KINGSTON, R.I. – Sept. 6, 2018 – For Kara Bissonnette, the year has already been a whirlwind – visiting nine countries, completing an internship in Manhattan, earning national recognition – and her senior year at the University of Rhode Island is just starting.
The South Kingstown resident was chosen one of the top 10 interns in the career-builder website WayUp’s top 100 for her work this summer with Publicis Health, a division of the French multinational company Publicis Groupe, one of the largest marketing and communications firms in the world.
“I was very fortunate,” said Bissonnette, a double major in French and international business. “I had a really special internship because Publicis Health is a parent company with a ton of agencies, but my internship was a corporate one. I really had the opportunity to work across the Publicis Health network, to learn about all the agencies and get such a top-level view of the company.
“I was sitting in meetings with the chief marketing officer, chief creative officer and chief communications officer,” she said. “I had such great access to some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and I worked with them on their initiatives. I had a chance to work in a lot of different areas, and I love that.”
Bissonnette learned of Publicis Health last fall in her French class as she was researching internships she could interview for while studying abroad in France the following spring. The company checked off several important boxes for her.
“I learned that the internship was working in global business development, which sounded super cool,” she said. “I loved that they had this huge international presence. And I thought advertising sounded really fun.”
Bissonnette was one of 82 students chosen for Publicis Health’s summer intern program – out of a field of about 3,800 applicants. She was one of the few interns chosen to work in global business development, said Bissonnette, who spent the summer working between the business development and marketing teams.
Gabriella Basile, manager of global growth operations at Publicis, said Bissonnette was instrumental in the creation of a digital library of company documents, provided an analysis of top competitors and recommendations based on that analysis, and showed a great level of professionalism in a corporate setting.
“She was constantly showing the team and myself her thirst for knowledge,” said Basile. “She was incredibly detail oriented – a rigorous note-taker – always following up with questions that demonstrated her eagerness to learn and grow. Even in handling some of the more tedious operational tasks, Kara never ceased to show her genuine enthusiasm to be doing the work she was doing.”
One project Bissonnette enjoyed was the annual summer intern competition. The company’s 82 interns across the country were split into eight teams tasked with coming up with an awareness campaign for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Bissonnette, who worked in the firm’s midtown Manhattan offices, right above Penn Station, was teamed with interns from New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. The interns met directly with leaders from NAMI and learned about crafting a campaign that could live across multiple channels.
Team members talked regularly over Skype but didn’t meet in the same room until the day they had to pitch their ideas to NAMI and Publicis Health executives in the Manhattan headquarters. Each member of the team took part in the presentation. It was a new experience for Bissonnette, who, as part of her business development role, set the stage for her teammates’ presentations.
“I had no idea what even pitching meant when I first got there and I knew nothing about advertising. But I learned so much,” said Bissonnette. “I was really fortunate to work with a team entirely made up of really strong, powerful women. I saw them all as mentors in different ways. They really helped me build my confidence, so by the end I was able to turn nervousness about pitching into excitement about sharing our ideas.”
The internship also gave Bissonnette a chance to live in one her favorite cities and capped off six months of traveling that would make Phileas Fogg envious.
Bissonnette spent the spring in the French Alps studying at Universite Grenoble Alpes. She also took time to soak in French culture along with visiting eight other countries on weekends and school vacations. Traveling with a group of fellow students studying abroad, she toured Portugal, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungry and the Czech Republic.
In New York City, she lived in the financial district and got to spend time with her sister Lindsy. She enjoyed Restaurant Week and toured the city’s neighborhoods, but the excitement of the Big Apple didn’t get in the way of her internship. “We had fun and I really enjoyed the city,” Bissonnette said. “But I was dedicating most of my time to my internship. I was learning so much it was just exciting.”
This fall, she will take a global marketing class. Her internship should make the class even more relevant, said Bissonnette, who is president of Women in Business URI.
But another takeaway from her summer may be as important as it is basic. Bissonnette said she chose to major in international business because it allows her to take a little bit of everything – marketing, accounting, finance. But that freedom also makes it hard for people, including herself, to figure out where she fits.
“The biggest thing I got out of the internship,” she said, “was learning global business development is a field of work with a lot of opportunity.”