Meet Sandbox, Our Creative Mentorship Program

Initiatives by Alexandra Blum, People Ops Manager

Creating opportunities
through mentorship

Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. This inequality is one of the driving reasons that community outreach and professional development are so important to our organization, and it propels the vision for Sandbox, our external mentorship program.

It has been long discussed within the industry that advertising is lacking in representation; we know there is a problem, but how do we begin to affect change? Discussion and awareness are great, but real change requires action, commitment, and time. There is no quick fix to a deeply ingrained, industry-wide problem, but we recognize that we have immense power at our fingertips with our creative, technological, and communication prowess. This power affords us the ability to solve societal problems on a more personal level.

To that end, Hook developed a two-pronged approach to mentorship that exposes young people from underrepresented communities to creative professions through mentorship and hands-on experience. Sandbox was designed to highlight potential paths to a career in a creative field, whether that journey includes formal schooling or not.

What’s in the Sandbox

The first approach is Sandbox U, our mentorship program aimed at those new to the industry who are about to launch their creative career, whether that is a student in a post-secondary program, someone looking to change career paths, or anyone who has been struggling to find their footing. Through direct partnership with Hook professionals, we provide guidance, mentorship, and a network for mentees – aiming to break down barriers as they begin their search for work.

Over the course of 10 weeks, students are matched with a mentor who fits their specific interests and career goals, whether that be craft-related, portfolio preparation, or general job interview help.

While Sandbox U focuses on those already targeting creative avenues, our second approach reaches students BEFORE they decide on potential future paths. Through our Sandbox High program, we teamed up with Alexander Hamilton High School’s Communication Arts Academy in Culver City to help expose students to career options that don’t require an expensive four-year college degree. Because many of our own team members have taken non-traditional paths in their careers, we have a very real understanding of that journey and want to share what we’ve learned along the way. With a speaker series and creative workshops, we help these young students build their skills, gain experience in a professional environment, and explore the world of creative work.

Sandbox guiding principles

To guide all our efforts, we've developed a set of values to keep us anchored in purpose:

Support local communities and underrepresented groups
We are in a position to help address societal challenges that exist in our own backyard. We work alongside compassionate people who care deeply about improving the communities in which we work. The immediate fruits of our labor may not be visible, but we are driven by the potential of improving access to opportunities for those who come after us.

Increase the racial and gender diversity of our industry
Our industry, which is largely populated by those from a single portion of society, lacks the voices and perspectives of the various identities that make up the rest. If we are seriously committed to making real change, we must reach people early in their journeys. This way, we can make considerable progress toward creating workplaces that better reflect the location in which we live. This requires a concerted effort to maintain long-term relationships, assist in portfolio development and expand talent pipelines.

Develop emerging leaders at Hook
Through this experience, we're learning just as much from those we seek to help. This mentorship program provides the opportunity for our people to gain invaluable experience presenting, teaching, and leading; in turn making us better educators for the next group of mentees.

Measuring success

In the three years since we formally launched Sandbox, we have connected with more than 225 high school students through Sandbox High and provided individual mentorship to 37 Sandbox U mentees. Over a third of the Hook team have participated in the programs as mentors or speakers and many of the mentor/mentee relationships have outlasted the length of these programs.

The feedback from mentors and mentees alike has been overwhelmingly positive, with many looking to stay involved and others eager to join the next round. One of our mentees, Max, summed it up best when he reached out to Brad Ackerman, mentor and Associate Design Director, simply to say, “I GOT THE F**KIN JOB!”