Takeaways from my Spring Internship: Working at Discovery

Late last year, I picked up my phone, puzzled by the display of an unknown number appear on my phone screen. I answered with hesitation, only to find that moments later, I would be crying happy tears having received one of the most exciting news of my college career.

After walking out of the Silver Spring office of Discovery Communications for the final interview round in November, I never imagined I would be one of the chosen interns for the spring semester internship program. Needless to say, those happy tears were also tears of shock. And now, after 12 weeks of successfully completing the program, I can honestly say that working at Discovery was truly an eye-opening experience. 

As a pre-broadcast journalism major at the University of Maryland, I’ve always been eager to explore a wide-range of opportunities offered within the broadcasting industry. Whether it’s related to cable news, online publications, radio, reality television, or scripted programming, there’s something about working in the field of media that never ceased to excite me.

So, walking into the 164-foot tall building on my first day at Discovery was a surreal experience. Feeling like a real professional, I swiped my temporary employee card through the security entrance lanes and greeted the guards and front-desk employees with my biggest smile. No matter who you may meet or encounter throughout your journey, always remember the importance of a friendly and proper greeting.

Checking the time to make sure I was early for the big day, I stepped on the elevator and rode to the sixth floor where I’d dedicate my next three months at Discovery. I quickly resisted the temptation to snap a selfie next to a cardboard cutout of Cake Boss star, Buddy Valastro, and stepped foot on the floor of the TLC network where a lit-up face of Theresa Caputo welcomed me into the department.  

TLC is one of 13 networks owned by Discovery Communications, also known for producing many hit-series such as 19 Kids and Counting, The Little Couple, Long Island Medium and Sister Wives. The TLC brand reaches over 95 million homes in the U.S., with 303 million subscribers internationally, according to the corporate Discovery Communications website.

Although I’ve always been a fan of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress, I made sure to do my research before the start of my internship. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the company’s successes, history and values shows employers that you are interested and passionate about the work you’ll be involved in. I researched the network’s top-grossing shows, read executive producer bios and printed out the names and faces of the people I’d be working with so I could address everyone properly. Making a good first impression is crucial to establishing the basis of a strong relationship in the work place.

Surprised to find my own spacious working space equipped with a desk, computer, keyboard and chair, I quickly found a dry-erase marker to write my name on my cubicle’s whiteboard: “Hi, my name is Ellen Back. The new TLC TV Development/Production Intern!” I probably could’ve scratched the “TLC” part but I was still giddy about sporting my fancy, new title.

Editing production reports, creating title treatments for potential shows and researching networks of competitive premieres were just some of the many cool projects I took on as an intern. It was awesome to be apart of the team that was responsible for making the magic happen “behind-the-scenes.” One of my favorite assignments was getting to work on Stacy London’s new show Love, Lust or Run. During my first week, I got to personally send Stacy a package in the mail. That was pretty cool!

In addition to working hard and kicking butt on assignments, it’s also important to take the time to make connections and network with your fellow internsset-up lunch dates, Facebook friend (and stalk) people from orientation and learn what goes on in different departments. Make the best out of your internship experience by exposing yourself to as many learning opportunities. Ask questions; be inquisitive! In fact, Discovery encourages their employees to have a hunger for curiosity. Internships are so much more meaningful if you make friendships along the way.

Overall, I learned so much throughout my time at Discovery. I was exposed to the dynamic of a corporate environment, learned to cut clips and review internal footage and gained agreat deal of insight from my brilliant supervisor, NaToya Goldman. The most rewarding aspect of my internship was getting to speak with a wide-range of Discovery employeesover coffee, lunch and brief office meetings. Each conversation taught me something interesting about the different types of careers offered within the industry and how every role was significant in contributing to the success of the overall company.

I feel very lucky and grateful to have gained real, hands-on experience working in television, mostly for a network as heartwarming and inspiring as TLC. My main takeaways include: needing to be more vocal and making a greater presence in the workplace, paying attention to detail and never being afraid to ask questions, finding ways to maintain relationships with coworkers and fellow interns, and keeping in mind that internships are learning experiences so mistakes are inevitable and often times necessary for growth.

I wasn’t by any means “the perfect intern” but I definitely feel this experience has helped me learn how to become a better one. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be getting into these next couple months, or year into the next semester, but I’ll continue to work hard and be enthusiastic in my explorations. Every internship can help you be better, and every experience will allow you to make improvements for the future. I am a firm believer in the idea that hard work pays off and one thing I’ve known to be true in my 21-year journey is this: Life is full of endless possibilities, and you have to want it more than you’re afraid of it.


*** Please note: Pictures property of Discovery Communications, Inc.