As a 2015 graduate of the University of South Carolina, two things were important to Morgan Finley in her new job search: growing diverse representation within the marketing industry and actually being able to afford the opportunities provided. And unfortunately, within the creative and marketing industries, that is much easier said than done.
“In some instances, a company might give you an internship, but you basically have to sleep in your car and make $7 an hour,” said Finley. “But I feel like Verizon’s new AdFellows program is actually setting us up for success – they’re actually investing in us.”
Chosen to be part of the inaugural group of Verizon AdFellows, Finley will be part of a first-of-its-kind industry fellowship offering participants a fully integrated client and agency immersion experience designed to foster the next generation of diverse marketing leaders.
“In doing my research before I even applied for the AdFellows program, I saw all the things Verizon was doing in the tech world, and with schools and teachers, and trying to get kids into STEM, so they have really been doing a really good job of using their platform to promote some great programs,” said Finley.
Over the course of eight months, Finley and an inaugural group of diverse students and entry-level candidates will go above and beyond a traditional internship one might find at other companies. This paid fellowship, complete with housing, will offer a fully immersive program integrating future leaders within Verizon’s marketing department, as well as many of the world’s leading marketing and communication agencies – such as Weber Shandwick, McCann, Momentum Worldwide, Rauxa and Zenith Optimedia.
With the ongoing challenge of creating a more diverse workforce within Verizon and its agency partner walls, Verizon is making good on a mission began in October 2016 by CMO Diego Scotti.
“AdFellows is founded on the knowledge that our industry needs diverse voices and perspectives to be successful,” said Scotti.
At the genesis of the AdFellows idea, Scotti began taking a hard look at the role of diversity and inclusion within the marketing, advertising and PR industries. And though Verizon’s Board of Directors is one of the most diverse in America, and counts 59% of its workforce as women and people of color, found that trend was still not fully reflected across the marketing industry. From the initial question of “how do we truly create meaningful change in our industry?” a rich program began to develop.
Keeping diversity at the forefront
Ultimately, a more diverse and inclusive work environment doesn’t just fulfill an important mission internally, but will ultimately reflect the broad customer demographics Verizon engages with.
“In order to deliver on our promise of a digital world, we have an important role to play in creating more diversity and inclusion within the advertising and marketing industry,” said Scotti. “It is important for both our customers and employees. AdFellows helps address a core issue by positively influencing the recruitment pipeline.”
“I feel like it’s important to grow minorities within the marketing industry because it brings a diverse perspective,” said Finley. “Marketing reaches so many different consumers, and with so many different cultures and ethnicities, I feel like it’s important to have that representation there to help you become effective in your marketing.”
Less talk and more action
AdFellows doesn’t just continue an ongoing dialogue that has been taking place, but has implemented bold actions and benchmarks to ensure progress. The program has an aggressive goal of 90% job placement for outgoing participants.
The program has an aggressive goal of 90% job placement for outgoing participants.
“Moving to New York is not a cheap thing – so, the fact that they want to help us with that, and then saying ‘we’re going to place you at a rate of 90% in jobs’…I don’t see other companies doing that,” said Finley. “That was surprising and super exciting for me, and makes me very excited about AdFellows.
All of this builds on the plan Scotti previously outlined, focusing on three key approaches to making sure both Verizon and its agency partners were affecting positive change.
First, Verizon mandated its partner agencies consider women and people of color for open account leadership positions, with expectations of a diverse pool and progress checks. Next, Verizon invested in community and industry initiatives – such as the Marcus Graham Project and The One Club --to inspire and build the next generation of creative professionals. Third, alongside agency partners, Verizon made it a goal to train this diverse group as they are transformed into tomorrow’s leaders through only the kind of up-close and immersive on-the-job training experience only a bespoke program like AdFellows can provide.
“I think they are giving us a chance to touch all the different areas of marketing,” Finley said. “I love communications, but I’m not exactly sure what side of marketing I want to pursue yet. So this is a great opportunity for me to touch different aspects of it and figure out what I’m drawn to.”
Verizon also recognized the challenge that students saddled with student debt and income are facing, as well as the cost of living in cities where opportunities exist. To that end, a fair pay and housing costs will be incorporated into the AdFellow experience for chosen candidates. By shattering these institutional barriers, Verizon can ensure that the best and brightest are allowed to shine.
“So far, in my job search, I haven’t seen any company offering money for relocation to make things like that easier,” said Finley. “Usually, it’s more like ‘you can be a part of the program, but you have to find your own place to stay and there’s no job guarantee.’ So that was surprising that they’re really invested in this, which is a good thing for me.”
So far, in my job search, I haven’t seen any company offering money for relocation to make things like that easier, said Finley
Ultimately, candidates will gain real-world working knowledge and skills that will place them on a competitive and fulfilling career path, proactively contributing to the incredibly important issue of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and building the next generation of leaders.
And, even before her fellowship has started, Finley is not only thrilled to be a part of the program’s launch, but is already thinking of ways to continue building on AdFellows’ important mission of diversity and inclusion within the workplace in the years to come.
“I’m excited about being part of the inaugural group because I feel like both the people in the program and Verizon as a company will be learning together – it’s an honor,” said Finley. “Once we go through this program, I feel like we’ll be integral to helping improving it for the next group after us, and being a mentor to them as well. I think that part’s really awesome.”
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