I had lofty goals for my summer internship. I spent much of my first year in business school exploring social enterprise as a possible career path, but Education Pioneers was my first foray into the public sector. I wanted to use my internship to answer a number of questions:
Will I enjoy working in the district? Will I be able to make an impact? Do I see myself in education long-term? Which part of education should I focus on, and what type of role is best for me?
Ten weeks isn’t enough time to answer these questions fully, but I learned a lot about myself during my summer.
I did enjoy working in the district. It is a place of incredible passion – I was surrounded all summer by people who had dedicated their lives to education. There is also great opportunity to impact thousands of families. Navigating around bureaucracy was sometimes frustrating, but, to my surprise, it was also a challenge I often enjoyed.
I found that I was able to make an impact. My skill set went far in the district. Managing projects, clearly presenting information, and quantitative analysis were all highly valued. I felt that I was able to help the organization far more than I had in the private sector, largely because resources were so badly needed in the district.
But influencing people was a challenge. I encountered skepticism about my lack of education experience. Forming relationships, I found, is critical in the district. I learned early in my summer that I very much enjoyed interacting with people who were different from me.
I found that I could see myself in education long-term, and that I wanted to focus on finding creative ways to close the achievement gap. I also learned about the tradeoffs between operational roles and strategy/data analysis roles. Operations involved more day-to-day interactions with people, but its effect on long-term change could be limited. Strategy and data analysis, on the other hand, could have long-term impact, but day-to-day, it could be more tedious. Personally, I loved interacting with those responsible for running the district, and preferred an operational management role.
I still have a long way to go in defining my path, but this summer was a critical first step.