For this episode of the DME Intern Podcast, we are joined by our host, Shannon Moran, who will be stepping into the guest’s shoes to be interviewed about the reasons she joined the Digital Media Engagement Internship (DME) Program and some of the interesting things she likes to share with us about her experience running this and other podcasts.
Shannon Moran is a student at Seton Hall University, majoring in diplomacy and international relations as well as specializing in environmental science and Spanish. Shannon is one of the leaders with the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) for the DME Intern Podcast and the upcoming DME VAlorU Podcast. Shannon had originally applied to the internship last minute. But with her producer experience a couple of years ago at a program that had started a podcast, Shannon had learned some of the tools that would make a successful podcast: scheduling, learning how to interview guests and train new people on the podcast team. When Dominique listened to some of Shannon’s old podcast episodes, he offered her a position on the new podcast team. Since this podcast was a new department in the DME internship, Shannon eventually became the ELT of the podcast department “within 24 hours.”
A new podcast that Shannon and others are currently working on is an eight-episode serial about the experiences and history of Native American Veterans. Some of the things Shannon said that this involves include: writing scripts, coordinating with writers and researchers about the content that is going out on the podcast, editing and working with the Department of Tribal Relations within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as well as the Smithsonian Institute and other organizations. Shannon said she is glad to see that so many interns stepped-up to the challenge of personalizing the stories of Native American Veterans in a podcast that had to be reworked after her original plan for the podcast had fallen through. This is one of the many lessons that Shannon shares about her perseverance and commitment to the podcast and the internship.
Shannon also shared the importance of being open to new opportunities while part of the internship, like taking on other projects on the #Moonlighting channel and trying out new things that will help you grow in your internship experience.
Use the audio player to listen to Shannon’s full interview, or read the transcript below:
Ep 21: Grace Yang – DME Interns
Hannah Nelson: So tell me a little bit about yourself.
Shannon Moran: My name is Shannon Moran. I am a student at Seton Hall University, majoring in Diplomacy and International Relations. I specialize in Environmental Science and Spanish. Most of my research is into the intersection between environmentalism and gender, as well as other issues in international policy. For the VA I am an ELT, part of the Executive Leadership Team, for the DME Interns podcast as well as the DME VAlorU Podcast.
HN: Can you tell me a little bit about why you joined this internship, and the role you took?
SM: Yeah! So I… sort of a crazy story. I applied kinda last minute like right before the deadline and didn’t think I was going to get anything but it sounded great. A couple years ago, I was a part of a program that was starting a podcast, so I thought this sounds great. I grew up listening to podcasts and I always love them so I was like “yeah sure, I’m going to try this.” It was a small team so everybody did everything so I started off as a producer. I did a lot of the scheduling and stuff. I ended up running things. I found all the guests, and I started interviewing, and then I had to train new people. It was really fun but I learned everything as I went. Most of the team there had never done it before.
So when I saw the posting to start and run a new podcast, I was like “Oh this is something I am good at. This is something I love doing, I enjoy being an interviewer, and it’s something I have experience with.” I got accepted, I talked to Dom, who is the head of the program. He listened to some of my old episodes that I had worked on, and offered me the position. Very quickly we realized there was no chain of command. This was a new department essentially, within the internship. I remember the first week I asked “who do I submit my weekly reports to?” and he was like “that’s a great question.”
So I got onboarded and later that day he asked “Do you want to be a department head?” and I said sure. Then I was like “who do I submit my weekly report to?” and he was like “Yeah you don’t have an ELT. Do you want to be an ELT?” and this was within like 24-48 hours. It was within 2 or 3 days I went from not having a clue what I was doing to running and building this whole new thing. It’s been insane. It’s funny because then we were onboarding people and they were asking me questions about how things work and I was just like “I dunno… I started this the same time you did.” I think we’re all just figuring this out. Everybody has been so amazing in answering all my questions. Taner who runs the official podcasts has really become a mentor which is pretty cool.
HN: That’s awesome that you got to step into such a big role.
SM: Yeah. It was crazy.
HN: So what is a typical week like in your role?
SM: So the podcast that we are working on right now is an 8 episode serial that will release next semester focusing on the Native American veteran experience. Lately I’ve been restructuring, but for most of my week I have to coordinate with my writers and researchers to give them their assignments for the week. I have to take those and write them into a script or have somebody else do it and edit. I have emails to respond to – so outside people that I’m working with outside of the internship program. For example we are working with the department of tribal relations in the VA, as well as people at the Smithsonian and other organizations. I have to schedule and plan and do interviews for the intern podcast. We are luckily a couple episodes up but for a while I was doing 6 or 7 interviews a week. Then I send the recordings to the producer and he edits them and we go from there. It’s a little bit of a crazy process that changes each week, but there’s a lot going into every episode. A lot of labor hours, but it’s really fun.
HN: So what’s been your favorite part of this internship?
SM: First of all, I love the trust and resources that I have been given by the support team and the leadership within DME. I’ve been given a lot of autonomy which has been incredible. They have said “Do what you want, we trust you.” which was fantastic. I’ve been able to build and develop my team, which is something that’s incredible to do for an internship — to select people, to onboard people, to promote people, all of that stuff I get to do which is amazing. My team is absolutely incredible. I’ve got such insane skill sets that it’s so much fun. As well as the fact that podcasting is something that I’ve kinda jumped into and fallen in love with, now I have all of these people doing the same thing. Most of them have never worked on a podcast before, and now they can fall in love with the platform as well. We are building these podcasts to be taken over by another set of interns. We are building something — when we were picking our name it couldn’t be specific to what we are working on. We are building a big series called VAlorU, and the premise is university interns researching and understanding a specific part of the veteran’s experience. I chose the Native American veteran’s experience, but the next group will do something else. Being able to build something that’s going to last long after us has been amazing, and it’s also really exciting when the head of the program messages us “I just binged all these episodes, this is fantastic.” or when they’re excited about the work that we’re doing.
HN: Yeah that’s been super rewarding.
SM: It is. It’s really fun.
HN: What advice would you give to other interns?
SM: Be open to anything. There are opportunities within this internship program between moonlighting, between leadership teams, there are so many opportunities to learn and to try things that are new. I never expected to be where I am at with this, but be open to trying. That’s how you’ll have a good time and that’s how you’ll learn a lot.
HN: That’s awesome. What are some skills you’ve acquired through the DME VA internship?
SM: Yeah! A lot of my leadership skills I have had to work on. I think time management is huge. Our podcast isn’t going to be done until April. I built the timeline. I’ve had to learn how to work on something for a long period of time. My deadline isn’t “I have to do this by Friday.” It’s “I have to do this way in advance so we are good going forward.” I’ve had to learn about communicating with my team, especially with a creative vision, being able to explain that to people, getting their input, and letting them be autonomous with what they’re doing. All of those are skills that I am so lucky to be able to do. I mean even the opportunity to select a team is insane. And to be able to run and manage a program like it’s crazy. So I’m just really excited.
The other thing is that I don’t really know yet if I know what I’ve learned. I think that’s something that in hindsight you better understand what you’ve learned. I’ve been able to learn a lot from Dom, as well as Taner — two of my bosses and mentors who have taught me a lot. It’s been cool.
HN: So how does what you’re doing now with the podcast connect to what you want to do in the future?
SM: I’m sort of trying to figure that out because this is not a line of work that I ever expected when I came into college. It’s a little far off from diplomacy and government work, but it is a government organization so I love seeing how it functions. But I think conceptually what I have loved about developing this podcast is taking the experiences of people (Native American veterans) and it’s a very specific experience. Try to research and understand it. Then be able to explain and share it with people who are not familiar with that experience. And that’s a lot of what I do for school and for my field. Take experiences from people all over the world, policy or whatever, and make it so an everyday person can understand or be passionate about that thing. I don’t know how it will respond yet, but it’s definitely the leadership skills, definitely the trying new things, the research, and all of that stuff. It’s also a platform that is going to continue to grow so I don’t know how I’m going to use it in the future. BUt this is replacing big editorial newspaper pieces. Different news organizations are releasing these in depth podcasts instead of a paper.
HN: What do you hope to accomplish by the end of this internship?
SM: I want to finish this. I hope to have a product that we are really proud of. I hope for it to be something that I can put out in the world and be proud of. I want to say “We did this. We built this thing and it’s really incredible.” I have a vision, and a dream, and I set the expectation pretty high when I pitched this to people and all that stuff. I want to live up to that and be able to exceed that expectation. I’m really excited for the finished product and for it all to come together and for my team to learn things and try things they’ve never done. So I’ve got a girl who is helping me run a segment who has never done any of this before. She’s recording episodes with me and she is running segments and it’s really cool to watch her try things she never would have before. So, that’s pretty rewarding as well.
HN: What has been your biggest success in this role?
SM: The times I feel like I’ve accomplished something or been successful is when I’m explaining what we’re doing to somebody outside of my network. When I first told Dom and Taner what we’re doing and they were blown away by what we’ve accomplished. When I got to work with the Dept of Tribal Relations and they were like “this is fantastic.” They were so excited to have this project. Those kinds of things. Right now we are working on interviewing a bunch of natives and collecting those stories. When people are excited about what we’re doing and are interested and are like “What you’re doing is really great and really wanted and needed”, it’s really exciting and really rewarding.
HN: What has been your biggest challenge?
SM: That’s a tough one that we are going through right now. My original vision and plan didn’t work. So we did this and I thought we built the first episode and I thought we did a really good job. My team did fantastic, they provided all the research I wanted them to. We recorded the first episode aiming for an hour long. It hit like 20 minutes of content. It just didn’t work. We can’t do 8 episodes of this. What I thought we were gonna do is not going to work. So I had to go back to the drawing board and spend a good amount of time completely reworking what I thought we were going to do and saying to my team “I was wrong. I messed this up.” Not that I made any major mistake, but I was trying something new, took a bit of a risk, and it didn’t pay off. And now we are fixing it and rebuilding the structure a bit and going from there. That would be the biggest challenge, especially since this has never been done. Trying to produce the vision that you have in your head, and trying to get a team of 12 people from all over the country who you only meet on Slack and Zoom calls to help realize your vision has definitely been a challenge.
HN: And how has it been working with your team?
SM: They’re fantastic. They’re so great. My 2 department heads are absolutely wonderful. My researchers and writers are on the research and writing teams. They didn’t even technically sign up for this program until I contacted their leadership team and they all volunteered. They’ve been absolutely incredible and it’s been really cool working with them. We built this podcast out of sitting down and asking questions out of things we didn’t know. That’s been really exciting, pitching this idea and asking all these questions. Being like “oh I didn’t know that”, yeah that’s been really awesome. Watching them get excited about this and seeing them do things they’ve never done before has been awesome.
HN: How’s it been balancing school with this internship? The environment of today in general with this pandemic and everything going online and all of that.
SM: Yeah so I have multiple planners.
HN: I love planners! Planners and lists save lives.
SM: I started bullet journaling. Mainly because you hit that point in the semester with finals and things happening so it’s like “I’m going to keep scheduling and organizing what I’m gonna do but I’m not actually doing it.”
HN: Yeah it’s like a false sense of hope. If I know what I have to get done, eventually….
SM: Exactly! But at the same time you look at it all and you’re like “Oh my gosh I will never get this done.” Yeah it’s been hard. I have 2 internships this semester. So I have this internship then I also have a different, research based, completely different line of work stuff. As well as a full course load. So it’s been a lot, and again time management is hard. The nice thing is that since this is virtual, you can structure your time as needed. We are college students, we don’t do the typical 9-5. I can research at midnight if I have to. Or whatever it is. I think the hardest part for me sometimes is that life gets crazy and it’s really easy for your internship to… well 2 things happen. For me personally to do the internship because I’m excited about it and not do the classwork that I don’t want to do. The mundane stuff. Or to let the internship fall back a little bit because you have more class stuff going on. One’s for a grade and one isn’t. I think it’s just balancing all those things week to week. Some weeks we do better than other weeks but that’s ok.
HN: How does this internship compare with the other one? Are they similar at all?
SM: No, they’re very different.
HN: Is that one also online?
SM: Yes, and the difference with that one is that it’s pretty much just me and my advisor. It’s not like I necessarily have a team. She just gives me projects and then I give her back deliverables. That one is really cool, it’s research based and it is more in my field which I am happy about. At the beginning of the semester I got offered the internship with the other organization that wasn;t supposed to happen. I applied for a different position and she saw my resume and basically built a different program for me. She gave me a different project than she’d planned on. I was like, fantastic, I’ll take this. Then I got a call from Dom and he was like “I want you to do our internship.” And I was like “Oh….” because I had just accepted this other one. They were two opportunities that are both things that I love, and opportunities that aren’t going to exist in 6 months or a year. Right? It’s not a position I can apply for again. I am doing things that we are cerating, as well as stuff like I am given a lot of… my one internship she wasn’t planning on tackling these projects but when she asked if I wanted to do it I was like sure. So there was a lot of debating about which one am I going to take, should I do both, that was a lot. That was a lot. But I am happy with my decision to do both of them. It’s been crazy.
HN: Yeah that’s a big decision to take on two. But it’s good to hear you enjoy them both very much.
SM: Yea it wasn’t that I wanted to do 2, it was that I didn’t want to turn either down. I didn’t want to do both but I didn’t not want to do one of them.
HN: Those were all my questions, do you have any last statements you want to make?
SM: No. Thank you so much for doing this, this was really fun! Let me know if you need anything else for your article!