Blog Posts

Epilogue

Posted at 12:00am Aug 11, 2011 by stephaniedudek

Back at the beginning of the summer, I mentioned the importance of knowing what you want out of your internship before you even walk through the doors on your first day. Whatever you determine your ultimate goal for your experience to be – networking, gaining new skills, socializing, putting a really cool company name on your resume, or a job – will ultimately determine how you approach your work and what you will get out of your experience. As I have mentioned countless times, State is my dream employer, and this internship was a foot in the tightly guarded door. For me, this internship was an 11 week job interview. I know full well that the economy is schizophrenic and funding is tight (at best) so I wasn’t sure how realistic that goal was, but it was my goal none the less. I approached every day not as an intern, but as if I was a full-blown employee of my office. Well, my dream job is one step closer to being a reality. This academic year I will be working as a part-time foreign affairs officer for the same office in which I interned! Balancing a full-time course load (in Baltimore) and this job (in DC) will certainly be challenging, but I think the sacrifices now will pay off in spades down the road. I won’t be able to socialize with my classmates, the new class, or my friends and family as much as I would like to, but I will have unprecedented access to the people who hold the jobs which I covet. Fortunately I already know the ropes in this office so there’s less of a learning curve to deal with, making it that much easier to really get into my work. And this new experience puts me one step closer to the holy grail which my classmates and I all long for: a full-time job come June. It’s not a guarantee, but certainly a step in the right direction.

The end of the line

Posted at 10:21pm Aug 05, 2011 by stephaniedudek

Okay, so I teared up a little. Fine, more than a little. Thank goodness for dark sunglasses.

It barely seems possible that my 11 weeks at State are up. It has been a truly amazing summer and I feel so fortunate to have had that experience. It has been a whirlwind summer and I have met so many fascinating people, the likes of whom I would likely never have met anywhere else. It still seems like a dream – I wanted this for so long, and I got exactly what I wanted. That’s a good feeling.

This summer has confirmed to me that while it’s great to have “life plan,” it’s also important to be able to veer off course when it just seems like the right thing to do, even if you don’t necessarily know what comes next. When I graduated from college in 2006, my plan was to go to grad school to get my PhD in international relations and become a professor and researcher at a think tank. While working on my PhD, I lost my passion for IR, or at least I thought I did. I still love IR, but not in the academic sense. I love the academic mind set, but it’s not what I want to spend my life doing – I’m a policy person. I still pull on the skills I learned in that program on a daily basis – I honestly think it gives me a much more extensive view on life and my work. Had I stayed in that PhD program, following my plan slavishly for fear of deviating from the plan, I would never have had this experience. And that would have been a crying shame.

A new way of doing business

Posted at 12:00am Jul 30, 2011 by stephaniedudek

One of the great things about working at a place like State is the exposure to amazing people and events, on a near-daily basis. Earlier this month on July 12th, State hosted the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a public-private partnership which grew out of President Obama’s first official act as president, in which he promised a more open and transparent government. After months of planning and preparation, the event turned out to be a huge success, with government and civil society representatives from over 65 countries turning out for a day-long ministerial-level meeting.

Now this meeting wasn’t the typical “UN Style” ministerial meeting. No, the State Department is turning a corner and changing the way it does business, courtesy of the “Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review,” or QDDR. One of the big changes being pushed through the QDDR is more of a reliance on public-private partnerships, bringing together the most able and agile people and organizations to tackle the toughest issues in international relations. Participants in the OGP came together to discuss innovative ways of tackling problems which crop up in open government initiatives, such as fighting corruption, servicing citizens, and promoting transparency, among others. The partnership is lead by a steering committee comprised of 16 members from the public and private sectors who have shown great leadership in open government initiatives. Participants heard lectures, but they also spent much of the day in smaller break out groups discussing ideas and ways of implementing those ideas in their home countries.

Although the July 12 meeting was a huge success, the initiative hasn’t even formally begun – OGP will be officially launched on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New York in September 2011. At this time, the steering committee will officially launch the partnership and the Open Government Declaration, which states can sign in order to signal their intentions to move towards a more open-government policy and the promotion of OGP principles at home and abroad.

To learn more about the Open Government Partnership, visit http://www.opengovpartnership.org/.

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Secretary Clinton delivering opening remarks at the Open Government Partnership meeting at the Department of State on July 12, 2011
(photo courtesy US Dept. of State, http://www.flickr.com/photos/statephotos)

 The video of the day's opening remarks by Secretary Clinton and Brazilin Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota

Big Meeting Done, Hanging out with GMBA!

Posted at 7:00pm Jul 16, 2011 by cynthiaengel

After a frantic evening of revising our slide deck via email with my boss and trying to straighten my hair, finally the day had come for our "big" meeting.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  When we were talking to my boss an hour before our meeting was supposed to start, he was assigning us specific parts of the presentation and granted us the freedom to contribute when we thought we could add value to the conversation.  Then my boss looked over at my collegaue and said, you won't be needing your tie or your jacket.  I was almost shocked about not pitching our idea in formal business attire.  However, you learn to roll with the punches so we both hang up our suit jackets for another time.  

Once our improntu meeting was over, I went back to my desk and tried to keep myself calm and productive.  Initially, I thought that someone would get us at around 10am as that was when the meeting was supposed to start.  However, finally, at 10:30, my boss came to get us to come partiticipate in the meeting that was pertinent to our project.  

Into a boardroom, we walked and I for a split second wished I had worm my suit jacket anyway.  Then I noticed that we were presenting to only one person who was wearing khaki dress pants and white button down dress shirt.  To some degree this surprised me, however, after being around people all day everyday dressed in causual ware I was not flabergasted by this.  (Like I was on my first day unitl I realized that I was the only MBA intern in the room).

It was an interesting meeting.  In addtion to pitching our idea, we discussed other potential projects that our idea could be incorporated into at least initially.  After the meeting we went to talk to the developers on our team to share the good news that we were able to continue on our project.

Then my colleague and I discussed our next steps and started to approach the last month of our internship.  

After work, I headed down to Baltimore as in the morning I meet up with other GMBAs for tapas at Jaleo in Bethesda.  Having lunch in Bethesda reminded me that it is good to leave Baltimore (or any city for that matter) semi-frequently because you are better able to enjoy it.  I always have fun hanging out with this bunch of people.  Every few weeks, some combination of us get together for either a meal or to do something.  During my internship, it has been great to learn about what others are doing in their internship.  Also, our every other or every third week meetings are a great support network.

Wow! I only have a month left in my internship.  How am I going to spend the rest of my summer to make sure that I impact this project?

Big Boss... Big Meeting Friday

Posted at 11:30pm Jul 13, 2011 by cynthiaengel

This afternoon after having made countless revisions to the presentation, the big boss reviewed the slide deck in anticipation of the pitch meeting on Friday.  Now, the interesting twist to this meeting is the fact that the big boss has been at Wharton (UPenn) for the last month.  So, he has not been involved in the day to day or even the picture for the most part during the last month.

After having been yelled at and called all sorts of names, I was not concerned about this meeting.  Then, the feeling of being new at a task came back to me as I had not anticipated all of his questions.  I like being over prepared and I do not think I spent enough time considering what else or what questions might I get asked or how to defend all of my points.  Overall, the big boss liked the presentation and wants to keep it like it is for the big meeting on Friday with Strategy team from Germany.  During today's meeting, I noticed some style things that need to be adjusted that I noticed when it was projected rather than displayed on a screen.  Minor things that should not taken too much.

So, the next step is to give the big boss the answer to the following question: "Here is $1 million dollars.  What are your next steps and what are the no/go points in the next steps for this project?"

holy guacamole, i'm half way done! (and the avocados here are amazing!!!)

Posted at 9:00am Jul 10, 2011 by carolynnold

So sorry I have not posted in a long time! I have been here for almost 6 weeks, and it still feels like I have been here for much longer.  Moto-taxi update: Now hands-free, however learned the hard way that you are supposed to mount from the left, and now have a brightly colored burn on my leg from the exhaust pipe to prove it.  To add insult to injury, the other day while on a moto-taxi I heard the people in the car next to me talking about a mzungu (me) and remarking on the state of my motorcycle burn/mosquito bitten legs. I just turned and shrugged and made a face, hoping the acknowledgement that I too think the state of my lower appendages is gross would offer them some relief. I have been enjoying getting to know Kigali these past few weeks. I’m slowly trying to add Kinyarwanda words to my vocabulary, and I find that the locals really appreciate my attempts to say, “Good afternoon, how are you?”.  I have developed a minor addiction here: having clothes made.  I just dropped off some psychedelic material at Albert’s shop and he is going to make a blazer out of it. To say wearing this blazer would be a statement, would be an understatement. Yet my master plan is to wear this African attire when on the job hunt this fall to make me more memorable (wow, say that 5 times fast!).

A few weeks ago, I was able to get out of the city and visited the Volcano National Park, where the mountain gorillas live.  It was a beautiful drive through the countryside, followed by a short walk through some scenic potato fields.  Though I requested to be in the hard core hiking group, something about my physique lead the guide to place me with the group of senior citizens. So, after a short distance from the 4 wheel drive vehicles that drove us to the base of the volcano, I was among a family of gorillas.  It was an incredible experience! All that separated me from a 200 kilo silverback was a slight man with a machete. However, the gorillas are so used to humans that they basically ignore your presence. The group we observed was lead by a 23 year old silverback named Charles, and there was also a 2 week old new born still clinging to its mother. It was another 'National Geographic dream' fulfilled, and also a relief to see that such extreme efforts are being made to repopulate the mountain gorillas that were previously driven endangered status by poachers.

Office mates Suzie and Austin :-)

As the weeks have gone by, I have been getting used to juggling work at 3 different banks and adjusting to the specific culture at each one. Prior to coming here, I was interested in the overlap between healthcare delivery and training and microfinance.  One of my MFIs, Urwego, provides non-financial services to its clients such as training in family planning, healthcare awareness, and business development.  During the borrower’s group meetings, the loan officer holds a 30 min. training session on one of these topics, and the curriculum builds each week.  I attended a meeting that introduced the topic of HIV/AIDS, and why it was important to be aware of how this disease spreads and how it can effect one’s family and business. My next blog post for the Kiva website will discuss this topic of the overlap between health and other non-financial services and the microfinance lending model.  If you’d like to read more about it, check it out! I’ll paste the link on here once it’s been crafted.

My Kiva Coordinator Peace, Ag Loan Director Jean de Dieu, and me with the rice farmers!

Another interesting experience I had was going into the field this week to meet the rice farmers who are going to receive one bank's new agricultural loan product.  For me, it was a lesson in the practical challenges associated with pursuing development in rural areas.  I was accompanying my Kiva coordinator, because we were to interview the borrowers for the Kiva website, take their photos, and have them sign loan contracts.  With 24 borrowers to interview, we were expecting this task alone to take several hours (especially since I would be of no use in this department, as I do not speak Kinyarwanda).  However, when the meetings started and it came time to sign the contracts, the farmers were not happy with some of the terms.  Specifically, they were going to be charged interest on all the money and supplies the bank was lending them, including fertilizer.  The farmers DO need this loan because the Rwandan government just decided to not give them free credit, however, just before this policy change, they gave them fertilizer.  Therefore, the farmers did not feel they should have to pay interest on an input they had previously been given for free.  Many hours later, they finally came to an agreement, and although we did not have enough time to get all the contracts signed, we made progress!

Half way through my time here, I think I have finally adjusted.  Oddly, I can tell I have really settled in to a place when I am relaxed enough to implement my daily nap routine. When I first got here, I was too overstimulated to crave naps. However, my appetite for sleeping is back in full force, and I usually manage to get them in between work and dinner. Also, my mid-way reflections have enlightened me to the fact that I have not documented enough of normal day life. For example, those of you that know me well are aware of my affinity for avocados. OMG THEY ARE HUGE AND AWESOME HERE. One guy actually said to me I should rent a room in his house and I wasn’t even considering this until he said he has an avo tree in his back yard. However, after looking at the mound of artifacts I have accumulated here, I voted nay on moving. With that aside, my new mission is to do smaller, more frequent updates on here. In my attempts to be less of an obvious mzungu, I have been reluctant to take pictures everywhere I go.  However, I have decided that I must take more pictures! Let’s see if I stick to it!

My Reflections (midpoint)

Posted at 12:00am Jul 08, 2011 by cynthiaengel

With more than half of my internship completed, I have taken the time to contemplate where I started and where I am now, and these are the resulting musings:

When I started my internship, I told myself that I was going to try to stick as closely as possible to the nominal 40 hours a week work schedule.  My professional goals were 1) to gain exposure to performing in a non-provider capacity; 2) to learn something new; 3) to challenge myself in a business area; and 4) to engage and develop professional relationships. 

So, where do I stand in terms of meeting or adhering to these goals?  With the exception of maybe one week, I have been able to keep hours as close to 40 as possible without bringing much, if any, work home.  Furthermore, by working in a business office, I have increased my experience performing in a non-care provider capacity.  Taking myself out of the mentality of a nurse has at times been challenging, especially when it comes to trying to figure out how to pay for different aspects of the project I'm working on.  Yet, stretching myself is critical to my success, as I am no longer "just a nurse": I am nurse with an MBA (or, if I am to move outside my comfort zone entirely, I am a MBA with a nursing background!). This is both a very different mindset and an important transformation that has slowly occurred without me realizing it.  Additionally, as a nurse or an MBA student, there was never the need for me to understand the technological workings of various systems related to my work.  This project is pushing me to learn more about information technology in order to discuss the feasibility/functionality of the project.  In essence, the final projects for my Digital Marketplaces class the Discovery to Market project have been fused into this single internship experience.  

As for challenging myself, I volunteered to create the pro forma income statement for this project's business model.  Well, I have never actually created a pro forma income statement for use "in the real world..."  So, I started with what my boss had given me in terms of basic financial data.  I thought about it a little bit and was like "why don't I get the appropriate guidance first before getting in the middle of a big mess and not knowing which way to turn later?" My first thought was call Dad (my Dad is an accountant with close to 30 years of experience).  Dad's response was "good for you for taking this head on" and he gave me some tips for the general approach. Also, he said that once I had numbers, we could take a look at them together.  After I pulled the basics together and Dad had improved on it, I also sent my work to several classmates, who provided additional feedback.  I was amazed at the willingness of my fellow classmates, who are also currently hardworking interns in their own right, to help out.  If I had gone to any other MBA program, I am not sure it would have been quite as painless to recruit help from classmates.

Engaging and developing professional relationships is an area I need to focus a little more.  I have been so fixated on project work that, outside of my immediate team, I have not interacted as much as I had anticipated with others here at Siemens.  This is in part due to the set up of the organization, but also because I have put my nose to the grindstone during the day while at work.  These musings have enlightened me to create a better system for myself so I get the most out of the experience.

In the evenings, my plan was 1.) to explore the Princeton/New Brunswick, New Jersey area; 2.) to visit friends in Philly and New York; 3.) to read for fun; and 4.) to connect with new people.  As of right now, I have explored some of the Princeton/New Brunswick area and learned that driving in New Jersey can be confusing with all turns from right lane.  I have been trying to visit either Philly or New York City once a week as I have friends in both cities, the cities are about 1-1.5hr away.  I have been reading quite a bit; not as much as I would like but more than I read during the school year.  For the summer, I am subletting an apartment.  The apartment is set up for four girls.  During this summer, there are just three of us.  One of the other girls is earning an Master of Public Health (MPH) and the other girl is working towards her PharmD (pharmacisit) from Rutgers, New Brunswick.  For me, it has been fun to talk to people earning different degrees with a similar interest in Healthcare.  They have inspired a few ideas for fall events with HBA, if they pan out to my crazy summer renditions.

As August is fast approaching, I have been working with Chris, who is in California to coordinate a welcome back to school picnic.  We are still working on the details; but looking forward to meeting the new class as well as see our old friends.

Get out of the office, part II

Posted at 12:00am Jul 05, 2011 by stephaniedudek

Like I said before, one of the best things you can do at a job or internship is attend events outside of your office or typical workday. I was fortunate enough last week to attend two events where the Secretary spoke, both of which were important, high profile events in their issue area.

The first event was a panel discussion on the status of LGBT issues in foreign policy, hosted by Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), which featured a senior-level panel, with remarks by Secretary Clinton. It touched on issues which affect LGBT members of the foreign affairs agencies (State, USAID, etc.) and their families, as well as LGBT rights as human rights and human rights as LGBT issues, as Secretary Clinton asserted last year. For more details, see the official write-up on humanrights.gov.

lgbtpanel

from left: Assistant Secretary Michael H. Posner, Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero (moderator), Deputy Administrator for USAID Don Steinberg, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel B. Baer; photo courtesy of humanrights.gov.

lgbtclinton

Secretary Clinton (photo courtesy state.gov/r/pa/ei/pix/)

 

The second event which I attended was the highlight of my summer – the 2011 TIP Report release. As I mentioned before, I’ve been researching trafficking in persons for many years, and although it is no longer the focus of my academic or professional life, it is something which I still feel passionately about. I’ve read the TIP report every year and even had friends refer to it as my “bible,” especially while writing my theses. This year, I got to attend the super-big-deal event where the Secretary formally released the report, and it was way better than I could have imagined! It was an overflow crowd attended by ambassadors from over 30 countries, members of the civil and foreign service, NGOs, and civil society members. The release was presided over by Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, Ambassador-at-large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Luis CdeBaca, and Secretary Clinton. For the text of each of their speeches, please visit: http://www.state.gov/g/167166.htm and http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2011/06/167156.htm. To read the text of this year’s TIP Report, please visit: http://www.state.gov/g/tip/.

tipclinton

Secretary Clinton speaking at the TIP Report Release, with Under Secretary Maria Otero (in the pink jacket) and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca (in the black suit), and the recipients of the TIP Heroes Award. (photo courtesy state.gov/r/pa/ei/pix/)

Middle of the Summer Already?

Posted at 9:20pm Jul 04, 2011 by cynthiaengel

Is it really already the 4th of July?  That means I only have 5 weeks left in my internship.  Yikes! I feel like I still have so much more to learn and do to provide my boss with the best possible deliverable.  It is finally confirmed that we are meeting with the strategy team from Germany next week.  For my internship at Siemens Corporate Research, I have been doing market research and developing business models with associated financial statements for a project in the health information technology space.  This project is to some degree "top secret", which to me is slightly amusing.  Regardless of my personal opinion, however, I am careful to follow their rules for confidential projects. 

The meeting with the strategy team from Germany will be your basic pitch to any potential investor in a project.  The presentation will cover an introduction, market research, financial plan, and technical aspects of the project.  I am looking forward to getting input from other perspectives, as I have become so absorbed into this project.

Over the last week and half, we have started to work closely with the User Interface Design team out of Germany.  We teleconference using software that allows us to share screens, so that images can be shared and viewed by all while we discuss.  It has been neat to be involved in the development of the application, including the usability of the application.  I never realized how much work went into the little details that you find in applications; something as simple as the location of a particular button, for example.  Working with a team across various time zones has also proven interesting: the time difference between New Jersey and Germany is 6 hours, and typically we have our conversations at 12 (noon) EST, which is the end of the day for our colleagues in Germany.  So in the middle of our day we are getting the results of at least a full day's worth of work.

Happy Fourth of July!

Posted at 12:00am Jul 04, 2011 by stephaniedudek

The U.S. Department of State has a large contingency of foreign service officers, serving out American foreign policy in the field at over 250 posts around the world. Check out how diplomats and embassies around the world celebrate July 4th far from home: http://blogs.state.gov/ (DipNote is the official blog of the U.S. Department of State.

Hope you all had a great 4th! Smile

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