employee stories

Life as an Intern in our San Diego Commercial Team

Simba reflects on the highlights of his internship and shares his advice for future interns

Simba Massando

Copy InternSan Diego, California

What were you doing prior to the internship, and why did you decide to pursue one?

I have been working in the life sciences industry for the past 2 years, having previously worked at research labs, biotech startups, and behavioral development facilities. Through the mind of a researcher, I initially thought, “this is risky. I’m joining the dark side of STEM,” but those feelings passed as I learned about Fishawack’s focus on improving patients’ lives. The diseases were rare, the drugs didn’t sound scary—and most importantly, the people are passionate about what they do. It’s an inspiration to a young, scientifically driven creative like myself to see people use their talent for sincere causes.

How did you find out about, and secure the internship?

I’ve been living in San Diego since November 2020; yes, I moved in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. I had finished a term working for a local academic institution on psychiatric diseases. I knew that I wanted to work in healthcare, but the right path kept eluding me. Eventually, I settled on a natural interest—the pharmaceutical industry. This was the beginning of a one-month scourge for an opportunity in California.

When I looked at Fishawack Health’s LinkedIn page, I saw the company’s personality come to life, and it stood out from other healthcare-focused organizations. Then I read about their work in advertising, and my curiosity snowball slipped down the proverbial slope, prompting me to apply for an internship position.

I beefed up my knowledge of copywriting and advertising within the healthcare industry. I had done marketing in the past, but my understanding was still too immature to know I had more experience than I imagined—something I realized when I sent writing samples and marketing work over to the interviewing managers. To me, the hard part was over—I was fortunate enough to have worked in a career development center throughout my undergraduate degree studying Neuroscience (and I think I’m a likable person) so the interview process was second nature. I think that sharing my previous work to reflect my knowledge in addition to the interview further legitimized my candidacy.

What did you know about Fishawack Health before joining, and how has it changed at the end of your internship?

Upon joining Fishawack Health, I knew that the organization partnered with pharmaceutical companies for global commercialization of products and services—and that was about it. I didn’t know that within the global powerhouse was a beehive of creative brilliance, innovation, and compassion. With so many busy bees, it’s easy to feel insignificant, but by the end of the internship, I knew that I met people who would support me throughout my career. I learned that the healthcare commercialization industry is a lot bigger and more complex once you’re inside the humming community.

What are the best parts of your week?

By shadowing meetings, having one-on-one/intern sessions with my manager, and connecting with people outside of my designated projects, I’ve been able to lift a veil of naivety and can see the gears turning inside the healthcare commercialization machines such as Fishawack Health.

In meetings, I never felt like a fly on the wall. Contrary to some of my previous corporate experiences, at Fishawack Health my personal insights and opinions provide tangible value to the overall efforts of the group. An idea was never accepted without justification, and this validates being treated as an equal as a Fishawack Health Intern.

The sessions with the manager are my favorite. First, the structure isn’t like other meetings; they are designed for you. Whether it be concepting, banner ads, or a bad hair day, the manager sessions are a great time to raise any issues or questions. There are only 8 hours in a workday, so the courtesy of having 30 minutes to an hour each week dedicated to instilling foundational wisdom is truly powerful, and I am so grateful for that.

What have been your major highlights from your time at Fishawack Health?

Some key highlights for me have been working in ALS, on the intern project, and some of the heart valve disease projects. I consider these the “Sour Patch Kid moments.” At first, it’s a bit sour because many things are in question such as, “what’s the budget? The inspiration? The demographic?” Then it’s sweet because you can bring creativity to the forefront—the ideas are flowing, the sketchers are sketching, and the taglines are garnering reaction. Once the idea gets sent downstream, we don’t just wave “bon voyage.” Since we all contributed to the work, we have the strong urge to run alongside the idea as it steamrolls ahead. It’s exciting to see your idea grow up, but it’s also disheartening to see it get turned down. Final consensus? Emotional investments make every day a new experiment.

What are the key learnings from your experience?

Philosophically, I think we are always learning to work with others—and there’s no better way to expedite that process than trying to come up with novel and creative ways to engage stakeholders.

I also learned that urgent and efficient projects condense the timeline of collaboration into succinct moments of ingenuity. Learning to ride the waves of thinking, emotions, and even tiredness challenged me to bring more for my partners each time we logged into a Teams Meeting.

What is it like doing an internship virtually?

Any new environment is daunting, even in the slightest, but I can safely say that Fishawack Health has been a nurturing environment for professional and creative growth even when remote.

Funny enough, since I graduated in the class of 2020, I have never worked a job in an office, so being remote is my normal. The on-boarding and orientation was a smooth process since training is held on a bespoke platform consisting of videos, guides, and PowerPoints.

The hardest part of virtual working is that collaboration can be a bit trickier. Instead of popping in with a question or simply following someone into a meeting, being extra communicative over Teams’ chats is essential. Nonetheless, it’s not my first time being an online intern. Even in 2019, my manager was in the Netherlands, while I was in California, but we still found ways to connect and collaborate on the project. Fishawack Health has allowed me to grow my global communication skills, and I view them as a future asset.

How is healthcare copywriting different?

This is my first copywriting opportunity, but my experience in writing is varied. I have previously contributed to three scientific publications, and I have developed marketing materials for an on-campus center. How this is different because the work is actual…work. You go in with the knowledge that 99% of your first ideas won’t make it through, the deadlines are tight, and the amount of information passed around is enough to fill filing cabinets the size of the first computer! All in all, I feel like I’m in the big leagues. The copy I write isn’t just being seen by my mentor, some peers, and our target demographic. The work we do spans the globe and tells a story—which science can’t write on itself.

Do you have any advice for future interns?

One key piece of advice I received as a creative, and as a person was, “at some point, you have to jump off your momma’s porch.” Essentially: get after it. I applied to hundreds of open opportunities in California, the US East Coast, and abroad, and finally fell into Fishawack Health’s rabbit hole of networks, information, and talent. Once accepted, I realized that the engine rolls on without you and the world keeps turning. So idling, waiting for that moment for someone to call you is rarely going to happen. Raise your hand; ask questions; make novice mistakes; be involved, and get off your momma’s porch.

You’ve heard Simba’s perspective of the internship…

Now here’s what his manager had to say:

Mike Morgan, Associate Creative Director

“Although he came in with no industry experience, Simba has contributed quite a bit in his relatively short time at Fishawack Health. But, his thinking has made the biggest impression. Simba is a true thinker, which should be no surprise considering his neuroscience background. It’s the first thing I look for in writers, and watching Simba’s thought process in real-time has been both fascinating and informative.”

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