Over the summer, I had the opportunity to spend ten weeks interning at the NASA John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. I worked under Code B at NASA, which oversees the financial analysis division. As an intern, I had the chance to assist both the CFO and other full-time civil servants in their day-to-day tasks, as well as a few long-term projects.
The biggest thing this internship taught me was about the value of liking where you work and maintaining a positive work-life balance. Most of the people that worked at NASA had been there for many years, something that’s not as common in the business world today. Code B has various gatherings for all the workers and their families throughout the year to build a sense of community. During my ten weeks there, the Code B summer picnic took place, and I got to invite my family to see the NASA campus. I could see very quickly how much everyone there enjoyed their jobs. Obviously, there are times when people need to work extra hours if something important is going on, but it’s a lot easier to stay those extra hours if you like what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with.
I enjoyed my time at NASA, and now I see myself wanting to work at a place that’s similar to that. I’d love to have a job where I’m able to stay with the same company for the long term and get to know all my co-workers in the process. Obviously, there may come the time where I need to switch jobs, but I want to make sure I put in the time in my initial job hunt to find a company that’s a great fit culturally, professionally, and personally.
During my internship, I had the opportunity to be exposed to a wide variety of NASA’s employees. I was given the unique assignment of working closely with the center’s CFO in what he was doing. My second week there, representatives of all other NASA centers visited Cleveland to discuss the transition to a new cost accounting system. I was responsible with taking notes and creating PowerPoint slides explaining what was discussed in the meetings. During the summer, I continued working on this project as the CFO needed to inform a variety of people across NASA about these changes. Getting to see his leadership style was a valuable experience for me, as I got to see how an executive organizes and runs meetings.
I also had the opportunity to work with an analyst that had just started at NASA a few months prior to my internship. The manager of Code B tasked him with interviewing various civil servants to document their roles in generating the daily standard reports that Code B creates. Each day, new reports are generated to update the budgets of the various projects that are being funded. The current process required someone to come in every day and manually update the reports at 6:30am. The analyst was tasked with interviewing all the civil servants involved in those reports to find opportunities for automation. The analyst asked for my help, so I was tasked with interviewing and documents the processes. It was an interesting experience to be the person setting up meetings, and I was able to gain valuable experience in professional communication.
Through these two experiences, I gained exposure to a wide variety of employees at NASA, both people that had worked there for a long time and people that were just starting out their careers. Seeing this really showed me the value of liking where you work. The CFO was respected by everyone, but no one was afraid to have normal conversations with him. The analyst was just starting his job, but everyone was willing to assist him in getting settled in. As an intern, I saw this through the way that people were willing to meet with me and respected my input in meetings. These experiences really showed me that the culture of an office and the people you work with will make your job much better. In my future job/internship search, I will place higher value on the culture of the office I’m working in.
Going forward, I plan to look more closely at my long-term goals when assessing any job/internship options. Many people in college may care too much about the short-term in their job hunt. Too many people take jobs knowing that they may leave in a few years. Obviously, I’d like to do whatever will benefit my career the most, but I will be focusing on the long-term success of my career more than the short-term. My time at NASA showed me that being happy with where you work holds value in and of itself. Even if you may be making a little bit less money, if you enjoy where you work, that difference is worth it.