My internship with the Emerging Citizen Technology Program

Name: Carolina Ramos

Major: International relations

Where are you interning? I’m interning at the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Emerging Citizen Technology Program.

What is your title? Research assistant 

How did you get your internship? I found my internship through The Washington Center.

What projects have you worked on? Since my focus at work is on blockchain technology, I am in charge of the Emerging Citizen Technology Program’s government-wide listserv on the latest blockchain news and events. Blockchain technology created the backbone of a new type of internet by allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied. Originally devised for the digital currency, Bitcoin, the tech community is now finding other potential uses for the technology.

Also, I recently assisted in putting together the GSA’s government-wide blockchain forum on July 18. It was the first interagency blockchain forum. It featured speakers who were the heads of local and federal government agencies working on and with blockchain technology.

I also am a notetaker for most of the events and meetings we attend. Most recently, I went to a White House roundtable meeting on Open Data for Economic Growth as an official notetaker.

Currently, I am working on a research project on how the implementation of blockchain will affect organizations and agencies that process and supervise the distribution of foreign aid. 

How does your internship connect to your current coursework? My internship doesn’t perfectly connect to my current coursework, since it focuses mostly on emerging technologies. However, since I’m majoring in international relations, I’ve realized the potential and consequences of emerging technologies are too huge to be ignored in my area of study. International law and organizations need to formulate either new mechanisms to manage their effects or revise the old ones accordingly. 

What was the coolest thing that has happened thus far in your internship? Attending a dinner and reception at Swedish Ambassador Björn Lyrvall’s residence to celebrate his ongoing work on open government. This was the final event hosted by the then-Swedish ambassador before he was reassigned to Stockholm, so it served as a going away party as well. 

What do you enjoy most about your experience? I really enjoyed how inclusive, supportive and helpful my supervisor was. He would invite me to almost every meeting and event he had to go to and would always include me in any event planning or work he was doing. Because of this, I got to see and do so many things in D.C.; meet amazing people; and work on some amazing projects. 

What have you learned about yourself? I’ve learned that I have more passions and interests than I previously realized. 

How has the position increased your professional confidence? My professional confidence has increased through my position because of all the experiences I’ve had. My position required me to maintain a level of confidence in my words and actions and to always take the initiative. It also honed my researching, writing, speaking and networking skills. Working in D.C. has given me a sense of what direction I wish to take my career and what ways I should go about pursuing it. 

How have you expanded your professional network? I expanded my network through a variety of different events and meetings I’ve attended with my supervisor. So far I have attended meetings with the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Partnerships, the White House’s National Subcommittee on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, UNDP, World Bank Group, Federal Acquisition Services, IFC bank and with the founder and president of The Chamber of Digital Commerce. I’ve attended events put together by Amazon’s Dcode42, Google and IBM. At all these meetings, I’ve had a seat at the table and was able to voice my opinion and interact with other attendees. 

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? My advice is to not be afraid to accept an internship that is somewhat outside of your expertise and requires you to learn a lot and take initiative. I accepted my internship knowing it would require a lot of work in areas I wasn’t specialized in. Because of that, I’ve learned more and discovered that I’m more capable than I thought. Your internship isn’t only about expanding your network and getting job experience, it’s also a lot about learning what works for you and what doesn’t work.