Joseph Laseter ’15, Digitas Health

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The cries of my host’s two-year-old son for more breakfast served as my alarm clock for Day 1 of my Princeternship. Priscilla Lo Atkins ’97, Vice President/Director of Media at Digitas Health, and her husband Joshua Atkins ‘96, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, were kind enough to let me stay over at their house during my Princeternship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As Mrs. Lo Atkins drove her son to daycare I spent the time getting dressed and preparing for the day’s exciting events at Digitas Health. Digitas Health works with the worlds leading pharmaceutical, bioscience, and medical device companies to help their brands develop meaningful and valuable connections with healthcare consumers and professionals alike. I was personally curious to see how these seemingly very different fields, advertising and medicine, combined to produce something meaningful and something that we can’t live without.

When Mrs. Lo Atkins came back from dropping off her son, she handed me a couple of tokens for bus fare and we were off to work. We crossed the historical cobblestone streets and waited about a minute until the bus arrived. On our way to work my host pointed out the historical buildings around her neighborhood, Society Hill. A little closer to the office building, she pointed out Independence Hall, where the constitution was signed, and of course the Liberty Bell! After grabbing some quick breakfast at a local eatery Mrs. Lo Atkins showed me City Hall, one of oldest municipal buildings still in operation. Afterwards, we entered the Wanamaker Building, which is now home to Macy’s, and traveled to the floor that houses Digitas Health. Right away I was shocked by how open the space was, how friendly everyone was, and how overdressed I was. Noticing my shock, Mrs. Lo Atkins explained her dismay when she went to interview with a successful investment banking company at the end of her senior year. Their offices were just too strict and homogeneous, she explained that this was one of reasons she fell in love with advertising; it was just so open and welcoming.

After finishing breakfast in the Café area, Mrs. Lo Atkins’s coworker, Jeanette, offered to give me a tour of the Digitas Health offices in its entirety while my host completed a client call. Jeanette made a point to show me the beautiful conference rooms, each named after parks in Philadelphia, the relaxing atmosphere, and her favorite parts of the office. Afterwards she took me to her desk and went through a presentation she prepared for me explaining a little bit more about what Digitas Health did and why she loved working here. Jeanette explained that her current job is to work with a new diabetes II drug. Her job in media is to work with her client to buy space on the internet to better advertise medications and work with the other departments at Digitas like Marketing and Creativity to ensure that consumers and physicians better connect with their client’s drug. I was floored. I had absolutely no idea that this process I see everyday on the internet/television involved so much. I loved how meticulous and dynamic this industry I knew little about yesterday really was.

Joseph and Mr. and Mrs. Atkins

After Jeanette’s tour she took me to a meeting space and let me sit in on a meeting with her coworker Patti, who was busy debriefing her team on the year-end report that they were to present that afternoon.They gave me a copy of the presentation and year-end figures, broke down everything to me, and actually wanted me to ask questions and comment on the tentative plans. After the meeting I headed back to Mrs. Lo Atkins’s office, where she was busy answering emails and reading pharmaceutical articles to make sure she stayed abreast of the times. She answered all of my questions and let me know that we would be going out with a partner of theirs to discuss the unveiling of a new mobile application that would greatly benefit one of their client’s. We ate lunch at a Sushi Bar named Raw with the hilarious Drew, the representative for their partner. He actually seemed interested in the workers in the Media department, which shocked me, it wasn’t just about business. This culture is definitely very positive,. Later, we met with a potential partner where they discussed a potential new platform that could increase the presence of their client’s drug. Afterwards, I met with Dr. Wayne, Vice President and Director of Science & Medicine. We talked for almost 2 hours! He was so awesome. He let me in on some secrets to make the most out of my time at Princeton and stressed the importance of doing things not because they make money, but because I like them. Next, I met with Brendan Gallagher, SVP Emerging Technology & Channels, and I was interested in his career path from actor to advertising executive. It goes to show you that you never now what you’ll end up doing in life…but whatever it is you have to make sure you love it.

After a taxicab ride home we waited for Mr. Atkins and their friends to arrive for a dinner party. While I was playing “Thomas the Train” with their young son, Mr. Atkins and their guests and Princeton alumni arrived. They all introduced themselves; there were surgeons, there was a lawyer, a few residents, and a particularly hilarious political campaigner. Over dinner they discussed their different career paths, shared inspiring anecdotes, and relayed poignant advice. Mr. Atkins’s dinner in my honor was amazing, after Day One I was already sure that I had made the right decision in choosing to go on this particular Princeternship. I can’t wait until tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

This time my alarm clock was the family’s two cats that crept into my room during an obvious attempt to retake their guest room. This cuteness proved an omen that this day was bound to be amazing. This time we took a cab to the offices in order to make an early meeting I had with Matt McNally, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Media Officer. Mr. McNally gave some insight as to how Digitas Health was founded because he was one of the few people around when Media Broadcasting Company merged with Digitas to create Digitas Health. One very potent tidbit that I picked up from our talk was about the importance of strong workplace relationships. “I would rather work with great people making little money, than with less fun people making a lot of money.” Afterwards, I met with a few people who also offered great advice and helped expand on what they did at Digitas Health.

After what seemed like a sales pitch to the company from a potential partner in Mrs. Lo Atkins’s office, I embarked on arguably the most fascinating part of myPrinceternship- lunch with Mr. Penn himself- Dr. John DeMaio, Senior Vice President of Business Strategy who is one of few people who was there since Digitas Health’s beginning. We traveled a few blocks down and ate at a quaint little American classics restaurant.This 2-hour lunch was amazing. Dr. DeMaio explained how he completed nearly all of his studying at the University of Pennsylvania (Psychology, M.D., MBA, and etc.).  He stressed  the importance of working hard and he resonated with a favorite quote of mine by Malcolm Gladwell- “Hard Work is a Prison Sentence if it does Not Have Meaning”.

After a wonderful lunch…my Princeternship was coming to a close. Mrs. Lo Atkins left me with some last minute tips as she helped me prepare to hail a taxicab and take an Amtrak Train back to Princeton. In retrospect, I am extremely glad that I had this opportunity. I want to thank Mrs. Priscilla Lo Atkins, Dr. Joshua Atkins, and everyone that had a part in making this such a spectacular Princeternship. I recommend Princeternships because they can expose students to fields that they are seldom exposed to and honestly…what else are you doing during breaks? This is a great chance to actually benefit and develop your future. I now know that I definitely want to pursue a medical degree and one-day fuse my love for business and advertising. 5 stars out of 5!