Internships are an integral part of most students’ experience at Macalester. There are over 200 internship sites within eight miles of campus and a center to help students navigate the internship process. What’s most important though is that students learn more about their career aspirations and make valuable connections with people in fields they hope to pursue after graduation.

Ethan Hyslop ’23, Minneapolis, Sociology (major) and Data Science (minor)

Ethan Hyslop has been a strategy intern at the Superhuman Agency since the summer of his junior year. In his role, he conducts research and workshops ideas within his strategy department to help businesses define or redefine their brands. 

“If you think about my major/minor combo as being really indecisive about whether I’m a qualitative or quantitative thinker, this job gives me the opportunity to keep using my brain in all those respects and just keep learning,” Hyslop said. 

What is Superhuman Agency and what do they do? 

The easiest way to think of it is as an advertising agency, but we specialize in branding and rebranding. We work with companies that are established but have lost their way and what they stand for, and we help refresh their brand positioning, vision, and mission values. We also work with the flipside of that, which is younger companies that have recently gotten funding and are ready to invest in their brand. We try to position them in a way that tells a story beyond just, “This is what we sell and here’s why you should buy from us.”

What made you want to intern there? 

It’s a nice continuation of my decision about how I like to think best. A strategy role really lays the framework for what writers and designers do afterwards. What should the position of this company be? What is happening in the marketplace? It’s researching people and communities, which the sociology side of me loves. But it is also backed in data and grounded in trends.

What does your workday typically look like? 

Generally, I’ve been working on 1-2 big projects at a time, so in the brand-strategy process, there is first a preliminary market research that we’ll do, followed by inputs and interviewing people from the company, as well as customers. Then, there is a strategy workshop at the end. What I’m doing depends on where we are in the flow of the project that we’re working on. If we’re earlier on, typical tasks would be helping to understand what media professionals care about, for instance–what resonates with this group of people?

Then, I’ll dive into message boards used by media professional communities, and I’ll read articles from consulting companies to just try to get as many inputs as I can to figure out: Who are these people beyond workers? 

That’s the earlier stage. Later on, we’ll gather together with the other strategists and map things out, trying to figure out how we can piece things together and tell some sort of story about who these people are and how we’re going to resonate with them. It vacillates between being an independent researcher and a collaborative workshop leader.

What is your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part of the job is those two days before the strategy workshop where we’re just trying to pull everything together that we’ve collected. We’re all working in a room, there’s stuff everywhere, we’re debating how we could frame it one way or another, or align it to a certain type of story. I enjoy finding clarity in ambiguity.

What is something you’ve learned the most within this field and about yourself?

One big thing I’ve learned is that I don’t like sitting still. I love that every 12 weeks I’m able to dig into something brand new, shifting from vastly different industries and starting that process over. Becoming an expert in a whole new field is exciting, so that has interested me in continuing in the field of consulting. 

A big skill I’ve learned is how important it is to be able to describe something simply. I think my initial feeling when I went there last summer was that I needed to prove myself and I needed to have these big complex thoughts. But working with my mentors there, I’ve learned that it’s really just about having one good idea, and if that idea is compelling and clear, that’s so much more valuable.

What relationships have you developed during this internship?

We’re a pretty small agency, about 25 people, so you know everybody, which is really cool. One thing I’ve tried to do is to create connections, not just within my department, but also with writers, project managers and designers to fully understand the process and also just know more people and understand the space more fully. I’ve worked most closely with my supervisor and the head of our department. That’s been a very valuable relationship because I can observe the way he leads workshops and facilitates connections for the departments. This is something that I haven’t had at previous internships, which is that one person who is not just giving me stuff to do, but has been invested in making me better at those things. I just really appreciate the effort that he’s put in.

April 7 2023

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