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A few months ago, Cognito nominated me for the 2016 PRNews PR People Awards in the Intern of the Year category. It was an honor to be recognized for my work as an intern with Cognito and a chance for me to look back on the series of events that brought me to the agency.

A little over 7 months ago, I bought a one-way ticket to New York after graduating from the University of Arizona. I attended several networking and communications events in the city, one of which Cognito hosted, looking to find an opportunity for an internship or entry level position. From the connections I made at Cognito’s event, I was quickly offered an internship at the financial PR and marketing firm. That internship later turned into a full-time AAE position and I’m thrilled to learn from some of the leading communicators in the industry every day.

PRNews named me as a finalist last month and Cognito sent myself and my colleague Tara Lepelletier to the awards ceremony in Washington DC. The event was held at the National Press Club, widely known as “The Place Where News Happens,” just a couple of blocks away from the White House. The award attendees included many in-house and agency professionals across various industries.

They kicked off with the People of the Year Awards, where I was named intern of the year!

It was such an honor to share the stage with such successful and inspiring people. We all had a moment to share a few words on our success, emerging industry trends, and outlook for the next year.

Here are a few insights and trends my fellow winners shared:

  • Diversity and Inclusion are becoming more and more important, both in messaging and company culture.
  • Taking chances was a big theme in a lot of the speeches. It’s not enough to check off boxes, we need to push ourselves and our clients to think more strategically.
  • Authenticity and Activism are very valuable brand assets. You don’t want to be repeating what everyone else is saying. Having opinions and something to stand for will always distinguish great messaging and make our clients stand out.
  • Best Places to Work honorees included perks like gym memberships, work-life balance initiatives, and happy hours.
  • Finance brands are there too – we saw a number of finance brands in the audience including SAP, Point72 Asset Management, Bank of America and Aflac.

These points made me excited to see what the industry will look like in the coming year and how we can incorporate new learnings into both our corporate culture and creative outputs for our clients. Still over the moon that I was named Intern of the Year and motivated to keep up the good work.