What Verizon Learned a Year After Launching Its Diversity-Focused Fellowship Program

The brand worked with 5 agency partners on the 8-month fellowship

Verizon is wrapping its first round of the Ad Fellows program, targeted at diversity. Getty Images, Verizon
Headshot of Katie Richards

Verizon wants to be a more diverse workplace, and the brand wants its agency partners to be just as diverse. Two years ago, Verizon CMO Diego Scotti called on all agencies that work with the brand to put together an action plan showing how they would improve diversity within their companies. Then, one year ago, Scotti launched Ad Fellows—a program for college graduates across the country with diverse backgrounds and an interest in marketing.

Now, one year later, the first round of Ad Fellows are wrapping up their eight-month fellowships—which includes four two-month rotations at a combination of the participating companies including Verizon, McCann, Momentum, Rauxa, Zenith and Weber Shandwick. At the start of the program last year, Scotti noted that his ultimate goal with the program was to have 90 percent of the fellows finish up their rotations with a full-time job.

“One thing we were very keen on from the very beginning was the selection process for the 20 ad fellows,” Scotti explained. “We put such a effort on making sure that they qualified at the right level to ensure their experience was successful. If you don’t select right at the beginning, you might not end up fulfilling the numbers.”

At the end of eight months, Scotti and company accomplished just that—90 percent of the 20 fellows will join Verizon or one of its partnering agencies in full-time roles beginning this summer.

“After the program, I will be at the in-house agency working on the Verizon program as an assistant account executive,” said Angel Mora, one of the fellows. “From all the experience that I’ve gathered these past few months, I feel like it’s really one of a kind. I’ve spoken to a lot of people, and I feel like you would have to be in the marketing industry for five to 10 years in order to get the experience that we are getting in just eight months.”

One participant, Ahmad Coleman of North St. Louis, Missouri, started a Verizon with a focus on media and social. He then joined Rauxa on the strategy side, followed by some time of the account executive team at McCann and ended his rotation at Zenith on the digital investment team. At the end of the program, which concluded last week, Coleman will join Rauxa full time as an associate strategic planner.

“To be able to come to New York City with a program like this, that actually had the wherewithal to have a relocation stipend for us, it made all the difference in the world for me to be able to get here,” Coleman said.

Another fellow, Kiarah Leite of New Jersey, worked at Weber Shandwick, Verizon, Zenith and Momentum during her time in the program. This month, she will start a full-time gig at Verizon on the external communications team. “To be able to see different departments in the marketing industry that I would never have been exposed to has been a highlight for me,” Leite said.

The fellows, as well as Verizon’s CMO, all echoed the importance of having access to a variety of agencies, roles and people within the agencies. The fellows “have an experience of exposure to senior leaders within the company that I think is unmatchable,” Scotti added.

For Verizon, the experience has been an enlightening one, and the company will continue to grow it in the coming years. For the next rotation of fellows, Scotti noted that the team will accept a total of 30 college graduates. Additionally, agencies R/GA and Moxie will be joining the program. Scotti’s next goal is to get fellow CMOs from other companies to either join the Ad Fellows program or start their own program.

“It’s not very costly. You invest a little bit of money, but it’s more the dedication and conviction to do it,” Scotti said. “Maybe we add other companies to our program as part of the rotation. My goal is to figure out how to make it bigger so that the impact can be bigger.”

@ktjrichards katie.richards@adweek.com Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.