Alumni Spotlight: Stacey Sommer - Internship Maven Turned HBO VICE Producer

Turning a massive lemon into sweet success is the story of Stacey Sommer, Montclair State University 2011 alum, who despite beginning her college career amid the increased concern of post-college job scarcity during the Great Recession has successfully navigated her way to opportunity after opportunity to become the culture producer for the HBO show, “VICE News Tonight” after a career with MTV.

While working for MTV, Sommer experienced a number of career highlights, such asworking on the show "Ask Obama Live: An MTV Interview With The President" in the White House prior to the 2012 election and working on a show that recognized esteemed rapper Kendrick Lamar as the “hottest MC in hip hop” before he became a Grammy Award winning artist. Now that her dream opportunity at MTV has led to yet another great career development at VICE, she has much to share about her career progression and the intricacies of the media industry from MTV to VICE.

In the midst of the Great Recession in 2008, Sommer took on an internship with the National Women’s Soccer League in media relations and operations, the first of many internships she would obtain.  From there, she went on to intern for CBS Television Distribution, “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider”; CBS Corporation, WCBS News; and Viacom Media Networks, MTV News.  While working on the video team of a non-profit following graduation, a position at MTV News became available in New York. Filling the opening, Sommer began a career with the cable and satellite television giant that lasted almost five years and brought about two promotions, first to associate producer and producer sequentially. 

The multiple internships Sommer held while still attending Montclair State for broadcasting and business administration were part of a strategic plan motivated by the added pressure the recession placed on the likelihood of landing a job after college.  It is now Sommer’s advice to students to take on as many internships as possible as a career starter and self-learning experience.

“Each place [company of internship] was incredibly different, and it helped me realize what type of work I loved doing,” said Sommer.

She went on to stress the importance of seemingly minor experiences in gaining wider career prospects and achieving growth.

“My advice is to be flexible and open minded,” stated Sommer. “Take every opportunity you can get and learn from it. Just because it doesn't seem like the perfect job for you right now, it could one day lead to one.”

The experience Sommer gained as a result of this mentality is what ultimately lead her to MTV. Her latest perfect job at VICE has been a transition in work parameters from that of her former, but has granted her a wider view of the media industry. Though Sommer has encountered the same openly creative and collaborative cultures at both companies based in “creating cool,” the lack of commercials and sponsors involved in working for an HBO show has attributed to a newfound sense of creative liberty.

“The lack of commercials is definitely conducive to having more creative freedom,” said Sommer. “We don't have to worry about making another brand angry, or being cognizant of creating content around ad adjacencies. We can focus on telling good stories, which is refreshing.”

Sommer is absolutely living the result of seized opportunity, and although some may warn of the generation of cord-cutting, she is still confident in the television platform and its future in media.

“All this means, is that there are now more ways than ever to have a career in media. Whether its television, digital, or social video, there are job opportunities out there.”

If there is but one overall gleaming sense of hope to gather from Sommer, it is without doubt that the opportunities are there even in dismal times when met by preparation.