A Day in the Life of a Summer Intern: How a Subway Ride Will Never Be the Same

By Kiran Aditham Comment

Our summer intern series continues rolling along (and perhaps into fall considering the amount of feedback we’ve been getting). Here’s the latest entry, which comes to us from Avery Hairston, who’s currently interning in the planning department at JWT New York. Read on to find out how Hairston’s summer gig has informed his daily commute.

I’m on a downtown 4 train. It’s surprisingly not crowded for a Monday morning. I’m headed to the office to start another week of work at JWT. Before my summer-internship started, my train etiquette was pretty standard. Like the typical New Yorker, I kept to myself. I’d usually have my eyes closed, headphones in, and I’d probably be listening to the latest song by Michael Bublé Nas. Thanks to JWT, however, things have changed. I’m still listening to my music, but now I keep my eyes open.

Allow me to explain. In the two short months that I’ve been at JWT, I’ve already been exposed to countless aspects of the industry, from video production to brief writing, but my most important takeaway is something more intangible—call it a newfound hyper-awareness. And my time here has surprisingly transformed the way that I approach my life outside the office.

Working in the planning department, my main focus this summer has been smartphones, specifically mobile usage in retail. I’ve tried to dissect how people use their devices in order to discover new ways to get people to interact with brands. What I’ve found is that consumers are using apps to compare prices, find store locations and even pay in-store or shop online. I’ve added my findings to weekly decks, updating clients on this massive retail sea change. I even made my own video ethnography. While these research exercises provided useful information on this specific issue, my work also altered the way I look at people in a more general sense.

So here I am on that downtown 4 train with my eyes wide open—something I don’t normally enjoy doing before 9 a.m. I’m not judging or profiling my fellow travelers. It’s more of a study. I find myself analyzing groups, looking for trends. How does the male train-goer differ from his female counterpart? How about Millennials versus Boomers? Is there a difference between the people who board the train at 59th and those who get on at 42nd? Who gets to sit down? Where is the best place to stand? The train is organized chaos. If you keep your eyes open long enough, you’ll learn a lot about all walks of life, from the Wall Street guy to the Brooklyn-bound hipster. They’ll never exchange a word, but they still have to share the same handrail.

Today I took this picture:

Five thirty-somethings on their way to work, each one more plugged into their iPhone than the next. It’s no secret that we are attached to our phones, but the crazy thing about this photo is that there is no Internet or cell service on the subway. They aren’t making calls, yet they still have their phones out. Instead, they are probably playing Angry Birds, listening to music, or reading 50 Shades of Grey. Five years ago you would never see something like this. Phones just made calls and sent texts. Now the phone is a multimedia device, a platform for endless innovations.

The irony of this photo is that even while I’m aware of the trend, I’m no different—obviously “Instagrammed it.” At the beginning of this summer, I would have thought nothing of this quintet. After nearly 10 weeks at JWT, it’s a different story. I may not literally be taking my work home with me, but the skills I have learned on the job are now an active part of my personal life. I’m more sensitive; more aware; more savvy. However you want to spell it, I know that when I leave the office for good, my work done at JWT will continue to leave a lasting impression.