Searching for a Unique MBA Internship Experience
At that point, I knew I had an interest in government, and I knew that was very unique for a MBA candidate. Having come straight from my undergraduate studies to the Rady School, I also knew I was not prepared to choose a specific business function on which to focus my career search. I was looking for a mentor who could help me with that uncertainty, who had general interests and experience and hopefully had a role in government as well.
At the mixer, I didn’t meet such an individual, but I found a promising candidate on the list of mentors who were unable to attend the mixer that evening. I agreed to meet with her when she was returning to the Rady School several days later, early in the morning. Due to how early it was, I was the only student to attend, which worked greatly to my benefit. We had a fantastic discussion, and quickly realized that it was a perfect match.
She excitedly pulled out a job description for a Brand Management Intern position with the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department (P.U.D.). I accepted the offer right away, and scheduled an interview.
Finding a Great Fit with the City of San Diego
My internship with the P.U.D. began on January 5th, 2015. They were very flexible in allowing me to work part-time during the school year, and I was able to increase my hours in the summer. I knew on my first day that it was a great cultural fit for me, as I was greeted with a friendly poster (pictured above) and enthusiasm around the office.
The energy was palpable, and it was due to an organizational transformation having started around six months before I started. In June of 2014, the P.U.D. rolled out a new Brand initiative, for which there would be internal and external branding needs. My division, Strategic Support Services, focuses on internal branding within the department, training and developing employees around the Brand. Therefore, my fellow interns are all Organizational Development Ph.D. students and brilliant people to work with.
The brand of the P.U.D. is “Quality, Value, Reliability, and Customer Service, for all of San Diego…every day!” The statement may seem simple, but it has grand implications when you are serving around 3,000,000 residents, processing 300,000,000 gallons a day of potable water, and managing 3,292 miles of water mains. The San Diego P.U.D. is a massive operation with approximately 1,500 employees, providing San Diegans with the most vital natural resource: water. Not to mention that the P.U.D. meets the wastewater needs of the eighth largest city in the United States every day. It is truly an inspiring organization to work for, and I am proud to have a part in the operations.
Role, Responsibilities and Advancement
In my role, I am responsible for promoting the Brand internally with Public Utilities employees through the organization and implementation of training and internal communications. One of the highlights of my role so far has been developing Department-wide strategic messaging for both internal and external use.
More than any other class I have taken at the Rady School, I regularly utilize the knowledge that I gained from both MGT 406 (Leadership Skills, Values, and Teamwork in Technology Firms) and MGT 409 (Organizational Strategy). Leadership skills, values, teamwork, and organizational strategy are core functions of my division.
After I had been at P.U.D. for about a month, I began looking for ways to leverage my position with the City in order to move closer to the center of the government. I looked online for internships with the Office of Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, and after finding a contact, applied right away. Based on my qualifications, I was offered a position as a Policy and Communications Intern for the summer.
Over the summer, I have been working three days a week at P.U.D., and two days a week downtown at the Mayor’s office, and it has been fascinating to be involved in two vastly different parts of the City of San Diego. My first day at the Mayor’s office was June 15th, and even just working there two days a week, I have learned an incredible amount about the inner-workings of local government.
My primary responsibilities in this role are to assist with local public policy issues and community outreach. As one can imagine, there are continuous requests for policy changes, and reviewing those requests falls partially under my purview. In addition, the community outreach aspect of my position involves responding to various letters written by San Diego residents on behalf of the Mayor.
Takeaways and Advice for Other MBAs
My experience with the City of San Diego so far has been absolutely phenomenal. Many MBA students do not even consider the public sector, due to lower salaries, but there is so much to be learned. Local government is often the impetus of lasting societal change and the least recognized body for creating that impact.
After being exposed to public relations and communications in various forms over the last several months, that has now become the focus for my future career. I am not certain as to whether or not I will continue working in the public sector in the near future, but I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that I have been given with the City.
If you are a younger MBA candidate, like myself, I encourage you strongly to consider gaining experience through government. The City of San Diego needs bright, young people to help move our community forward, and the experience that you will gain can be used in any organization. I especially want to thank the Rady School of Management for making all of this possible, and for helping me become the young professional I am today.
Matthew Cohen (’16) is a Full-Time MBA candidate at the Rady School of Management. He is currently interning as a Brand Management Intern at the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department and a Policy and Communications Intern with the Office of Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. He has a passion for empowering others through leadership and having a positive impact on any organization in which he is involved.