By Megha Karthikeyan
This past summer I had the opportunity to intern at National Public Radio (NPR) as a Treasury and Risk Management intern. Working at a media company and doing financial analytics gave me a unique view of business in the media space. I got my feet wet in finance as a rising second year in college and learned valuable analytical skills through various computer tools.
The Application Process
The application to be a summer intern opened around the beginning of February and closed around the middle of March. There are about 50 interns at NPR with most of them being assigned to shows and podcasts. On the application portal, all the positions that were open were listed, and I found a few business-related positions that I was interested in, including Treasury and Risk Management. I had to submit a resume and cover letter, and then rank my preference of position from one to three (three is the maximum number of positions one can apply for). The cover letter is always important, but extremely important for a finance position at NPR. I think one of the reasons I got this internship is because of my strong cover letter which included why I wanted to work at NPR specifically and what skills and qualities I had that would make me a perfect fit for the job. I also had a very concise but informative resume that mentioned activities and skills that would make me qualified for the finance position.
After about two months, I got called for a phone interview with my future supervisor. The main questions I was asked was why I wanted the internship and what skills and qualifications I had that would make me a good fit for the job. I was nervous because I was only a first year in college at the time and I knew that there would be many other qualified applicants who had more educational experience in finance. However, I spoke with confidence and mentioned that even though I was only a first year, I was a fast learner and had what it took to succeed in the internship. My supervisor then told me about possible projects that I would take on as an intern and how the Treasury and Risk Management internship worked. I made sure to ask him questions about his journey to NPR because this made the interview more engaging and conversational. I ended up being offered the job at the end of the call and accepted the offer a few days later.
During the internship, I worked on a wide variety of projects including building a debt ratio database, completing an investment manager fee project, doing a credit rating peer analysis, and working with daily cash balances. I learned how to do Macros and analyzed data deeper using the graphing and charting tools in Excel. The biggest project I worked on was the investment manager fee project where I had to create a report to be presented to the NPR Investment Board about the fees NPR was being charged and the net return NPR was getting from its investments. I pulled financial data from over 50 investment managers and then input all the data into an Excel spreadsheet which I then analyzed. I also compared data from previous years and created a 5-year analysis about how NPR was doing financially. This was one of my favorite projects I worked on because I got to look at how NPR chose its investments and learned a lot about the sectors that it was investing in. I also got to learn about various investment benchmarks and how it applied to NPR’s investing strategies.
Other than the major projects I worked on, there were a few daily tasks that I assisted with like looking at the daily cash balances to make sure NPR’s reserves and working capital was strong. I also provided assistance to the accounting team by pulling audited financial data that pertained to the Treasury division. In this process, I learned more about how internal and external audits worked.
Fun NPR Events
One of the perks of being an NPR intern is being able to attend Tiny Desk Concerts. At these concerts, musicians perform songs that were produced for All Song’s Considered. One of the coolest musicians I got to see was Chance the Rapper. It was an intimate crowd of around 200 employees, so I got to hear him up close as he performed some of his most popular songs.
Being a NPR intern, you also get the opportunity to meet a lot of people in the media industry. We had weekly Brown Bag Lunches where we met with various producers and hosts of radio shows including Guy Raz from How I Built This and Audie Cornish from All Things Considered. Being able to learn about how they got into news and broadcasting was very interesting and it was a great way to network with people I may not have been able to connect with.
Tips for Future Interns
My general advice for interns, whether at NPR or any other company, is to ask questions. When I didn’t understand how to do a certain task after I had used all the resources available to try and solve the problem, I made sure to ask my supervisor for help. Asking questions not only helps you solve your problem, but it also shows your supervisor that you are involved in your work and can ask for help to make your work even better. As an intern, you can learn a lot from your managers, so asking questions early on and clearing up any confusion will save you a lot of time in the future and send a positive message to your boss.
Another piece of advice is have regular meetings with your supervisor or manager. I met with my supervisor many times to not only update her on my progress, but also ask her for input and feedback. During these conversations, we would end up talking about a new piece of technology or the news for the day. This helped me get to know my manager better, and she understood my background and interests. Getting to know you manager on a personal level is important and this can happen when you have regular meetings scheduled with your supervisor.
My NPR internship taught me so much about the treasury and finance industry and I learned so many new skills that I can use in future internships. I am very glad I got this incredible opportunity and encourage anyone interested in finance and the media to apply.
Megha Karthikeyan is from Vienna, Virginia and attends the University of Virginia. She intends to double major in Economics and Commerce at the McIntire School of Commerce with finance and information technology concentrations. Megha will graduate from UVA in 2020. She hopes to work in the finance industry as a finance or risk analyst, but is also looking at working in investment banking.