EBF: You thought for a long time that you were going to be the next Anderson Cooper. Then Warner Bros. called, and you’ve shifted your focus to DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) within entertainment. What happened?
Asjia Garner: Sandra Rice [Senior Vice President, National Recruitment, Emma Bowen Foundation] has this way of knowing how and where to place you as an intern. I still don’t know how this amazing woman does it. Sometimes you have a career in mind, but she sees something in you that you don’t see. That’s what happened to me! All of a sudden, during my interview, Sandra says, Warner Bros. wants to interview you. As a journalism major, I had never thought about a career in entertainment before.
EBF: Tell us about your roles at Warner Bros. over the years. You worked there for three summers.
AG: I never considered working in entertainment, but after three summers of interning at Warner Bros., I found my voice and discovered where I can implement change. My first year, I was at Pretty Little Liars as a production intern. I made the internship my own and took the initiative to develop projects. I was working under the production supervisor, who allowed me to shadow the directors, producers, and the editors in post-production. It was an amazing experience because one day I would be in the production office and the next day I would be on set helping the production assistants or shadowing the directors. The cast and crew had such big hearts and were willing to help me learn and grow. I was able to contribute to and learn about the creation of a TV show from start to finish.
This internship was such an incredible blessing because I was the very last intern at PLL. My most memorable project there was when I worked with the graphic designer to create a giant yearbook for the cast and crew to document the history and memories of the PLL team. It was a huge project because it covered seven seasons of the show, and I helped design it, curate the content, and direct photography on set.
During my second summer at Warner Bros., I worked in media research for analytics, business, sales, and TV syndication analysis. It was a perfect transition because the first summer I learned about the creative process and this second time around, I dived into the business side of entertainment. From a business standpoint, it was very telling of how analytics can change marketing strategies and influence television distribution decisions.
This past summer, I worked at Stage 13 at Warner Bros. Digital Networks. The department began as streaming platform, but now they’ve become their own digital content studio for short form content. Stage 13 started through a diversity and inclusion initiative. It’s a smaller department that is more of a startup within the large studio. Warner Bros. wanted to create a hub for multicultural audiences. The team at Stage 13 is so diverse and innovative! They come from so many different professional and cultural backgrounds. This was the exact space I had always wanted to work in. I built a lot of trust and strong relationships there, so much, that the team gave me multiple opportunities to craft my own projects and constantly pitch digital and brand marketing ideas. For example, I was able to initiate diversity partnerships with other external companies. I worked on everything from grassroots to high-profile development projects. There were a plethora of different tasks and new media strategies to tackle every day, but it definitely kept me on my toes.
EBF: Can you tell us about a memorable experience there?
AG: My second year at media research defined the career path I want to pursue because of a major project I helped lead.
Every year, the interns have a research project, where we administer focus groups, analyze the data, and determine the most effective deliverables. We did a diversity and inclusion project, which was informally handed down to us by the CEO of Warner Bros. This was during a time when media was talking about “diversity” but not “inclusion.” He started an initiative for WB, but we noticed it was missing a qualitative analysis part from the millennial perspective. So, we asked young professionals on the lot, “How can we create a more diverse and inclusive workplace within our studio and the content on screen?” We presented this to the senior vice presidents of human resources, business strategy, and corporate communications to propose actionable insights for a better future for the company.
My goal was to implement change and start conversations. The project was a huge success and received positive feedback from the executives. The next summer when I returned as an intern, I saw several of our actionable insights implemented into the workplace culture. For example, Warner Bros. started a mentoring program for employees, an idea we pushed to strategize change.
The D&I project made me realize that I have a voice within diversity and inclusion behind the scenes and within representation on screen.
EBF: How did the Emma Bowen Foundation prepare you for a career in media?
AG: EBF truly has been one of the biggest blessings in my life! The foundation prepared me for a career in media regarding professional development by allowing me to work in different departments, networking up and across the ladder with professionals and peers, and giving me the confidence to build my personal brand. The whole point of EBF is for you to explore your career path and interest. The amazing part is that you don’t need to know exactly what you want to do. The companies that EBF places interns at allow us to explore different areas of interest.
The best part about the foundation is that once you are an Emma Bowen fellow, you are one for life. The massive and close-knit alumni network is the largest support system I have ever seen. People have met their best friends in this foundation, and people stay connected and supportive of each other through out their entire careers.
EBF: What advice do you have for students working toward a career in journalism or media?
AG: Say your thank you’s and always be kind. There are so many incredible people in this world that you can learn from, whether it’s the security guard at the studio lot or an executive at the company. Be kind and express your gratitude. This can be more important than what you know or how intelligent you are. I think this is sometimes forgotten as interns focus on exceling their careers. Having a positive attitude can take you so far in media because it shows that you are open-minded and willing to learn. You are going to be challenged a lot in this industry. But at the end of each day, know that you are here for a reason. And one day, we will have a chance to pay it forward. That’s the beauty of it all.