A passion for production: Cooke's unexpected internship sparks interest
Kylah Cooke has done it all: teacher’s assistant for TV and film classes, vice president of Hofstra’s step team Strictly Steppin’, a Diversity Peer Mentor through the Peer Alliance Program, president of Hofstra’s chapter of Sigma Gamma Ro sorority, a Welcome Week Leader, a volunteer for the 2016 presidential debate as well as the recent gubernatorial debate and a dedicated member of both Hofstra’s Pride Productions and the HEAT Network. Her resume is padded with many different experiences that connect Cooke to each part of Hofstra and represent a human resource team’s ideal future team member.
As a senior majoring in Video/Television and Film, Cooke comes across as confident, skilled and perfectly poised to answer questions about all things media – making it surprising to find that she did not always nurse an interest in the subject.
“The way I developed an interest in media is actually very interesting,” Cooke said. “I really got into media through doing theater productions in high school – doing backstage and assistant stage managing – and found that I really like doing production. The way I got into media wasn’t through watching TV. It wasn’t through film. It was actually doing those hands-on experiences in high school.”
Cooke developed her skills in media after she joined her sorority, which she credits as a pivotal moment in her Hofstra career. “I always knew I liked production; I liked theater, but I didn’t know where I fit in amongst it, because everything I did I was good enough at. That didn’t really help me narrow it down to what my passion in this industry is.”
That changed, however, when Cooke joined Sigma Gamma Ro. “When I joined my sorority,” she said, “I was kind of forced into a leadership because it is one of the multicultural associations here on campus, and there’s fewer members than other sororities. I was in a leadership position where I lead my team, planned events and had to make those events happen. I learned that I am a good coordinator who is detail oriented and amazing at planning, which helped me narrow down that I want to help make things happen in this industry.”
Cooke’s experience with her sorority helped her define her skills and her interests and clarified one main career goal: an interest in wanting to help make things happen. She further explored this through an amazing opportunity – an internship at HBO. The path to an internship, however, was rockier than it seemed. “It occurred to me that I was a senior, and if I didn’t get an internship this summer, I may graduate without an internship. It was honestly the scariest thing to think about – it’s one thing to know you’re graduating from college and about to be in the real world without also knowing you had no real-world experience.”
She handled her internship search the same way she handled her other responsibilities: organized records detailing when she applied to internships and a set number of internships that she really wanted. HBO was not considered until a friend referred her to the opportunity.
“I was interviewed randomly after applying on the World Wide Web, the black hole of interviews,” Cooke said. “I interviewed, did swimmingly well and didn’t get the internship. I was shocked, because it was everything I ever wanted in an internship, and the interview went well – I don’t think I could’ve done any better.”
A week later, Cooke was contacted by the same human resources officer. They had passed on her resume to the department of production services and support team, a tech-based field. They wanted Cooke to interview for an internship. While she confessed that she does not care for tech the same way as creative services, she interviewed anyway and thought the interview went terribly.
A week later, she got a call saying that they wanted to offer her the position.
“It was very interesting to me that I applied, didn’t get the first one, and they kept my resume and passed it on,” Cooke said. “It was really one of those ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’ moments.”
The experience helped Cooke in one of her key career goals – to work behind the scenes to not only provide opportunities for others but also tell the stories that no one hears. “Everyone says, ‘Oh, Hollywood is so repetitive,’ but it is because we are not divulging into the other diverse points of view we have,” Cooke said. “There are so many different things people experience that we are not tapping into. I want to do that; I want to recreate the industry.”
“Have a positive mental attitude, be yourself and just keep trying,” Cooke said. She also touched on her favorite motto – carpe diem. “I fully believe you should seize every opportunity you can. It is one of my weaknesses; I string myself too thin, but I never have to say I’ve missed an opportunity. Take advantage of the opportunities you have at Hofstra.”
“Also,” she added, smiling, “Join a sorority or a frat. Not for the millions of reasons you usually hear but try something new and you can find new opportunities.”
For now, Cooke is focusing on working hard through her senior year and working a fall internship at HBO, as well as managing the many events she helps plan and coordinate.
Cooke focused especially on the importance of opportunities regarding what media students at Hofstra should know. “Don’t get bubbled into what you learn at this school; the world is so much bigger than what Hofstra can teach you. Your professors do their best to show you what it is, but at the end of the day, internships are important. They are amazing opportunities to meet other people and get out there, and you can do them as soon as you get started at school.”