Leah Martin may not be working at the infamous Googleplex office this summer, but she knows  she’s right where she belongs.

Hailing from Santa Barbara, Martin had never heard of the College of Charleston until she picked up a copy of The Princeton Review. But, the rising senior says, “as soon as I visited campus, I felt like the College of Charleston would support me – like I wouldn’t get lost here.”

And it didn’t take long for the Honors College student to find her place at CofC: She started a digital marketing internship with the School of Business the second semester of her freshman year and quickly knew she wanted to major in marketing.

“I realized I had such a passion for this kind of work, I decided to officially major in marketing after a semester of interning,” says Martin, who continued the internship, helping run the School of Business social media accounts, through the summer of 2020.

Leah Martin

Leah Martin, Summer 2021 Google Intern (Photos by Heather Moran)

Then, her sophomore year, the Honors College Merit Scholarship recipient applied for and was accepted into the prestigious Lime Connect Fellowship Program, which is helping rebrand disability through achievement by representing highly accomplished undergraduates with disabilities.

“I think programs like the Lime Connect Fellowship Program are important for educating our future workforce about what every individual can bring to the table,” says Martin, who was born with a hearing impairment. “Before Lime Connect, I didn’t realize my disability could be used as an asset for bringing in a diverse viewpoint to meetings, decision-making moments, etc. Now, I own my disability and I’ve adapted what I’ve learned to own the other parts about myself that make me unique. Programs like this can also teach you how to speak up for what you need in the workplace. Lastly, organizations such as Lime can have massive networks of professionals to connect with.”

Indeed, it was the Lime Network that connected Martin to Google, where she is interning this summer as an associate product marketing manager (AAPM) intern in the BOLD (Build Opportunities for Leadership & Development) Internship Program. And, although she isn’t working out of the Googleplex in Silicon Valley (she is working remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions), her place on the Google Brand Studio’s Naming Team has turned out to be perfect for her.

The College Today caught up with Martin to find out more about her internship.

How has the College and the marketing department in particular helped prepare you for this internship with Google?

The marketing department has allowed me to keep exploring my own passions and has definitely prepared me for this kind of work. All of the marketing classes I’ve taken have helped prepare me for this internship, too; I especially found Managerial Marketing to be extremely important. One of my favorite professors, Professor [Esta] Shah, took extra time out of her day to prepare me for the Google interview. She made me a lot more comfortable and confident.

My bosses from my first internship, Erika LeGendre and Liz Wolfe, were so encouraging, nurturing and definitely prepared me for this internship. They took a chance on bringing me in as a freshman and I am forever grateful.

I also got support from the Career Center Internship Award (CCIA) program, which helped me so much. The Career Center taught me a lot about interview etiquette and skills.

Why is this internship perfect for you?

This internship is perfect for me for a myriad of reasons! First of all, I have a background in theater and improv, so I’m used to making these kinds of snap decisions that my internship requires and just running with ideas.

I also feel like I fit in really well at Google. It’s such a great place for me because I like to follow my passions/obsessions and play with things – and they encourage that here. If you want to pursue absolutely anything at all, there is an expert to talk to. It allows you to take initiative in your interests and learn about different things. I definitely feel like a kid in a candy store.

And I think the Brand Studio in particular is the perfect fit for me. Everyone is engaged, passionate, helpful and kind. Every meeting is so much fun. Every day, my team has meetings which oversee new products before they’re launched, and it’s such an honor to be in this position. Last week, the Brand Studio had an employee take us on a virtual tour of Rome. Later in July, the BOLD interns will meet Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, in a virtual fireside chat.

Aside from the insanely cool stuff, I’m learning like crazy right now, and my team is so supportive of me. Sometimes things can get complicated and confusing, yet they’re always so patient in answering my questions.

What are you working on as an APMM intern for the Brand Studio Naming Team?

It’s the job of the Brand Studio to protect Google’s masterbrand, and the Naming Team oversees the naming of hundreds of Google products. So, my main responsibility is my research project, which involves researching the impact having “Google” in the name of a product has on consumers and the masterbrand. There are a lot of mini tasks I do to support this research, so I’m pretty busy nonstop.

I also attend Naming Team meetings and am learning how the naming process works. If you’re wondering if I’ll name any products this summer, the answer is probably not. But because I’m learning how, there’s a chance I could!

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far?

The most valuable thing I’ve learned is to navigate ambiguity. With my big project this summer, I was initially faced with ambiguity and specifically carving a viable and timely research project out of a need on my team. There were a million different ways to take this project; I didn’t have a rubric to follow or a professor telling me what they wanted to see. I started to overcome this hurdle by making choices without thinking too hard (improvising), such as writing down research questions and listening in on many, many meetings. I had endless chats with my manager, who made me feel secure. I came up with a massive list of research questions and ideas, and then my team collectively decided on what to keep and what to scrap. This was how we carved out a beautiful project brief over the course of two weeks.

I also took inspiration from the animated film, Spirited Away, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002. The filmmakers didn’t have a plan or a plot or direction – they just animated and did what they wanted to do – and they made something really beautiful and exceptional. So, I took inspiration from that.

By the way, I still am navigating how this will go. I don’t know if I’m going to present my research in a meeting or if I’ll turn it into an internal blog post. I can’t wait until I get there.

What are your career goals and how do you think your internship experience will help you reach them?

My No. 1 career goal is to do something that’s fun, and then become an expert in it. I know this sounds super vague, but it’s true! My internship is helping me reach these goals by encouraging learning and exploration every day. Brand marketing is definitely what I’m aiming for right now, and I’m learning everything I need to know, every single day. I feel very lucky I’ve been placed on the Brand Studio and in the Naming Team.

What advice would you give others looking to get a cool summer internship?

Follow what you truly love, listen to your inner child and don’t let tedious and difficult college assignments deter you from your ultimate goals. Time and time again I’ve had to tell myself in college that I “need to do the hard work now to get to the fun work later.”

And one last thing: Take every opportunity you’re interested in. This is the best advice I’ve ever taken from Professor [Lancie] Affonso at the Entrepreneurship Living and Learning Community.