This summer I worked as the government affairs intern at the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA). WSWA is a trade association which represents over 300 wine and spirits wholesale companies before Congress, state governments, and the federal agencies. WSWA advocates on behalf of American family owned businesses, working to make sure that the tax code treats such businesses fairly and that the regulatory system that has worked well for 80 years post-prohibition stays intact. At this internship I assisted the government affairs team by supporting them in their work lobbying Members of Congress. My duties included watching Congressional hearings related to WSWA priority issues, tracking legislation moving through Congress that affects WSWA member companies and their interests, as well as helping to administer WSWA’s political action committee and supporting WSWA’s political events by preparing tasting notes, sending wine to the right locations and other tasks. In addition, s a part of the Glenn College’s Washington Academic Internship Program I also attended numerous policy salons where OSU alumni and friends of the university would come and share their experiences and study tours where I got to see inside very cool D.C. locations such as the Department of Transportation, Lockheed Martin’s office, and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security
During my internship I learned a great deal and grew tremendously as a professional and a person. Going into my time in Washington, D.C. I did not know very much about the political process outside of the more formal, “textbook” process that you read about or see on the news. Being in the thick of it for a full summer of legislative action was truly incredible and made me understand why any action in government is inherently difficult. At WSWA we worked to advance the interests of wine and spirits distributors throughout the country, and so I got to see firsthand how lobbyists work to advocate for their priorities with legislators. Lobbying gets a bad name but in truth it mostly involves simple hard work more than any back-room dealings or shady maneuvering. Lobbyists pound the pavement, getting meetings with staff on their priority committees, reading through legislation, attending hearings, and tracking legislation on key issues. All of this challenged my assumptions about the field of lobbying and gave me great perspective and new knowledge. In addition, I became a much better professional during my signature project. The staff at WSWA were incredibly helpful and welcoming and from their example I became a harder worker and a better office worker, always finishing my tasks and helping out wherever possible. Between my personal growth and the experience and knowledge I gained, my signature project was a real success.
The biggest factor in my growth and transformation this summer during my signature project were the people who took me under their wing to mentor me. I had the good fortune to be able to learn from an incredible boss at my internship, one of WSWA’s federal lobbyist named Ali who previously worked for Rep. Pat Tiberi and actually graduated from Ohio State University. She was so willing to teach me anything I needed to know about a particular task, or an issue area that I hadn’t encountered before, or even the lobbying profession in general, and this helped me grow so much in my knowledge and skills. In addition to greatly aiding my growth as a professional, Ali always thought to bring me to activities outside of work which helped me grow as a networker and allowed me to experience the world of D.C. in its entirety, not just through the narrow lens of my internship. Between her help at my internship and her willingness to go above and beyond to make my experience fulfilling outside of work, I very much was transformed by the help of Ali.
In addition, I had another mentor in D.C. who helped make my experience so transformational. Through WAIP I was introduced to Jesse Walls who became my alumni mentor during my time in D.C. Jesse works for the National Republican Congressional Committee, and he was incredibly helpful in showing me more of the political world while I was in D.C. I got to know many people on Capitol Hill through Jesse and with his help I have discovered how great an opportunity it is to work in a Congressional office, which has heavily influenced my professional and career decisions going forward. He also helped make my D.C. experience unforgettable by allowing me to go on a Capitol Dome tour with Rep. Steve Stivers, his boss at the NRCC, which was a truly a signature moment of the my STEP project. So my experience was made to be transformational with the help of two great mentors who showed me the ways of D.C.
My transformational experience in D.C. will have a lasting impact on my life to come. Being in D.C. this summer has made me want to go back permanently after graduation, hopefully to work on Capitol Hill. I have learned so much about how great a career in Washington can be and that in itself has incredible value to my life to come. But I also think that the skills and knowledge I gained from my time there will be valuable for years to come as I enter the professional world and I am required to exhibit these traits to gain employment and progress in my career. So my transformational experience has given me the tools to succeed as I go forward in my professional journey and I think that is an incredibly valuable takeaway.