognized that the majority of our candidates won’t come in with a lot of experience. That’s why they are looking for an internship. It’s my job as a recruiter to identify those students who are excited about our opportunities. I have a mantra, “Passion is the catalyst for success.' If someone is passionate and engaged, we can take care of the rest.
2. How did you get started in the industry? How can I get started?
My path is an interesting one. My first official internship was with XM Radio in the Music Programming department as a Junior in college. After going back to school and graduating, a position opened up at XM as a data entry clerk. Far from glamorous, but I jumped at it. After interning at XM,I didn’t really want to work anywhere else,so I would have taken any job that they offered me. While the bulk of my day was sheer monotony, I also pursued my real interest – being a DJ. For two years I hosted a radio show on our alternative rock channel while doing my data entry work. Then something happened. A co-worker was looking over the open positions at XM and mentioned to me that there was a opening for “Internship Coordinator'. This person was going to be tasked with creating XM’s first formal internship program that would incorporate all the departments of the Company. I always had an itch to be a teacher, so this opportunity intrigued me. I applied and as the saying goes, the rest is history. I think it’s been an ideal situation for me both personally and professionally.
The easiest way for someone to get started in the media industry is to do an internship. Students sometimes get caught up in interning at a major company within the industry but with media, any and all experience is good. Our internship is extremely competitive and having some other internships under your belt can be helpful. Some students think that experience at small radio/tv stations doesn’t mean anything. Nothing could be further from the truth. Get experience anywhere you can – local tv/radio stations, college radio, etc. It will all benefit you in the long run.
3. What is the future of your industry?
I’ve been with the Company for over six years and I can truly say that every year (and day for that matter) is exciting. I remember when I was interning we were working on our “March To A Million' subscribers and now we are over 18 million subscribers strong and on pace to reach 20 million by the end of the year (fingers crossed). We are always evaluating and creating new music, talk, sports, and entertainment programming. In the next year, we will also see an line of new products and services that we hope will really excite people. To put it simply, whenever and wherever you are listening to something we want to be there; whether it’s in your car, your home, a portable device, or on your phone.
The great thing about satellite radio – the sky’s NOT our limit.
4. What is one main thing that an intern can do to make a favorable impression? To make a negative impression?
There are a lot of things an intern can do to make a favorable impression, but here’s a short list – be on-time, take notes, ask questions. It seems simple, but you’d be surprised how many interns don’t do these things. With internships it’s the details and little things that mentors notice and those are the things that will set you apart come time to ask for a recommendation or a job. To make a negative impression? Well, do the opposite of those things.
5. Give us a positive intern story? An intern horror story?
I’ve really been blessed to have so many great interns at SIRIUS XM. Probably the best success story comes in the form of my first group of interns (although there have been countless more in the years). My first intern group was somewhere around 15 students, literally a tenth of the size the program is today, and almost all of them were in the music programming area. As I write this today, a majority of those fifteen original interns are employed at SIRIUS XM and they’ve grown to not only be my interns, but great friends also. I’d like to think that they know they have someone in their corner if they ever need anything at all. When I took this job, I told myself that I wanted to be for the students the person that I never had – a person who can answer questions, solve problems, and, most importantly, support them in their professional growth.
I don’t know if it qualifies as a horror story, but I did have an intern faint during our very first townhall meeting with our new CEO after the merger. Luckily she fell right into the VP of Human Resources who was able to carry her to the back of the room while paramedics arrived to treat her. Turns out, she didn’t eat breakfast and just got woozy. Apparently, later that day, our CEO passed by her desk and she apologized profusely to him for fainting. His response – “I’m not used to woman passing out when they see me'. Needless to say, she’s definitely memorable.