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Video Intern Recap: What I Learned at de Novo

By Video Team on May, 28 2024
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Written by Natalie Novak


“What I learned at de Novo is…. What I learned at de Novo is… What I learned at de Novo is…”

As I write this blog post, I’m having a bit of a Ralphie-in-A-Christmas-Story moment. My time here at de Novo has whizzed right by, and I can’t believe how fast it went. Normally when things end, I like to think about how they started. 

So let me take you back to September of last year — my first day at de Novo. 

I had no idea what to expect. They gave me a sticker pack with illustrations of some of my coworkers, cute little cherries, different de Novo sayings, and some of the many inside jokes I would eventually learn the lore of. There was a vinyl collage of phrases on one wall of the studio, including a line encouraging you to drop an F-bomb (internally only, of course). The office bar cart was named “Carti-B,” and every Friday at 3 p.m. Lydia rings a bell on her desk to signal that anyone of age is welcome to crack open a drink. As I took all of this in, I realized this was not going to be like any other internship I’d had before. And that assessment turned out to be accurate! 


Day One: In The Studio


On my first day at de Novo, we had a photoshoot for one of our clients. We spent the day in our on-site creative studio setting up aesthetic scenes to match the vibes of each item we were photographing. I loved the precision of this process and how Andrew and Becca worked so intricately to get the perfect shot. They would make the tiniest of adjustments that made a world of difference for the final product.

They even took some of my suggestions while fine-tuning the scene, never hesitating to involve me in the process. They made me feel like my opinion mattered, which I know isn’t always the case in internships. I quickly learned this is a core value at de Novo — the power of the Collective Creative. Basically, the belief that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (shout out, Aristotle). That all our minds, together, can create something much more meaningful than just one perspective. 

I had so much fun on that first photoshoot. Not only did I get to use my degree out in the wild, but I also got to see how my passions could look in a real workplace. And things were looking pretty fresh.  


The Birds & The Bees (Not Those Ones)


A few weeks later we had an all-day photo and video shoot at Indian Creek Nature Center. We were gathering footage for a video celebrating their 50th anniversary. I spent the workday hiking the beautiful nature trails with a boom microphone, gathering the sounds of nature. I didn’t anticipate this to be so much fun. I felt like I was metal detecting, but instead of a metal detector, I was using a microphone to uncover the soft and subtle sounds I might otherwise overlook. Instead of buried treasure, I was discovering the chirps of birds and the buzzing of bees

In the afternoon, we followed closely behind their day camp group as they read and sang their way through a nature hike, stomped in the creek, and caught frogs. Andrew let me take a stab at some aerial footage with the company drone — which probably cost about the same as my car. (No pressure!) It felt like I was playing a video game, but instead, I was capturing a birds-eye view of the trees and the ecosystem dwelling below. 

I loved how every day was something different, a different story to tell. Whether we were filming in a machine shed that doubled as a house of worship, on a bustling manufacturing floor, from a corn field, or at a local grocery store at 11 PM — I was continually blown away by how each piece came together to shape the final products.


Collaboration & The Collective Creative


I haven’t worked anywhere that values collaboration and teamwork as much as de Novo does. Every team member helps find ways to streamline processes and increase opportunities for collaboration. I got to experience an environment where people truly feel safe enough to offer up new suggestions — which is so important, especially in a creative workplace. 

One of their core values is: We Trust Our Crazy Ideas. Because if people fear scrutiny or judgment for sharing their “crazy” ideas, that stifles creativity. From day one, I always felt comfortable sharing my input. My time at de Novo taught me that wherever I end up, I want to work in a place where it’s okay (and encouraged) to share seemingly crazy ideas — because you never know how one idea can help shape the final product. 

Throughout that first day, as we listened to music and took stylized product photos, I remember thinking, “Wait, you can actually be paid to do this as your job? In Cedar Rapids, Iowa?” I realized I didn’t have to move to places like Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles to pursue my dreams and get paid to do what I love. I could do it right here, in the city that I grew up in! And to think, I spent so much time wanting to leave because I felt it was the only way. 


A Newfound Appreciation for My Community? Guilty.


According to, “de novo” is a Latin term that means "anew," "from the beginning," or "afresh." When a court hears a case “de novo,” it means it’s deciding the issues without reference to any legal conclusion or assumption made by a previous court. Well, I thought I had made my verdict about Cedar Rapids a long time ago, but de Novo gave me a fresh perspective on the city I grew up in. After living most of my adult life thinking staying here was not an option if I wanted to pursue the career I dreamed of, this newfound appreciation for my hometown was invaluable. 

On top of this incredible work experience, the team welcomed me into their culture wholeheartedly. I got to experience the infamous annual retreat and the holiday party, which included a gift exchange, custom awards, a delicious cooking class, and a party bus! I will be keeping my custom Lego statue and honorary de Novo ladle forever. 

I am so grateful for my time at de Novo, for so many reasons. Not only did I learn a lot, but I also had a total blast. I have a major love for the entire de Novo team, especially Andrew, Annie, and Jav — with whom I spent the majority of my time working. I can’t say enough good things about de Novo and the culture Jen and her team have created!

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