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Empowerment, Empathy, and Experience: An OPI Internship Story

By: Keke Kosse, Change Management and Process Improvement Intern

July 7, 2020

Keke Kosse

I began my internship at CDOT on November 18th, 2019. I remember my first moments at CDOT and sitting at my desk on the southwest corner of the 4th floor where I could watch the dramatic scenes and occasional car accident playing out on the intersection of Howard and Federal. I was the only intern in the office that day since Sydney, my intern buddy, did not work on Mondays. Still, there was a welcome party waiting for me with giant blueberry muffins from Costco and apple pies.

Workplace culture often seems like a buzzy fluff word that many employers use without thinking about it’s real impact on employee satisfaction or productivity. So often, workplace culture is experienced passively without much effort to steer it or change it for the better. In the Office of Process Improvement, I felt the effort that went into the creation of a positive workplace culture on my first day and will continue to feel the benefits of it far into my career.

As a result of my warm welcome to the team, I felt more relaxed on my first day that I had at any job before. I felt free to speak my mind in meetings early on, to be myself and unleash my personality on my coworkers, and to take the small risks that would eventually lead to big impacts. During this internship, I never felt stupid for asking questions. I felt empowered by my teammates to advocate for myself and to ask to work on things that were important to me. When I didn’t know something, I was given the material and opportunity to learn for myself.

My major successes as an OPI intern have been celebrated with me by my team, and I’ve never had to look far for someone to help me when I needed it. Even while we all worked remotely, our daily stand-ups, IMs, and emails ensured that no one was ever disconnected. As we’ve brought new people onto the team and said goodbye to those moving on, the OPI culture of warmth, innovation, and respect continues as a tradition that I believe all OPI interns and staff will carry on for as long as the office exists.

As I move on to the next phase of my career, I’m not going to forget the culture moment that made this internship so impactful and meaningful to me. I won’t forget the power of a warm welcome and how it can define success for someone before they really even start. In any of my future roles, I want to be an active force in promoting a culture that is warm, inclusive, and fosters creative thinking and innovation and I want to coach my future coworkers on what it means to be an active proponent for positive cultural change.

How Do I Hire Interns?

Learn about how to utilize CDOT’s internship program in your division by referencing the CDOT Collegiate Internship Handbook.

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