2021 Mterns: Our Summer Superheroes
This summer, the McKinney Mtern program celebrates 21 years by welcoming our latest group of Mterns. This year’s class of 19 Mterns are once again “working together” by working remotely due to COVID-19. For some, this summer is the fulfillment of a life-long dream of working in advertising; for others, it’s their first taste of the industry after pivoting from an entirely different field. But no matter the path they took to get here, each Mtern has a unique origin story that has helped shape them into our summer superheroes.
Markie McRae, Production
My name is Markie McRae–– I’m a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, double majoring in advertising and media production with a minor in entrepreneurship. This summer, I’m working with the production team!
Outside of McKinney, you might catch me throwing girls in the air or flipping on the sidelines of UNC football and basketball games when I get back to cheering in person! I am enthusiastic about all things, especially meeting new friends and exploring exciting opportunities.
You may also find me in a film or tv show, as I’m also a screen actor! Being on set, producing my own shows at UNC, and my many production classes all played a significant role in leading me to McKinney. I can’t wait to spend the summer with you all!
Saba Sabouhi, Marketing
I consider myself a citizen of the world, but I am an American-Persian dual national on paper. Although typical Persian parents are very conservative, my parents have constantly encouraged me to travel and explore. Visiting 17 countries and 50+ cities before turning 30 has taught me invaluable management skills. I try to think positively about every incident that happens in my life and take advantage of it.
I moved back to the United States after years of living overseas. New opportunities emerged with this move. I acknowledge I am ambitious and expressive, and I don’t give up quickly. I leveraged my art experience to do interior design, and I officially started my own business without any professional knowledge in November 2018.
Managing my own business helped me get to know more companies and people in the city I lived, lovely Durham. My husband is an architect and, during that time, he worked with an architecture firm that designed McKinney’s headquarters in downtown Durham. The firm asked me to collaborate on some projects as an artist, and it was my pleasure to create an art piece for Burt’s Bees and Google Fiber while working with this team.
I like to stay in contact with people I’ve met and worked with; so, after almost two years and during the coronavirus pandemic, I happened to run into the architecture firm owner while I was looking for an internship. The owner spoke highly of McKinney’s people and the office culture. Although I never thought about getting an internship with an ad agency, I ended up with this unique company, and it is my honor to work with this wonderful team.
Sara Young, Account Management
My name is Sara Young, and I’m from Greenville, North Carolina. People are quick to poke fun of Greenville, but I’ve always been proud of where I come from. I grew up in the same neighborhood and in the same house my whole life. When I was little, I spent my afternoons and evenings trying to prove myself while playing hide-and-seek with my older brother and his friends. Early on, my parents saw that innate competitive spirit, and they decided to sign me up for a variety of team sports. They were adamant about me playing team sports as they always emphasized knowing how to collaborate and respect others.
Soccer ultimately defined my whole childhood, so when I got to UNC-Chapel Hill for college, I had a hard time figuring out who I was outside of athletics. Everyone at UNC seemed to have it all together: perfectly planned schedules, impressive LinkedIn profiles, and internships lined up many months in advance. I was overwhelmed with it all until one of my professors recited a quote that says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This quote has stuck with me since. It has reminded me how my parents emphasized the importance of building relationships, cheering on those around you, and always pushing to become the best version of yourself. As I (temporarily) sit at my childhood desk in my childhood home, I can’t help but feel that my life has come full circle. I have already felt so welcomed here at McKinney, and I couldn’t be more excited to be working with such a kind, smart and passionate group of people!
Caroline Robb, Creative (Art Direction)
My name is Caroline, I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, and I’m the art direction intern in the Durham office this summer.
I got my first taste of the advertising world at age 6 when I had a two-second appearance in a Georgia Lottery commercial. Unfortunately, that is not what got me interested in art direction because I was really into the fact that I had someone following me around holding an umbrella over my head to block the sun, AND I got $200 ($chaCHING$). Regardless, it did start my love for commercials. I then got sidetracked*, and it took me 16 long years to learn exactly what an art director does and begin my journey at The Creative Circus.
I’m super excited to get started and to work with the talented brains behind McKinney!
*I studied Fashion Merchandising and Studio Art at the University of Georgia (GO DAWGS), but we don’t use that information anymore.
Rachel House, Agency Operations (Project Management)
People have always been at the center of my purpose. This was proven for the first time when I competed on my first cheerleading team. I was always fascinated by the tight-knit group of athletes on a cheerleading squad. I remember seeing videos of the love and dedication these athletes had for each other, and that is when I asked my parents if I could pursue cheerleading as my sport. I thrived in this environment; I lifted my teammates, both figuratively and literally, because I genuinely enjoyed being someone others could turn to. At the end of the season, I won The Heart Award for being the athlete who put the most love and support into her teammates and the sport.
I have used this determination and drive to move me forward in my career and personal life. I love a sound support system, in addition to being the person to establish one, which has led me to project management and McKinney. I can’t wait to begin my journey here and continue to build off of the center of my purpose.
Selin Akyurek, Creative (Copywriting)
The year: 2003. Istanbul, Turkey. A young girl sits in her living room, sinking into a comfortable leather couch. Eyes glued to the t.v. Laser-focused. Blink-free. I guess you could say all young kids have the urge to binge-watch. That’s true. But she wasn’t watching any old cartoon or light-hearted sitcom. They were ads. Her eyes would light up at the beginning of every commercial break. As her mom would rush to channel surf, the young girl would convince her to stay put. See, she’d turn it into a game. She’d create a fictional scale to rate each ad. At the end, she’d pick a set of winners and losers. Then, she’d proceed to say, “I’ll make some one day.”
I’m sure you’ve all realized by now that the girl in the story is me. Okay, wow, this is a lot cheesier than I expected. Anyways, becoming a part of this wonderful industry has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I cannot wait to learn from you all. Alright, that’s all—no more cheese.
Jaein Yoon, Strategy
J-A-E-I-N is the Korean way of spelling Jane. Immigrating from Seoul, South Korea, to rural eastern North Carolina in 5th grade, I spoke little to no English. On my first day of class, I tightly held a note that read, “Hi, name is Jaein, and I don’t speak good English. Please help me.” By the second day of school, I received a new nickname: Ching-Chong. However, during my senior year of high school, I became the Student Body President. I include this introduction here not as a flex but as a way of reminding myself that I am strong and persevere.
My bubbly, fearless, and hardworking personality is born out of necessity, but it’s also in my blood. I struggled with my native culture and self-identity throughout childhood, so the sense of belonging, the B, in McKinney’s DEI+B is immensely important to me. Studying abroad at Korea University and creating a rebranding strategy for the world-famous Korean rice wine, Makoli, during my sophomore year of undergrad, I discovered advertising and my career goal. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies Sustainability, I am on track to a master’s degree in Strategic Communications.
Selected as a 2020 and 2021 4A’s MAIP* fellow to deepen my understanding of the advertising field and to serve as a champion of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I am looking forward to utilizing the power of advertising to challenge current business models and cultivate a world that prioritizes corporate social responsibility. The best solutions are found through genuine care and the willingness to step outside comfort zones, and I am thrilled to unleash my untapped potential with McKinney this summer.
*Jaein is McKinney’s 13th 4A’s MAIP intern.
Cameron Carleton, Creative (Design)
That kid in the cool penguin shirt?
This intern who can’t fit into the cool penguin shirt anymore?
Wilding his way into the McKinney family and offices (virtually, of course).
While I can’t say my origin story is anywhere close to Superman’s, it’s set me up for the incredible opportunity to work at McKinney. Born and raised all over the Metro Detroit area, I found my way to Emerson College in Boston and have been causing havoc in Beantown for the last three years. Studying in the Business of Creative Enterprises program, I’ve explored creative industries left and right, yet none interested me more than the advertising world. During my junior year of school, COVID struck, and… you know the deal. However, thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to find the silver lining of virtually virtual everything and land this sweet gig as a creative intern. Who knows what sort of magic we’ll make together during my time here, but I sure as hell can’t wait to find out.
Kylah Lewis, People + Experience
My name is Kylah. I have a B.A. in Psychology, and I’m currently finishing my master’s in I/O Psychology. I am a psychologist/researcher by trade. Before this opportunity, I worked in management for a small retail franchise and interning as a clinical assistant completing psychological evaluations for military veterans and chronic pain patients. I came across McKinney’s Mternship program by accident! I was applying for jobs in Texas in hopes of securing a job before I graduate in December. I was looking for an entry-level HR position just to get my foot in the door, and I accidentally applied thinking this was another organization. I had my interview with Sarah and Mary, and we just seemed to click instantly! They were extremely inviting and gave me a great idea of what the culture of McKinney was truly like. I knew immediately that I did not stumble upon this opportunity by accident. This will be my first experience working in advertising. I am very excited to jump into a different field and apply my skills!
Jacky Zhu, Media (Programmatic)
My name is Jacky Zhu, and I’m a senior Advertising major at the University of Texas at Austin. I am also pursuing two minors in Business Administration and Informatics (UX/HCI concentration)! I have a passion for problem-solving, and with a strong sense of community, I am consistently listening to and learning about the world around me.
I was initially a neuroscience major at UT-Austin but felt that it was not the right space for me. It was a daunting thought to come to terms with, but I knew that I was craving a more collaborative environment. After countless advising meetings, I realized that I have always had a persistent, endless curiosity for behavioral science and cognitive psychology. Along with my desire for a creative outlet, all of these critical points led me to successfully changing my major to advertising in the Moody College of Communication.
I found the programmatic media analyst position at McKinney as I explored different opportunities in various fields in the advertising industry. After doing more research on McKinney, I found that their core values deeply resonated with me; I wanted to collaborate with a team that loves tackling problems creatively and telling stories. In this position, there is a focus on telling a story in a more technical way using numbers and data analysis!
I love finding novel ways to tell stories and have a strong desire to grow in the fields of strategy, experiential marketing, and brand/product design. By also pursuing a curriculum rich in marketing, management, and international relations, I am actively expanding my creative, communicative, and research skills. Using my unique experiences, I hope to create a positive social impact and captivate individuals through storytelling.
Dominique Rousseau, Marketing
Lincoln Logs, Polly Pockets, and motorized Monster Trucks were instrumental in my childhood. But, what I played with most was my plastic cash register full of fake dollar bills. To every parent’s worst nightmare, I became OBSESSED with money and therefore obsessed with wanting to make money. I quickly decided that being a lawyer was the one true path for me. I honed in on my arguments with my parents, perfecting my debate skills and increasing my vernacular. I was invested now, prepared to spend years in school to make hundreds of thousands of dollars. Shortly after that, I learned
that lawyers had to read… a lot. So, I quickly dropped my dream job and settled on medicine (pediatric neurosurgery, to be precise since specializing makes more money ;))
However, the more I learned about medicine, the more I realized how important it is to stick to the guidelines. It’s not every day a surgeon can simply decide they want to cut into someone’s brain in a new, unique way they dreamed up the night before. From the way I was living my life – challenging the “norm,” asking provocative questions, and thinking outside the box – I knew medicine wasn’t right for me. It wasn’t until I was standing in my living room presenting my final school project that my mom told me I was destined for marketing. I had been so confined to my dream medical bubble that I didn’t know what marketing was or where I would even fit in. For the next two years, I networked and researched all that I could about the industry. And that’s when I found McKinney.
I had walked past the office before but never realized it was an agency. Once I found out my dream location fit my actual dream job this time, I knew I had to apply for the Mternship. My superpower of connecting different individuals, perspectives, and energies finally had a home. The stories I heard about the relationships made and the creation of memories excited me. My focus shifted from being money-driven to being relationship-driven, wanting to network and make connections every chance I got. Now, I can surround myself with like-minded individuals with diverse trains of thought. While it may have taken me some time to find McKinney, I’ve finally found my path that I cannot wait to explore.
Jared Reed, Strategy
My name is Jared Reed, and I love being creative. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved drawing, writing stories, and just, in general, making things. As I got older, I not only loved those things more, but I also grew an interest in analytical skills, problem-solving, and technique-heavy things in general. I spent my time learning how to solve Rubik’s cubes, juggling, and absorbing anything in arms reach. Around 8th grade, I realized I could find a way to have the best of both worlds by putting my love of creativity and problem solving together in advertising. Looking back at what I thought advertising was at the time, it’s funny how little I understood it, and yet I somehow made the right call about my career despite that. Once I got to college, I learned how to put both sides together. I was finally taking classes that aligned with my passions.
One of my professors suggested joining a class designed to work on my university’s National Student Advertising Competition for the American Advertising Federation (AAF) pitch for Tinder. It was an easy decision to join and one of my favorite experiences from any class. I was now actually making a campaign. I understood what the different roles were, how they each worked, and how they worked together. At this point, I had reassured myself that advertising was the right choice, more specifically, strategy, but I needed to find a place to learn and grow that matched with who I am as a person.
I found McKinney in a reverse kind of way. I saw an ad for the “Big Pizza” campaign for Little Caesars and fell in love with the idea. I remember laughing and thinking to myself, “That’s clever. How did no one else think of that?” The next thing I know, I’m on Google and Adage looking up who created the work. Going to McKinney’s website only made me feel better about the agency as I read up on the company’s values. I felt compelled to apply for an internship. In all honesty, I didn’t expect to get an offer; I was just excited every time I made it to the next round. Thankfully it went farther than that, and I am thrilled to be here starting my advertising career!
Olivia McGrath, Account Management
“We’re so sorry, but your daughter is never going to learn to speak. Could we suggest American Sign Language courses?”
This is where my story begins. I was two years old, and the only sound I had ever made was crying (which my parents often remind me happened A LOT). I was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech, a neurological disorder that made it difficult to connect my brain to my mouth, leaving my mouth without any formed muscles.
I spent the next six years in speech therapy learning how to blow bubbles, puff my cheeks, stick my tongue out, and yes, speak.
Since then, I’ve found joy in pushing myself to tackle new challenges and beat the odds. I took on a lot – division one athletics, surgeries, half marathons – but I realized challenges weren’t as fun or rewarding when tackled alone. In short, that’s what led me to McKinney. Advertising is always about finding new challenges to take on, but McKinney offers great people to do it with (or at least that’s what my gut was telling me during my interviews).
My dream is to take on the challenge of going on reality TV one day, but advertising seems to be treating me pretty well for now.
Chloe Lang, Media
My name means “bloom,” and that word seems the most fitting for my story. Over the past several years, I’ve bloomed from a shy kid who wouldn’t speak up in class to a woman who thrives off of the energy of others and wants nothing more than to connect with people through storytelling.
I attribute this growing process to the stage. In early high school, I joined musical theatre and started a bluegrass band with my sister. Something that I used as an escape from reality, an escape from myself, slowly evolved into a way to connect with the innermost part of my soul. Instead of losing myself in art, I began to find myself. With this foundation, I couldn’t help but desire to get to know the people around me. I was on fire for the spotlight, the audience, my castmates, and the stories that connected us. Over time, my interests began to shift to advocacy, education, and communications centered around the arts.
I took a rather unconventional route in college. After spending the first year studying theatre education at Meredith College, I realized I needed more time to explore where my skills fit best. How could I connect my love for the arts and my love for the community? I found this answer during a New York City trip with the musical theatre club at my new school, Appalachian State University. Here, I was introduced to arts marketing, which then led to my digital marketing internship in the city a year later.
The city was where I truly thrived. I was surrounded by so many people different from me – a stark contrast to the small town where I grew up. I pursued things I was passionate about outside of work and built a community with friends that I am still in contact with today. I consumed art and experienced life on a different level than I had ever before. The city expanded my worldview immensely and shifted my perspective. I decided never to limit myself in terms of career or opportunities that may come my way.
I changed my major to Advertising (with a minor in Theatre) and continued to seek out immersive experiences to supplement my classroom education. I began to take online classes at school and moved to Orlando to participate in the Disney College Program. A lifelong dream of mine became one of the most shaping experiences. By getting a firsthand look at how Walt Disney World operated and learning about its target audience, I was better able to empathize and better understand communications, advertising, and strategic business operations. Every word matters. Every brand is a personality, and people are attracted to those that are the most “human.”
A consistent theme throughout my life is “community.” I want to connect with others. That’s why I love advertising and communications in general: it’s about finding those people who are interested in your product or service and genuinely connecting with them to make them feel seen. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to work for McKinney. It’s rare to see an advertising agency with such human values and with people who uphold them. I’m excited to get to know those I have the privilege of connecting with this summer and learning their story. A humble beginning in the high school drama club turned into a lifelong love for storytelling and getting to know the characters in my life.
Savaughn Gordon, People + Experience
My journey to McKinney has been as close to a cliche movie script as it gets; Everything played out so perfectly, and I finally felt like my long nights of stress and early mornings of coffee were finally validated. In February, I received an opportunity that was too astounding to pass up with the YardCon social media team. YardCon is an organization that serves as a professional bridge for undergraduates and recent grads to connect with employers looking to bring in some new and ambitious personnel. On the first day of the career fair, team members began making connections with companies, and by the second call with Melissa Shaheen, I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of my experience on the team. Of course, if you know Melissa, the conversation lasted a long time, but as soon as we finished, I went straight to mckinney.com to do my own research on the agency. That night I applied to all the positions that Melissa recommended, and we stayed in contact from that moment. It meant the world to me that Melissa had so much faith in my abilities and work ethic to take a chance on me. Now it’s my turn to show my gratitude and why I am an irreplaceable asset to the team!
Javed Eid, Creative (Art Direction)
My name is Javed, and I’m an art director and UX designer. I live at the intersection of creativity and user experience design. I’m all about storytelling, branding, and product design. I’m obsessed with ideas and design and how they drive everything.
The path to where I’ve gotten was certainly not straightforward, and little did I know I was going to start a career in advertising, i.e., a job full of creativity, even though I had a passion for art from a very early age. I went to school for aerospace engineering at Iowa State University with hopes of becoming an aerospace engineer and be a part of that mission that’d send people into outer space – that was the dream. Space travel always captivated me, but I couldn’t finish school and dropped out after my sophomore year because of financial issues. I then moved down to New York City to figure things out, as most people do.
In New York City, I found myself doing odd jobs – flipping burgers, waiting tables trying to make ends meet. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a small advertising portfolio program called FAME (Famous Academy for Modern Effectiveness) conducted by Grey. That was the first time I got introduced to advertising. It was a two-month program, and every week, 15 of us got a brief and had to pitch our idea the following week. It was a lot of fun, and I was fascinated by advertising and its possibilities; that’s when I decided that this is what I want to do. I started putting my portfolio together and participated in programs like D&AD’s New Blood Shift. I also did an internship with the VCU Brandcenter called Camp ADventure, and because I was curious, I also learned UX design in a boot camp.
After unsuccessfully applying for jobs, I learned that it helps if you have connections. I started networking and hitting up people through Coffee At A Distance, a platform for junior creatives to network with senior creatives in the industry. It was there that I met with Jaclyn Campbell, an account executive at McKinney’s Durham office. She was amazing and encouraged me to apply to the Mternship program, and I did. Now here I am, thrilled to be working with a fantastic group of people at McKinney’s LA office and looking forward to what the future holds for me.
Stacy Yuan, Media
Systematic bias is baked deeply into every aspect of our world, from politics to communication to physical infrastructures. It’s often carried out by individuals who are both overeducated about how different people are and yet undereducated about our shared similarities. When a falsehood about a race, gender, or age group gets noticed and magnified by the mainstream media or social media, it becomes the “truth” for many, thus creating the endless loop of a self-reinforcing system that breeds oppression (e.g., racial gaslighting where minority children are mocked for not “acting” like their race).
In a world increasingly reduced to numerical data/algorithms that tend to amplify this harmful, dominant narrative, we need to return to humanity in the media. We, as advertisers, ought to embrace the human insight at the core of the data and show up for prospects who have traditionally been left out of the industry. By showing the true diversity of the country and pushing empowering narratives forward in a purposeful campaign, we’re doing our small part to ensure that certain groups are not marginalized and represented proportionally so that they can be integrated into the system of power.
I’m always looking for ways that brands can do good in the world based on what they offer and who they are by shaping responsible purchases and behaviors (e.g., healthful decisions) and initiating meaningful conversations around different social justice issues. To me, the most gratifying works reside when you get to make an actual difference, and people say thank you for doing that. Producing this kind of work is engrained into the mission of McKinney, an agency with a track record of establishing meaningful connections with value-driven ideas. McKinney’s inspiring philosophy propelled me to join the agency to advance positive attitudes toward the disenfranchised and reconcile the divides in a world drained by political and racial unrest.
Rachel Johnston, Production
I’m a recent Film & TV grad with a passion for all things media. I started my degree at Cal State Long Beach and finished my studies at the University of Hertfordshire in England. I got to travel like never before and see how big and small the world can seem. After I graduated, I moved back to LA, ready for whatever was next…cut to a worldwide pandemic! During quarantine, I turned to content for comfort and watched a lot of films, specifically action and horror movies from the 1970s and 80s. As I navigate life, I like to think of myself as Rocky climbing the steps, Ripley beating up aliens, or Ed and Lorraine Warren fighting Bathsheba. Call me the Final Girl. I also love content that highlights and empowers female and LGBTQIA+ experiences. The First Wives Club and The Birdcage were favorites starting in the third grade. The Werk room from RuPaul’s Drag Race has been, and will likely continue to be, my Zoom background throughout this internship. I love traveling and all things media because they both highlight the similarities that humans share. Differences should be celebrated, but I also love finding what connects us. Films, tv, ads, etc., have the power to entertain, inform, uplift, and call to action. I’m coming out of this pandemic with an Aussie puppy, a mild case of agoraphobia, and control over my inner saboteur (okay, I’m still working on that last one. Sorry, RuPaul.) I’m eager to learn and create as much as I can and make the most of these next three months with McKinney!