When I started my internship with the City of Dublin’s Division of Economic Development last year, I never could have imagined a global pandemic would be our team’s biggest challenge; derailing every detail of how we lived and worked.
But the pandemic wasn’t the only major change Team Econ Dev overcame during the past year. Our team moved into a new office, saw the departure of one of our most senior teammates and welcomed a new one. Each change brought with it new opportunity – including an increase in responsibility and project ownership. I enjoyed the type of project freedom interns can usually only dream of having! Through each new opportunity I was able to learn and grow. Check out the five lessons I learned in my year in Economic Development.
1. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion should be at the center of every decision.
At the core of being a City employee is the commitment to our guiding principles. Our leadership philosophy states, “We are members of an organization that succeeds because of teamwork, dedication, diversity and the innovative spirit of all of our members. Together, we build a culture of trust, service, mutual respect, inclusion and open communication.”
These issues have real impacts, not just on our jobs internally, but also in the businesses we work with. From ensuring that minority-owned businesses had access to personal protective equipment (PPE) to organizing a social justice-themed virtual workforce event, DEI was and continues to be a focal point of our workforce development mission.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Going into this internship, I knew there would be a significant learning curve to overcome. From long range planning to building permitting, the development process was completely new to me. Thanks to the patience of the Econ Dev team and the development department as a whole, I feel like I’ve gotten a good grasp on this and other principles related to Economic Development. Questions are a crucial tool in understanding the complex processes involved in community development. Grasping the intricacies has helped me make an impact internally and externally.
3. When you have a strategy, you can take changes in stride -¬ even during a pandemic!
The first couple months of the pandemic were all about getting in touch with as many businesses as possible. By sharing resources such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Small Business Loans and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) loans, the team was doing everything possible to connect struggling businesses with available resources. Thanks to a rock-solid strategy, weekly check-ins on goals (thanks to our partners at Six Disciplines!) and a well-established presence on Microsoft Teams, we were able to stay on-task, keep our feet under us and adapt to the new way of life.
4. Execution is everything.
Stealing this one from my first mentor in the biz, Jeremiah Gracia. It’s a favorite saying of his that has stuck around and really drives everything we do on a daily basis. Sure, ideas are great but if you can’t execute, it really means nothing. Focusing and being results-driven is crucial to this job.
5. “It Goes On”
Robert Frost once said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” This quote has never been more relevant than coming out of a really challenging year. Many people lost loved ones. Others had to make incredible sacrifices to protect those around them. Businesses have suffered. The pandemic and social unrest made it a pretty tumultuous year. But through it all, the sun always rose and the world kept moving. With a year of the COVID-19 pandemic under our belts, I am looking forward to life going on in the best way we know how: together.