Words by Kimatni D. Rawlins
It was a momentous afternoon of networking activities as The Driving Force HBCU automotive internship concluded with an impactful visit to INFINITI’s corporate headquarters (HQ) in Franklin, TN. Created for Tennessee State University (TSU) scholars, the Black Automotive Media Group (BAMG) hosted the tour for the group to meet corporate leaders and VPs such as Craig Keeys, Chandra Vasser, Keri Kelly, Lanae Jackson, and Kyle Bazemore for a deeper understanding of the Japanese automaker’s workplace environment and career opportunities.
BAMG’s multimedia internship exposed the TSU students to journalism, broadcast, advertising, and public relations subject matters concerning the mobility sector with a focus on INFINITI luxury vehicles like the QX60. Virtual interaction occurred weekly as the interns participated in various training activities taught by professional automotive journalists, publishers, and seasoned media producers. They also heard from INFINITI marketing and communication executives and were tasked to dialogue with each and report back with editorial summaries. The students were also assigned a case study to pinpoint INFINITI’s diversity efforts while offering additional solutions from a youthful perspective.
“It’s imperative for organizations to cultivate the next generation of minority leaders, and we are honored to be part of this internship program,” said Craig Keeys, group vice president INFINITI Americas. “The Driving Force internship at TSU gives students important opportunities to develop their skills and helps organizations like INFINITI to identify individuals who can excel within the company’s staff.”
At HQ, the TSU cohort was extraordinarily inquisitive and asked insightful questions regarding negotiating salaries, internship expectations, and team building. Chandra Vasser suggested that they construct a diverse core of individuals that complement them instead of bringing in members with equivalent skill sets. She also encouraged each to challenge themselves to be bold and hardworking and to see every project and commitment through to completion. A particular query wondered how INFINITI comes across as a premium auto brand without showcasing elitist symbolism. INFINITI marketing responded by stating how the department incorporates premium touchstones but do so while showcasing the human side of the brand with a feeling of attainability. In addition, they intend for potential owners to feel welcomed, which can be problematic in the luxury space.
To enhance the tour with a personal touch, a TSU Alumni panel discussed goals for success. At the same time, Human Resources provided directives on interviewing and flourishing at INFINITI as a new employee. The collaborative teaching injected into the student’s consciousness included the following:
- Investing in your career early by writing down goals and working on them daily.
- Being resilient and using any challenges to rise above.
- Researching positions that are applicative and conducive to interests.
- Relying on your network habitually by using the associates in your business life who hail from various industries or speakers who have spoken at your school.
- Avoid speaking about your financial situation, including recent car or home purchases.
- Matching your proficiencies to the job position and speaking eloquently about your passions.
- Paying attention to body language. Are you engaged? Do you have critical competencies on your resume? Are you asking relative questions about the company?
- Lastly, inquiring about the values and culture of the company to ascertain that it is an ideal fit for your career.
The educational objective is to continue expanding learning opportunities for HBCU students and focusing on pathways toward automotive communications. Everyone in BAMG is dedicated to the cause and devotes time and energy to ensuring The Driving Force internship flows like spring water down river beds. Congratulations TSU students on completion of the program!