In the Spotlight: Amal Hawari '19, Paid Social Analyst, Group Nine Media
Amal Hawari's graduation experience was like no other member of the Class of 2019. She was selected to deliver the commencement ceremony's Welcome Address (read more about that here), a testament to her outstanding academic and co-curricular achievements after transferring to SFC in early 2018.
Amal's graduation experience also marked a professional turning point for the Communication Arts major: she was about to start a new full-time job at Group Nine Media, a digital media company where she had interned during her senior year.
After completing the first few months of her first full-time post-graduation job, Amal reflected on what she's doing, what she learned, and about the personal story she revealed in her Welcome Speech.
You started a full-time job just after graduation in May. What are you doing?
I'm a Paid Social Analyst at Group Nine Media. What I do is run and monitor [advertising] campaigns on their brands such as NowThis, Thrillist, the Dodo, and Seeker, on all their social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat.
If you're on Instagram and you follow Thrillist or the Dodo and you come across an ad as you're scrolling, that's usually one of ours.
You started at Group Nine as an intern before graduation. How did that internship turn into a full-time job?
I was an intern almost ten months. Originally, I was an intern for the business operations overall...I did a little bit of everything. Then, towards the end of my internship, I really just focused on paid social.
I was actually recommended by an alum, Jessica Baeza Boiardi ['05], who is now my mentor. It happened in the beginning of the 2018 fall semester. [Jessica] reached out to me asking if I was interested in an internship with Group Nine. And I was like, "yeah, of course."... I applied. I got an interview. Then I got called in for the internship. It was very unexpected.
My last year of college I was really struggling with a lot of personal and school things. Every place I would apply, I would never hear back. And it made me realize that when you're not trying to force things into your time watch, that's when things just naturally begin to happen. So that's why I said it's unexpected. I truly believe everything has it's own moment to happen based on our destiny and not the timeline we artificially impose.
What advice do you have for students who want to turn internships into full-time jobs eventually?
It really is just making the most out of your time as an intern. You can really get the best internship in the world...But you [need to take] full advantage of your mentors or supervisors or other departments...Reach out to those people in the company. You'd be surprised how many people are willing to help.
I reached out in the middle of my internship to the director of the marketing department and she took me out to coffee. Getting to know her and building our relationship was a stepping stone. ...It's good to reach out to people. They're not going to bite.
How can SFC students use their time here to prepare for a post-graduation job?
I think this applies to anyone and everything: just get involved... I made sure I got involved with everything I could [at SFC] ... involvement matters.
Whatever it is that you do in your life, whatever school you're in, get involved, get your name out there. Even if you're not sure if it is right for you, just try it out. For me, I was in Terrier TV. I knew I didn't want to go into television, but I knew I liked the social media aspect [note: Amal was the social media coordinator for Terrier TV]. So I wanted to take on that. And then that led me to meeting Lauren [Bertolotti, former Communication Arts Department assistant]. And then also meeting Professor [David] Gewitz and...building those connections.
Anything else students should do who want to work in social media like you?
Speak your mind about what your interests are to classmates, friends, professors. You never know who knows who...someone [may know someone] who may need an intern. So it's really just expressing yourself, expressing your wants and what you like...that's the start to any kind of career.
If you want to work in social media, my best advice is to build a strong portfolio. Start with your own social media accounts. Whether that's a blog, photography, writing, video, anything you love to do, just do it.
It's not just your creative skills, [however]. You also have to be analytical and try to tackle things from a business perspective. So if you can [take] a business class, a marketing class, go for it. The business side is just as important as the creative side...Anything really is a business in the long run
In your Welcome Speech at graduation, you spoke about being a DACA recipient, which happened for you in 2014. Why did you include that [note: watch Amal's Welcome Speech beginning at 26:30 at link here]?
For 18 years of my life I'd been silenced. My whole identity revolved around one word, immigrant. So, my immigration story became my identity or so I thought. I wanted to open up about being a DACA recipient because we all have stories to tell. I wasn't just going to stand there and tell a story for pity or to cause a political uproar in the middle of graduation. But there are so many misconceptions of immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants.
So I wanted to bring light to an issue that is very near and dear to me... I was very fortunate and very honored to stand that day and give that speech before hundreds of people. It was a moment to express my story.
It was a very special moment for me to thank my family who gave up everything to give me a better life. And when I say they gave up everything, they did.
It was also a moment to motivate others to tell their stories and to never be ashamed and remain silent. For 18 years I was so ashamed to admit I was undocumented, but without me voicing my story...I realized that our world can't sympathize with each other.
When we express our stories, we're building awareness to something maybe some people have a misconception of...You don't really know someone until you try to get to know them...We're just like each other.