Collaborating for an Inclusive Future
In this week’s blog, McCarthy Fellow in San Francisco, Sofia Sanchez, writes on her experience as an intern at SF Department of Public Works. Learn about the community she found and how her experience as an SF Fellow will influence her future career.
49 South Van Ness. It was the location of my internship where I was placed this past semester with the Department of Public Works. On the first day of my internship, I got lost trying to find the Public Works building among the other tall buildings of Downtown. I soon met my mentor-supervisor, Beth Rubenstien who greeted me with a hug. I had been working virtually with Beth since August and in October I had the chance to be hybrid and work in person downtown. I was in awe of how modern the building was and at first, incredibly intimidated by the glass building. But Beth made me feel welcomed and proceeded to introduce me to everyone. I had worked previously in a legislative office and had grown comfortable with the people in the District 6 office. So coming into a new environment with new people was daunting, especially at an intern level.
As I write this, I reflect on all the people and projects I was able to work on, and I am so grateful for all of the skills and opportunities I gained. While working at Public Works, I was placed with the Policy and Communications Team where I worked on the Mayor’s Racial Equity Action Plan. I worked extensively on my department’s plan on ways to complete some of our Racial Equity goals in addition to giving insight and adding in changes. The first task I worked on was on identifying a racial equity goal from our Action Plan to work on and propose solutions. I read the 172 page plan and chose to focus on recruitment strategies and the disparity in wages based on race between different job positions in different bureaus. I ended up producing a six-page memo and created a matrix. The matrix entailed eleven different jobs and had resources from professional groups, societies, college clubs, etc. They had the names, websites, and links so as to quantify and consolidate resources for recruiters to add and update the matrix for future uses.
I learned so much about the complex nature of implementing racial equity goals in a work setting. No one solution is a straight approach, especially in a work setting. But the environment at Public Works was incredibly welcoming and open. Around Christmas time, DPW created a week of Sharing is Caring in which each day a different activity was done to give back to a local community and to the employees themselves. I was able to participate and we got to pack care packages for GLIDE SF.
When going into this internship I didn’t expect to make friends, but I did. I became close with the people in my Racial Equity Glossary Working Group. We had volunteered to add onto the glossary section of our department’s Action Plan in order to choose more inclusive and diverse words. I ended up becoming incredible friends with this group. I didn’t feel like an intern, but I felt like an equal at all of the meetings in which my story and opinion mattered.
I was sad to leave since I had made so many friends and learned so many new skills. I grew comfortable with my morning routine of taking the Muni downtown, walking into the glass building, and saying “Morning” to Maria everyday. I became far more confident in my presentational skills when I had to present my findings. One of the skills I am incredibly grateful to have developed and worked on was my collaboration skills. I got feedback from various bureaus on what to add, what to change, and what worked on my matrix which greatly helped me. The whole purpose of this project was to ensure it worked for them and hearing their insight greatly helped to improve the matrix and my memo.
As I progress into my academic career and eventually graduate from college, the practical and essential skills I learned from my internship from collaboration to making personal connections will stay with me. I am incredibly grateful to my mentor for her help and guidance in addition to the McCarthy Center for giving me this opportunity.
Read more about our San Francisco McCarthy Fellows. Apply to be a McCarthy Fellow by March 1st here.