Do internships really create new opportunities?

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By Nicolle Santiago, Unlocked Intern, The Union

The moment I saw the opportunity to work as an intern to represent underrepresented minorities for Unlocked, I did not hesitate to apply.

Through Unlocked, I worked with The Union, which is a creative marketing agency based in Edinburgh. This internship allowed me to gain a lot of skills and I thought I would give some insight and tips that may help individuals, as well as businesses within the corporate and creative environment: 

1. Professional jobs aren’t as scary or intimidating as you think!

Before I began my internship programme, I had a lot of uncertainty and also anxiety in terms of working in a professional setting for the first time, then I actually showed up for my first week and all my worries disappeared.

My first week with The Union involved bake-offs, quizzes, bagpipes and competitions. It was hectic really, but nonetheless, it boosted morale and everyone had a lot of fun. I got to really be involved with the community within the company.

Of course, there was still work that had to be done, but The Union did not fail to support me with every task I did. They were patient and more than honoured to explain everything I had questions to, which is another point I have to emphasize. Do not hesitate to ask questions because:

  1. It’s not that intimidating, you are not bothering anyone.
  2. Check my next point.

2. Collaboration is the fundamental of any workplace.

As much as individual work allows for easier decision making, collaborating is just more exciting. It allows you to grow your perspective and gain a deeper understanding of the world and the people around you. Bouncing off ideas with another person can reach your goal faster, so it’s essential to be more outgoing, patient and optimistic when working anywhere, especially within the creative industry!


  1. Diversify your skills and experience.
  2. Diversify your agency and company.
  3. Diversify your reach.

Diversity has been an ongoing conversation, not only in terms of race and inclusion but also in terms of gaining skills and experience.

Applying for internship programmes, volunteering and even taking small classes to learn about a relevant topic, will prove beneficial to emerging entrepreneurs and the companies they will want to work with.

However, It’s not completely up to the individual. It’s also important to consider companies’ role in diversity, as they have more control and tools to provide professional advice and resources.

It’s crucial that businesses reach out to underrepresented groups and present them with opportunities, even as simple as shadowing a creative director on their day-to-day actions.

There are groups in Scotland like ACS (African Caribbean Society), Being Mixed Project, QIWA and Bonjour who represent queer, ethnic minorities who (more or less) have extensive creative backgrounds and can provide unique viewpoints.

Diversity isn’t just a quota, it involves people’s lives, wellbeing, and their future. And I believe that if more companies diversify their group, the larger and more authentic their connection will be within different communities – and we all know how important connections are in this industry.

If you’re interested in hearing more about diversifying your agency, and gaining perspective on the experiences of minorities, read the interview that The Union and I collaborated on below this THUNK piece.

Overall, the Unlocked programme and The Union have been incredibly insightful and I’m forever grateful for the experiences and time they have given me. All the skills I’ve gained in marketing, PR, production, design and even writing will prove beneficial as I aim to become an Art/Creative Director in the future.

Best of luck!
Nicolle Santiago

An interview with Nicolle Santiago, Unlocked Intern

How did you find your way to the Unlocked internship?

 I found Unlocked through Creative Scotland. I saw that it was for underrepresented minorities who are an emerging creative. I immediately clicked and I was like, yeah, I’m going to apply. I was on the bus filling in all the questions, and it was just a shot in the dark really.

I went through three rounds of interviews, and I got it, and I was really happy about that.


How has your experience of Unlocked been with The Union?

It’s been really fun. Generally it’s been really nice to be able to work in a bigger agency, in a professional setting. To get to know everyone else and their experience, and to be able to get their perspectives as well.

Also for Unlocked, we had a party to wrap up the whole event and it was really, really nice. Everyone there was sharing their stories and their experiences, including how the leaders started it, and how they are growing it.

They’re excited that Unlocked will continue on. And I’m excited about that as well. Me and my friends were talking about Unlocked and this internship and programme is really important. Unlocked is important because it’s representing people who don’t have voices usually.


What opportunities will it open up for you?

I think it will open a lot of doors. It’s such a wide experience because in my first week I did marketing and PR, and then in my second week I did digital, so that had to do more with websites.

And then my third week and fourth week was with the creative team. So going into the production, designing social media stuff and then designing articles. So it’s a lot of experience to have in just one month.

And I think the opportunity can let you work in different areas, whichever you choose, if the course you you’re doing is something you decide not to want to do anymore. So it gives you a lot more flexibility and insight.


What do you think agencies can do to increase diversity?  

I would say get in touch with local programmes that specifically aid minorities.

So there’s Black and Scottish, a community in Glasgow, supporting queer people of colour. There’s also Being Mixed Project as well, based in Glasgow. Also Afro Scott and ACS, groups at the University of Edinburgh that represent AfroScottish groups.

Get in touch with them, get in touch with their programme. You could also integrate into their workshops and interview people from there and talk about their experiences and how they can be part of agencies.


You’ve lived in a few different places in your life. How do you think that’s impacted how you think as a creative?

As a creative, I think my ideas are much wider, in terms of trying to look for them. There’s not only one place I can grab from. There are multiple perspectives that I can look into.

And so if, for example, a brief is about Dubai, I have some insight on Dubai and how that community and that society works.

And then I have loads of insights about Philippines and I’m still studying about Philippines as well. To know more about its history. And then, in terms of being in Edinburgh and Glasgow, both of these have been a really different experience for me.

I think there’s just more insight into a wide variety of topics rather than just having an insight into one topic, I guess. And I think it’s much more authentic as well, and genuine to have someone that comes from different backgrounds. Especially if you’re talking about that specific background, like you’re talking about people of colour, gaining a perspective from a person of colour would be better than from a white person.


What would you say to creative spaces that think diversity is not a priority?

I think it has to be a priority if you want your agency to do well in the future. I think that diversity is essential for agencies to really grow and inspire people because you’re not just catering to one community anymore, you’re catering to a wider community.

And I feel like once you start doing that, you create a more sincere connection and get to know people really well.


How would you sum up your Unlocked experience in three words?

I would say it’s been really exciting and really friendly, because it’s been so social.

And I would say it’s also been really insightful because I’ve gained a lot of skills just working here for four weeks.