Intern Emi standing in front of mural in east village

I have lived in the same green stucco house in Des Moines my entire life. You could track my childhood through pictures taken of me at the Drake Diner, smiling over a chocolate peanut butter shake. I spent every night in high school studying and socializing in Smokey Row. The Downtown Farmers’ Market? I visit at least five times each summer.

What I’m saying is, I’m a seasoned Des Moines native. I know all there is to do in the city, and I thoroughly understand every reference on Raygun T-shirts. So when my Butler University friends and I began searching for summer internships, we started looking at cities like Chicago, Washington, D.C., even New York City. By the end of sophomore year of college, everyone is pining to get out of their hometowns and step into the ‘real world.’ I was no different.

However, my parents kept bribing me so often with free food, free housing, and my miniature goldendoodle that I decided to give Des Moines a chance. Over my spring break, I visited a few marketing agencies to see what opportunities were available. That’s when I stumbled upon Two Rivers Marketing.

I immediately fell in love. Dogs allowed in the workplace? Jeans as the official work attire? An industrial and open workspace? Maybe Des Moines could be cool, after all. When I got offered the summer account service internship, I wholeheartedly committed to experiencing everything this opportunity and a summer in my hometown could offer.

Full-service experience

On my first day at Two Rivers Marketing, I was, admittedly, slightly terrified. Walking through the doors to your first internship is intimidating, however, I soon realized it didn’t need to be. I was immediately matched with a supervisor who gave me a tour of the agency and gradually introduced me to everyone.

The most unique part of my internship was on that first day, being asked “What would you like to accomplish this summer?” My supervisor handed me the reins to guide the experience in the direction I wanted. As a result, I was able to get hands-on experience at a full-service agency in the departments that most interested me.

This internship hasn’t been one filled with making copies and grabbing coffees. Instead, I have had the chance to produce real work for real clients. From listening to interviews with various customers and writing their stories, to drafting articles for trade publications, to developing pitch letters for editors, I’ve had the chance to work on pieces clients actually use.

One of my favorite pieces I produced was an article for a client regarding new electrohydraulic technologies. Sounds boring, right? But it was the opposite. I listened to an interview with a European engineer describing technologies that flew right over my head. I then worked with fellow associates and researched complex terms until I understood enough to sit down and write the article, which was then pitched to trade publications. If someone had told me back during my spring break that I’d be able to write an article on electrohydraulics that could be pitched to real publications, I would not have believed it.

There are an abundance of reasons I’ve enjoyed working at a full-service marketing agency, but a big one has been acquiring a wealth of knowledge surrounding topics I previously knew nothing about. Want to know the benefits of field service trucks? Wondering about the most recent advancement in electrification? Curious about the difference between a wheel loader and a crawler excavator? I, surprisingly, have the answers.

The culture of Two Rivers Marketing has been an added benefit to an already immersive internship experience. From catching baseball games, eating ice cream from a food truck in the middle of the workday, having the ability to flex work hours, there’s no doubt that Two Rivers cares about the well-being of their employees.

And perhaps most beneficial of all, I had the opportunity to connect with smart and passionate associates. During my first week, I had the chance to meet with people from each department and learn how a project manager is different from an account manager, how the creative team operates, and all the nuances of media buying. I have walked into work every day this summer surrounded by cool, creative, and intelligent associates who are willing to help me improve.

Home sweet home

And what was it like living in Des Moines all summer? From the Arts Festival, to the new St. Kilda’s restaurants, to a brand-new coffee shop (my personal favorite), I have never been bored. While my friends may be sitting on trains and suffering through traffic for hours each day in Chicago, I can drive 10 minutes and be at work. This gives me the chance to attend an early-morning yoga class each day and still get to work on time.

My friends may be going to expensive concerts in huge venues, but I’m going to free concerts at Water Works Park and 80/35. While they are posting pictures of $15 ice cream they waited 30 minutes for, I can bike to Snookies and enjoy a scoop for a few dollars.

Des Moines, it turns out, is pretty cool. Best of all, it’s accessible, which means I can actually take advantage of all the things the city offers young professionals.

While I may not have been super excited to return home this summer, I have been blown away by my hometown and my internship. It’s still to be determined if I will come home for good once I graduate in a few years, but I have learned one thing for certain this summer: Agency life is where I want to be.

Emi Smith is a Des Moines native and former intern at Two Rivers Marketing. She is currently studying strategic communication and political science at Butler University.