As I looked through the Business Communication syllabus for Fall I semester, a sense of dread took over me. Presentations every week, random team assignments, a pitch deck, an infographic, a “memo” (whatever that means), a press release, crisis communication, and individual briefing. The syllabus was filled with assignments, and the one that terrified me the most was team-led recruitment of an industry executive and Q&A session. The assignment required each team to not only recruit an industry leader to speak to class for 30 minutes in person or via Skype, but to also conduct a Q&A session. As an international student with few contacts in the U.S., I was sure that this assignment would be instrumental in lowering my final grade.
Little did I know that this assignment would turn out to be the most enriching experience throughout Fall I. The instructor, Brandon Chiscotsky advised us to reach out to executives in industries that we would be interested in. After dropping multiple cold emails to executives and failing to get positive responses, all hope seemed lost a week before presentation day. My team members—Anna Mayer, Hongye Qin, Lyu Shi and Yilei Sun—and I were given a new life when we received a positive reply from an unlikely source, Daniel Sheniak, the Global Communications Planning Director on Nike at Wieden + Kennedy (W+K). Surprise, happiness, excitement, and anxiety are just a few words that would describe my emotions at the time. I was thrilled as I have been a follower and fan of W+K since the famous “Find your greatness” campaign in addition to getting a chance to conduct a session with a 22-year veteran of the advertising agency and mastermind behind the said campaign. Yet, I was nervous about interviewing such an influential figure and about setting an example for the class.
After many sleepless nights, the day of the session was finally upon us. Following my team’s weekly presentation, and several technical issues with the microphone, speaker, and Skype, my team was ready to call our contact. My heart pounded as I pressed the call button on Skype. To my surprise, my anxiety all but vanished a minute later thanks to the enthusiasm and interest shown by Daniel. His passion and gusto were on full display and gleamed through his words and expressions throughout the session. His insights about the advertising agency and his business communication experiences were invaluable for my peers and I. His advice about not letting anything stand in the way of dreams, coupled with his own story of joining W+K, motivated us to fight for our own dreams.
The session helped me understand the values of W+K and made me an even bigger fan of the company. The assignment pushed me out of my comfort zone to experience the U.S. networking realm to the fullest. I would like to thank Daniel Sheniak for accepting our invitation, my team for supporting me and successfully conducting an informative and engaging session, and Dr. Brandon Chicotsky for adding this assignment to the curriculum. The lessons learned from this assignment will serve all the students in attendance well into their future. I implore everyone to take the Business Communication course with Dr. Chicotsky and put everything into this assignment.